By Alex Jimenez
After two weeks at No. 2, Pima Community College men’s soccer has taken the spot as the No. 1 team in the country.
The Aztecs remain one of two teams still undefeated in the NJCAA DII men’s soccer Top 20.
However, Pima will face Phoenix College at 7 p.m. Saturday, and the Bears will be hungry for revenge on their home turf.
Phoenix College entered the season ranked No. 12, according to NJCAA’s Preseason Poll, before falling on a three-game losing streak, kicked off by none other than Pima’s 1-0 victory in the first game of this season.
Pima also defeated Phoenix College in last season’s Region I Championship game 2-0.
Pima Men’s Soccer head coach David Cosgrove knows a repeat of last year’s success is not an assumption — a season-long effort is required.
“I always say our conference is one of the best in the nation,” Cosgrove said. “You’ve got Phoenix College, Yavapai who we went down to early on, and I think we needed that, to face some adversity … then we’ve got Arizona Western at the end of the season.
“We’re not where we want to be yet to challenge for a championship, but we can get there.”
Last week, Yavapai scored in the 2nd minute to go up 1-0, putting the Aztecs in an unfamiliar situation — it was the first time they had been losing in a game.
Their response? Brian Vu, Ulysses Torres and Taein Ka all scored as Pima put away three unanswered goals.
PCC are coming off of an 11-0 win against Gateway CC and will have over a week break between this game and Phoenix College due to the cancellation of the South Mountain CC match-up.
Pima’s attack is in elite form, having scored 42 goals in the seven games, with winger Brian Vu leading the squad having scored 8 goals in just seven games. Winger Taein Ka and forward Francisco “Este” Manzo are just behind with 5 goals each.
Vu scored the only goal in the season opener between Pima and Phoenix, a lovely free kick that went off the crossbar and hit the back of the net, the first of his 4 game-winning goals for Pima this year.
“As soon as I made contact, I felt like I made good connection,” Vu said. “I feel great about my performances. I have to thank the coaches and obviously my teammates, without them I wouldn’t be in the position to get the goals … I’m more happy about the team’s performance.”
Along with its success in attack, Pima’s impressive defensive performances help make Pima a complete team and the top team in the nation.
The center-back partnership of Saul Lopez and Sam Lossou has proven to be a strong one. Over the seven games played, the Aztecs are the only team in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference to have allowed just two goals.
“It all starts with the communication, we talk to each other all the time,” said Lossou on the team’s defensive success. “Me and Saul, we talk to our 6 (defensive midfielder), to our outside backs … and we just work hard, sometimes we get lucky like they hit the post or our keeper will make a good save, but it starts with communication for us.”
Both the Aztecs and Bears go into this game 1-0 in conference play and know this game will be crucial if they want to take the top spot in ACCAC.
The goal for Pima this season is clear – get back to the National Championship game and reclaim the title, and every game is one step closer.