JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald
After a 2010 season in which it earned no hardware, the Fort Lewis College men’s soccer team is making up for lost time in a hurry.
The Skyhawks got a pair of goals from tournament MVP Fabian Kling and weathered the Metro State storm to capture their 11th Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Men’s Soccer Tournament championship in school history with a 2-1 victory on Sunday at Dirks Field.
The title, coming a day after the Fort Lewis men (19-1-0) picked up the plaque commemorating its regular-season crown, all but ensures the top seed in the Central Region and at least one more weekend of soccer at Dirks Field.
Kling, however, would rather it not stop with next weekend’s activities.
“Five games left. Hopefully we’ll be playing into December and go to Florida,” Kling said of Pensacola, Fla., site of this year’s final four.
The senior defender and captian, playing in his second match since missing seven games with a knee injury, broke a 1-1 tie in the 43rd minute.
Alberto Capdepon Rodriguez’s corner from the left side was flicked toward the right post by Kling. A Roadrunners defender tried to clear the shot off the line, but the linesman ruled that the ball crossed the goal line before he could send it away to be covered by Metro State goalkeeper Shailer Thomas.
“I headed the ball, and I looked back, and I saw the guy standing behind the line kneeing it up on the crossbar,” Kling said. “I knew it was in; I just waited for the linesman to call it.”
Metro State (14-6-1) nearly drew even in the 76th minute when Marc Herschberger came in all alone on the right side of the penalty area. His shot hit the far post and sat tantalizingly close to an open net before being shuffled away.
Herschberger successfully avoided any and all posts in the 25th minute when he drew the Roadrunners even. Kling stuck his leg out and knocked down a long shot into the penalty area, and the ball eventually found its way to Andrew Mejia, who got it over to Hirschberger. His low shot from the top of the box beat Fort Lewis keeper Ryan Wirth to draw Metro State even.
“I thought at that point, it should have been something we should’ve taken care of and gone on and maybe scored two or three goals,” Fort Lewis head coach Oige Kennedy said of Metro’s tally.
Kling opened the scoring just 8:05 into the contest, also off of a corner kick from Rodriguez.
Finding an unusual amount of space in the penalty area, Kling stuck his foot out about shin high and volleyed home the Spaniard’s feed, giving a jolt to the estimated 785 in attendance on a cold, cloudy day at Dirks Field.
“At some point in time, it just had to click,” Kling said of FLC’s renewed strength on set pieces. “Hopefully, we continue from now on; it wouldn’t be a bad thing.”
The pair of goals from the Augsburg, Germany, native were enough to push FLC to victory, but Kennedy said his side could’ve done much better in the offensive department.
“I thought we could’ve done a better job in front of goal. Once you don’t take your chances, they’re always going to be in the game,” he said.
FLC did well to maintain more than a fair share of possession, but the Skyhawks had trouble at times turning that possession into the offensive rushes it craves. The condition of Dirks Field had plenty to do with it. The pitch, which endured a day of steady snowfall on Saturday, was a quagmire of mud, mud and more mud.
“It’s definitely (harder) to play through the middle,” Kennedy said.
Fort Lewis had better get used to it in a hurry, because if the Skyhawks have their way the rest of this season, they won’t be playing anywhere else for a long time.