Already sitting atop the Southwestern Conference standings heading into Sunday night’s National Premier Soccer League National Game of the Week, Riverside Coras showed it’s grown even deeper and more dangerous with the return of Fernando Cabello.

The center back made a big impact in his season debut, finding the back of the net twice in the first 25 minutes to pace Coras in a 3-0 win over SC Corinthians USA at UC Riverside.

“It feels great to be able to win and see the fans support us,” said Cabello, a Mexican national, whose return to the team had been delayed by visa issues. “I actually didn’t do it on my own; this is a team effort and they were able to assist me in scoring.”

With the win, Coras improved to 6-0 on the season with its fourth shutout, while Corinthians fell to 0-4-2. In its first home match in more than a month after three straight road matches, Coras is yet to allow a goal at home in three matches this season.

“I gotta give all the credit to the guys; they’re coming out here every day working hard at training, putting in the work and doing the things I’m asking,” Coras coach James Ross said. “Everyone’s bought into the system. I couldn’t ask for more from my guys.”

Coras put pressure on in the attacking third from the beginning of the match and had several shots miss the mark, as well as a Gabriel Zavala goal scrubbed by an offsides call, before breaking through for a score.

In the 11th minute Cabello was in the right spot at the right time to poke home a rebound in the goal box for a 1-0 lead.

After 13 more minutes of Coras creating solid chances, forward Cody Shelton threw a ball in from the sideline, had it sent straight back to him along the endline and lofted a perfect ball for Cabello to head just inside the far post for a 2-0 advantage.

“He really set the tempo early and just allowed us to dominate the game,” Ross said of Cabello. “It was a great statement game for him and it was a statement for us.”

Just two minutes after Cabello’s second tally, Coras was back in business again with a free kick lined up just outside the top of the penalty box.

Shane Shelton touched the ball to Cody Shelton just to his right and Cody scooted a ground shot home to make it 3-0.

The look of the game changed in the 28th minute when Coras wing back Ramon Nunez picked up a red card for fouling Matheus Prequero and Corinthians’ Javier Munoz was subsequently hit with his own red-card ejection for retaliating.

The fracas left both teams down a man the rest of the way, and Ross had to slot Cody Shelton into Nunez’s position, but ultimately it couldn’t slow down Coras.

“We weren’t getting as much penetration up top as we like, but you’ve got to deal with the cards that are dealt,” Ross said. “We continued to press and create chances. It’s unfortunate that we’re not going to have Ramon next week because he’s been a solid player all season.”

Goalkeeper Henry Martinez had one of the few highlights for Corinthians when he stopped a penalty kick by Cody Shelton just before the close of the first half.

After being outshot, 9-1, in the first half, Corinthians tightened things up a bit in the second half, but still wound up placing just two shots on goal all night.

Ross said there was some hesitation within the team’s ranks when Coras scrapped its 4-3-3 formation of the last two seasons for a new 3-5-2 look this season, but with a 14-2 goal differential, concerns about being soft at the back seem to have been put to rest.

“That just comes down to the work rate,” Ross said. “It starts up front with the forwards and it just carries on throughout the team.”

Riverside Coras will next face a tough road test against undefeated second-place FC Arizona on April 29.

“We just need to have our feet on the ground,” Cabello said. “And also we need to be able to concentrate and keep the same momentum going and work as a team.”

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