The UC Irvine men’s soccer team continues its fall in the Big West Conference rankings as it loses to both the defending national champions, the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos, and the Cal State Fullerton Titans by identical scores of 3-1.
The consecutive losses dropped their overall record to 6-6-4 (1-5-2 Big West). After winning their first five games of the season, the Anteaters have won just one time in their last 11 games.
During Friday’s match, the Anteaters took an early lead when junior Matt Murphy scored in the 13th minute of play off a free kick against the Gauchos on Halloween. It was Murphy’s-team leading seventh goal on the season. After that, it was all UC Santa Barbara.
The Gauchos’ Brennan Tennelle tied the game in the 27th minute off a pass from Jon Curry. Ciaran O’Brien gave Santa Barbara its first lead in the 49th minute.
Later, O’Brien took a shot that Anteater keeper Pat Barton saved only to have the rebound knocked in by Tennelle.
Saturday night’s contest was just as unpleasant for UCI. After losing to last year’s Big West champs, Cal State Fullerton traveled to Anteater Stadium in what should have been a much more manageable match-up for the Anteaters.
Unfortunately for the Anteaters, Kyle Schmid was given a red card at the 4:58 mark in what many considered a very questionable call.
The Anteater bench was visibly confused and upset, and boos echoed across the bleachers of Anteater Stadium.
‘The penalty changed the game,’ said Coach George Kuntz after the game. ‘It was an unintentional foul. The goalkeeper had the ball. Their player had no chance to get the ball or score. You’ve got to respect the decision, and we did. Let it go. Just step away.’
The Titans quickly capitalized on being a man up and took the lead in the 16th minute. The Titans’ Michael Farfan took a misplayed ball and put it past junior Greg Larson in a one-on-one affair. They then expanded the lead in the 33rd minute as Gabriel Farfan put another one past Larson on a breakaway down the middle.
In the second half, Kuntz was quick to have his team adapt to having one less man, and the Anteaters tried to get back into the game.
After a back-and-forth beginning in the second half, the Anteaters were awarded two penalty kicks within 30 seconds of each other. Murphy converted on the second one at the 52:12 mark to trim the Titans’ lead to one.
With the goal, Murphy increased his team leading number of goals to eight. Once again, his goal served as the only bright spot for the Anteaters.
Later in the game, freshman defenseman Joel Bagby was taken out of the game and to the hospital when he was hit in the ankle after a ball had been cleared.
Watching his brother Michael score in the first half, Gabriel Farfan got in on the action as he kicked the ball to the left side of the goal, getting just past Larson and giving the Titans the 3-1 lead they would hold onto for the remainder of the game.
Larson had four saves for the ‘Eaters, and Cal State Fullerton keeper Brent Douglas had three. At the end of the game, the team cheered for the fans as always, but the players were visually upset.
‘I’m a little disappointed in the refereeing tonight. We have to respect the calls, but I’m a little disappointed,’ Kuntz said.
‘We had five of our guys get hurt. It was unfortunate for our guys because we still played hard. It’s very difficult to [play a man down]. We tried to adapt, but we could only try to contain the game. I’m proud of my guys for fighting and for scrapping.’
UCI returns to the field on Wednesday to play an away game against UC Riverside at 3 p.m. The Anteaters have two home games remaining this season.
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