University High School junior midfielder Diego Lopes couldn’t get out of class in time for a 4 p.m. kickoff against Drew on Monday afternoon.
Normally a starter, Lopes arrived toward the end of warm-ups and began the game as a substitute.
From his sideline seat at the Crocker Amazon Soccer Fields, Lopes watched University hit the post twice and fire several more terrific close-range opportunities either wide or over goal through the first 25 minutes.
Lopes changed that in a big way, scoring the first goal in a nervy nonleague 2-0 victory that was not sealed until freshman striker Freddy Yao punched in another close-range chance seconds before the final whistle.
The Red Devils (6-4-2) dominated Drew (5-4) throughout, but the inability to finish off the glut of chances nearly cost them.
In the 28th minute, University senior captain Michael Lauricella fired in a low free kick from 25 yards out that caromed off a Drew defender and into the path of Lopes, who calmly dispatched his shot past Drew goalkeeper Alexander Williams for the first goal of the game.
“[Lauricella and Lopes] are both first-team players,” University coach Deejae Johnson said. “When they’re both on the field and in those kinds of situations, we know we’re better.”
This game marked Lauricella’s second appearance in 12 games this season. He suffered a hamstring tear nine months ago and has slowly worked himself back into shape. He played about 45 minutes against Drew.
“I wish I could play more,” Lauricella said. “[The hamstring] is still tight, but it’s starting to feel a little better.”
Drew remained compact for most of the 80 minutes of game time and looked to feed senior striker Richard Leon at every possible opportunity. The striker found it difficult to create many chances, but he nearly tied the game up in the final moments.
“[University has] an immense amount of talent, and we just fought to the very end,” Drew coach Daniel Philpot said. “The game could have gone either way. We had a chance to put one away there late. If we get that goal, it’s 1-1 and we probably would have been able to hold, since we would have been able to drop our numbers back in. Sometimes you finish your chances, sometimes you don’t, and it’s just a matter of how things go.”