The visiting Liberty Flames netted four first half goals and posted their fifth shutout of the season, overwhelming the UNC Asheville Bulldogs, 4-0, Saturday evening at Greenwood Soccer Field.
Liberty leading scorer Tresor Mbuyu scored twice in the Big South Conference match, his eighth and ninth goals of 2017. The forward also added an assist to move his season point total to 22.
Midfielder Kevin Mendoza netted his sixth goal of the year in the contest. The junior has now posted eight points in his last five games. Meanwhile, Isidoro Garcia scored the first goal of the contest, his first marker in a Flames’ uniform.
Liberty moves to 7-3-1 on the season and 3-1 in the Big South Conference standings. UNC Asheville falls to 1-11 overall and 0-4 in conference play.
The visiting Flames rode a fast start to a quick 2-0 advantage less than eight minutes into the opening 45 minutes. Midfielder Alex Dominguez fired the first shot of the contest during the first minute of play, forcing a save by Asheville goalkeeper Nabil Milani. Two minutes later, Mbuyu took a pass into open space on the right side of the 18-yard box and ripped a rising shot off Milani for a corner kick.
On the ensuing kick, midfielder Rueben Garcia placed the kick in the middle of the box, where Isidoro Garcia headed the ball into the bottom right corner for a 1-0 edge at 4:05.
Less than two minutes later, Mbuyu added to Liberty’s advantage. The Flames forward intercepted a pass back to Milani by a Bulldog defender. Finding himself one-on-one, Mbuyu buried a shot into the bottom right corner of the net, extending Liberty’s lead to 2-0 at 6:02.
Dominating play throughout the period, the Flames struck for two more goals within the span of a minute during the waning minutes of the half. Mbuyu and Mendoza broke free together near the top of the box during the 44th minute. Possessing the ball on the left side of the field, Mbuyu drew the lone Bulldog defender to him and sent a pass to Mendoza in the center of the box. There, Mendoza beat Milani to the right side for a 3-0 lead.
51 second later, Mbuyu sidestepped two defenders at the right post and lined a sliding shot into the near corner for his second marker of the night and a 4-0 lead at halftime.
Controlling play throughout the first 45 minutes, the Flames outshot the Bulldogs, 10-2. Six of Liberty’s 10 shots during the period were on goal. The visitors also held a 5-1 advantage in corner kicks. The Flames’ four goals were the most for head coach Jeff Alder’s team in the opening half, this season.
Trying to get back into the contest, the Bulldogs moved several attackers forward early in the second half. During the 54th minute, UNC Asheville put its first shot on goal in the contest. Brendan O’Dowd headed a crossing pass toward the goal, which Liberty goalkeeper James Knoebel easily corralled for his first save of the night.
Despite the extra attackers, the Flames allowed the Bulldogs to place one more shot on goal. During the 79th minute, Knoebel stopped a header by Dante Bova off a corner kick to preserve the shutout.
Liberty outshot UNC Asheville, 16-9, with the Flames placing eight on goal. The Flames also held a 7-6 edge in corner kicks.
Knoebel finished the night with two saves, while recording the blank sheet for Liberty. Milani recorded four saves.
Next, the Flames will travel to Clinton, S.C., for a match against the Presbyterian Blue Hose, Friday. The Big South Conference match at Martin Stadium is slated for 7 p.m.