Stan Plewe/DSU Athletics

Spartans Rally Late For Victory In Opener

St. George, Utah – Playing its first match in 465 days, San José State returned to the pitch with a flair for the dramatic on Saturday afternoon at Dixie State. 

Despite trailing the Trailblazers with just 11 minutes remaining in its season opener, the Spartans (1-0, 1-0 WAC) scored consecutive late goals in quick succession to escape St. George with a 2-1 victory. 

"That was a really tough game," said head coach Simon Tobin after the win. "We hadn't played since November of 2019 and it took some time to find our rhythm. Credit Dixie State for a hard battle, but I thought our experience was a big factor in the last 20 minutes." 

Boasting the nation's second-most experienced roster, it was a pair of upperclassmen who led SJSU to the win. 

Junior Jamal Adam and senior Nicolas Brenes each tallied goals on Saturday, with seniors Rudi Castro and Carlos Gomez-Zavala combining for three of the club's four assists. The other credited assist came off the foot of Riverton, Utah native Jered Mariani, playing in his first match in the Beehive State since arriving at San José State. 

Castro's two assists after just one match leads the conference in that category on the 2020-21 campaign. He is the first Spartan to notch a multi-assist performance since Oct. 4, 2019 (Max Allen - 2 vs. Kansas City). 

After conceding an early goal, the Spartans were resilient through some strong defense and heavy wind throughout the afternoon.

That resilience finally paid off in the 79th minute as Adam was able to get behind his man to a ball placed perfectly in the box by Gomez-Zavala. With a strong left foot, Adam then sent a strike past the diving keeper and into the corner of the net to level the match at 1-1. 

Now with momentum firmly in hand, the visitors from San José continued to apply pressure and broke through just six minutes later for the game-winner. This one came off the foot of Brenes, firing a laser into the back of the net that sent the Spartans into scenes of jubilation on the Greater Zion Stadium pitch. 

Dixie State had one last look at sending the match into overtime, but a 90th minute corner kick was turned away to preserve the road victory for San José State. The win marks the program's third result in its last four away matches. 

The 2-1 victory now runs the program's streak of results in conference openers to six (a stretch that includes three straight victories). In addition, it's the program's first result in a season opener since earning a 0-0 draw at No. 1 and three-time defending national champion Stanford in 2018. 

The team now has six days off before returning to the pitch for Saturday's home opener against Grand Canyon. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. at Spartan Soccer Complex against the Lopes.