MORAGA, Calif. -- Ismail Adam gave Saint Mary's soccer fans a moment to remember as he blasted a 30-yard overtime game-winner into the back of the net to give the Gaels a 3-2 victory over Portland at Saint Mary's Stadium.
With the victory, Saint Mary's improved to 3-4-3 overall and 1-0-1 in West Coast Conference play. Portland fell to 6-4-0 overall and 1-1-0 after the first weekend of league competition. Saint Mary's returns to action Wednesday with a 7 p.m. contest at longtime Bay Area rival San Francisco.
"Today was a lot about character," said SMC head coach Adam Cooper. "Three of our four starting backs were out. Junior (Rafael Sanchez) didn't play at all. Forrest (Solis) got hurt. Alex (Braman) got hurt. Different guys stepped up and played a lot of different roles. ZuZu (Ismail Adam) playing at right back was huge. Ben sliding over at centerback and Lucas Isaacson playing the entire half at defensive mid. Guys had to do things they hadn't done all year. Guys stepped-up and filled roles and did a great job of it.
"Hopefully, this is a sign of our team getting deeper and more experienced."
Saint Mary's enjoyed a 16-11 advantage in shots attempted and a 9-6 edge in shots on target. The two teams were almost even in fouls, with Portland committing 18 to the Gaels' 17.
There were nine yellow card cautions issued by referee Juan Colazo, four to Portland and five to the Gaels. Pilot midfieflder Derek Boggs was shown a pair of yellows and was disqualified in the 80th minute.
SMC goalkeeper Andre Rawls earned his third win of the season and registered four saves. Portland starter Jason Dodson also had four saves before leaving the game in the 59th minute due to injury after a collision in front of the goal. Justin Baarts entered the game as a substitute, registered two saves and took the loss.
After the two teams battled for 90 minutes, Saint Mary's pushed forward quickly. Michael Semenza took a long throw on the far side of the field that was headed out by SMC defender Bobby Conner. Ismail Adam took the ball off the bounce and drove a low shot from 30-yards away past the keeper for the game-winner.
"We were just so sick and tired of tying," said Adam. "We had a lot of coaches telling we were a really good team, but we needed to go out and prove we can win.
"I saw the ball coming of the bounce hard and I thought I was going to shank it. But, it was the perfect bounce and it just felt right as soon as I hit it. I haven't felt very confident lately and it feels so good for both the team and myself."
Portland opened the scoring with a goal by sophomore midfielder Daniel Munger in the 19th minute. Teammate Aaron Caprio sent a hard shot from the left side just inside the penalty area that was blocked by Rawls. Munger one-timed the rebound into the back of the net from eight yards out to give the Pilots an early 1-0 lead.
In the 32nd minute, SMC sophomore defender Forrest Solis prevented a Portland counter-attack with a strong defensive effort in the Gaels' defensive end of the field. However, he caught the foot of charging Portland forward Caprio, suffered a leg injury and came out of the game. Caprio was issued the first yellow card of the game for the challenge.
Less than a minute later, the Gaels equalized. Caprio fouled Jake Stenberg 35 yards from the SMC goal to give the Gaels a free kick. Will Kendall drove a pass to the far post where Alex Braman connected on a sliding poke for his second goal of the season.
In the second half, things got much more interesting. Eight of the match's nine yellow cards came in the final 45 minutes and both teams were pushing to earn the win.
SMC senior Justin Howard scored his first goal of the season in the 63rd minute in nearly a carbon-copy of Portland's first half goal. Richard Martinez attempted a shot on goal that was blocked by Baarts and Howard was in position to score off the rebound and give the Gaels a 2-1 lead.
Again, though, Portland tied the game soon afterward. PIlots' leading scorer Eddie Sanchez gook a pass from Aaron Caprio and sent a shot from 15 yards out past Rawls into the right side of the goal.
"This win shows a lot about our team," said freshman defender Alex Braman. "A lot of guys had to step-up and they did. We played really hard and everyone had to play a lot of different roles. We are so used to playing with each other and the chemistry is really good. Once one person goes down, you lose a little of that chemistry. But, with guys stepping-up it really didn't matter."