CLINTON – With time ticking down and its season close to ending, the Ashford University men’s soccer team was singing the blues.
By the end of the afternoon, the Saints were singing “Sweet Home Alabama” in front of their home fans for the second year in a row.
Down 2-1 to Cardinal Stritch University in the opening round of the 2013 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship, Saints sophomore Tim Krautheim tied the game with 43 seconds to play in regulation. Junior Javier Ramirez netted the golden goal in double overtime to propel the Saints to a 3-2 win over the Wolves.
With the win, Ashford improved to 14-4-1 on the year and advances to the Round of 16 in Montgomery, Ala., Dec. 2-7.
“It was an absolute battle today,” Saints coach Richard Markham said after the game. “Cardinal Stritch is a very good team and they came ready to play today. Our guys made some big plays in crunch time and that was huge to keep our season going.”
On a cold and frigid day at South Campus, the Saints fell behind the Wolves a mere 3:40 in to the game when Will Spurway pounded a shot past Saints’ goalkeeper Chris Higgins to make it 1-0.
But the Saints would answer in the 29th minute when Germany-native Johannes Langhans took a feed from fellow countryman Daniel Dreier and beat Wolves’ keeper Jim Jones for his first career goal.
The teams were tied coming out of halftime, and Ashford nearly took the lead early in the second half when Jones fired a clearing attempt off one of his defenders. The ball was rolling towards the net, but went just wide.
Stritch made it a 2-1 game with 20 minutes to play thanks to a goal from Josh Roberts, putting the Saints’ back up against the wall.
Ashford began to put pressure on the Wolves’ net, but couldn’t find the tying marker as time ticked under one minute to play.
Lucas Almeida made a nifty move to retain position, finding Krautheim right on the doorstep, where the sophomore made no mistake in putting home his sixth goal of the year, sending the Saints into a frenzy and the game into overtime.
Roberts had a chance to end the game in the first overtime, but Higgins came up big with his fifth and final save of the game.
With just over five minutes left in double overtime, Almeida made another sensational play in traffic to send Ramirez in on goal along. The Mexico-native was patient in drawing Jones out of his net, walking around and tucking the game-winner right inside the right post.
“Lucas and Javy were quiet for most of the day,” Markham said. “But they’re two of the best players in the country for a reason and it was a great play by both to get the winner. I was very proud of our guys for the way they responded today.”
Higgins improved to 3-0 on the year, making five saves.
Jones turned aside three shots for the Wolves, who end their season with a 12-6-2 record.
The Wolves controlled play for much of the game, firing 19 shots to 10 for the Saints.
The Saints play Baker (Kan.) in the second round of tournament play in Montgomery, Ala., Dec. 2-3.