MORAGA, Calif. -- Saint Mary's coach Adam Cooper must deliver one heck of a halftime speech.
For the second-straight match, the Gaels used an inspired second half to score twice and play stifling defense - today to claim a 2-0 shutout against visiting LIU Brooklyn in front of 524 fans at sun-drenched Saint Mary's Stadium.
Saint Mary's moved to 2-0-0 on the young season by outshooting the Blackbirds 16-5, including a 10-2 margin in the final 45 minutes. The Gaels also forced six corners to hand LIU a second-straight 2-0 loss on its trip to the Bay Area.
"I thought we played a much better second half, which we needed to do to get the win," said Cooper, who has guided his team to an early 2-0 record for the first time as a head coach. "We always want to win at home, especially when we have a nice crowd like we did today. We know what our goals are and today was a big step forward in helping us achieve those."
After entering the game late in the first half, true freshman midfielder Ever De La Torre made the most of his second career appearance. The Pasadena, Calif. native scored the game-winner in the 59th minute off classmate Rafael Sanchez's cross in front of the goal.
"I checked in first, hoping to get it to my feet," said De La Torre. "When it didn't, I swung out wide and Junior's cross came right in my path. My first goal felt amazing, especially knowing how important it was to our team. It was such a good feeling to score.
"We weren't playing our best soccer today. The game was physical and we weren't playing the way we wanted to. That goal was big for us because after that we started to settle down and play relaxed."
Sanchez, one of four freshman among the starting XI for today's match, made several key plays from his left back position. None more important, perhaps, than his dribble into the box and cross to De La Torre.
"My legs were a little tired, but coming into the second half I knew I needed to do my job in getting forward and it worked out with the assist to Ever," said Sanchez. "The halftime talk focused on everyone doing their job, not trying to do too much. We all have our positions and we can't try to play too much outside of that.
"Starting today, our focus is on the next game. It is going to be a big one, going on the road for the first time. I'm really happy with our performances this weekend and I think we are really coming along."
Ahead 1-0, the Gaels maintained the majority of possession in the second half and created several chances with passes into the penalty area.
In the 83rd minute, sophomore Jake Stenberg headed a pass from freshman Ben Braman to an open Carlo Eikani just outside the top of the area, The Alamo, Calif. native held off the LIU defender to create a 1v1 chance against Blackbirds keeper John Connolly.
Eikani cooly deposited a left-footed shot low under Connolly to give the Gaels a 2-0 lead going into the final minutes of the match. It was his second goal in as many matches as a Gael.
In addition to the goalscorers, Cooper pointed out the play of several Gaels who might not have been as noticeable.
"Obviously Junior with his assist to Ever's first goal and Carlo's goal, those are freshman who are playing well for us," said Cooper. "They might be on the stat sheet, but there are a lot of other things that contributed to the win. (Andre) Rawls had a big-time save and got the shutout. Bobby (Conner) leading us in the back. I thought Ben (Braman), after we moved him to a new position, was fantastic today. There were several guys who I thought really played well."
Saint Mary's returns to action on Sunday, Sept. 8 with a 4 p.m. match at CSU Northridge. Links to live coverage will be available on SMCGaels.com. SMC's next home game is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 12 against local rival UC Davis. Tickets are on sale through the tickets link on SMCGaels.com or by calling the SMC Athletic Ticket Office at (925) 631-GoTx.