The 18th goal of the season for Brendan Baird was his most timely and most urgently needed.
La Cueva’s senior midfielder lined up a direct kick midway through the second overtime, and unleashed a magnificent strike from 25 yards out, banging the shot in off the right post. Baird’s golden goal in the 95th minute lifted the Bears to an exciting 1-0 District 2-5A victory over nationally ranked Sandia at the APS Complex on Tuesday night.
Sandia (9-2, 2-1 in 2-5A) came into the evening ranked No. 23 in the nation by the United Soccer coaches and No. 26 by MaxPreps.com. They are the No. 1-ranked side in New Mexico.
“This win is a huge win,” said Baird.
After 95 scoreless minutes, and just five minutes away from a scoreless draw, Baird stood in the center of the field, staring at Sandia’s wall and, behind them, Matadors goalkeeper Jonathan Woods.
Baird curved the shot around the wall with his right foot, and it caromed into the net off the right post for the game-winner.
“I wasn’t going for the post, I was just going for that side,” Baird said. “But post makes it even better.”
For La Cueva (10-1, 3-0), ranked No. 6 in Class 5A, the victory was a change in fortune from the metro tournament earlier in the month, also at the APS Complex when the Matadors beat the Bears 3-0 in the semifinals.
Bears coach Easy Jimenez was not able to coach the team that night, but he was on hand Tuesday and beaming.
Jimenez in August said he had the most talented team in the state, and this result had him more in belief of that statement than ever.
“And it was all about how we were going to put it together,” Jimenez said Tuesday night. “Now I can truly tell you, we’ve put it together. We beat a great Rio Rancho team (the defending state champions earlier in September) and we just beat a nationally ranked team. We’re gonna feed off this great win.”
There were few pristine scoring chances during regulation and the overtimes prior to Baird’s blast.
La Cueva’s Mason Barone had the best look, with a header that banged hard off the post in the second half, and Woods also made a nice diving save off a Barone shot later in the half as the Bear sprinted up the right wing.
“Bittersweet feeling,” Sandia coach Ryan Sanchez said. His Matadors will play La Cueva for a third time on Oct. 16. “We (have to) get our mindset back and get back to what Sandia soccer is, get back to our own game and not fall into their game.”
Baird said the Bears were far from their best at the metros in the first meeting.
“Last time,” he said, “I think we underestimated them a bit. … We got our stuff together.”