Chivas USA 2
UC Irvine 1
The UC Irvine men’s soccer team opened up their spring season with a strong showing in a 2-1 loss against Major League Soccer’s Chivas USA Saturday night in an exhibition game at Anteater Stadium.
Eder Robles scored both goals for Chivas USA, including the game-winner in the 87th minute, while UCI freshman forward Corey Attaway scored his first career goal for the Anteaters, who held up fairly well despite training for only four days and competing against one of Major League Soccer’s top teams.
The game’s biggest headline, however, was the return of forward Anthony Hamilton and defender Cameron Dunn.
After four successful years at UCI, both Hamilton and Dunn were drafted by Chivas USA in January and faced off against their former Alma Mater for the first time since the draft. Both players have been busy training for a place on the Chivas roster and enjoyed the chance to once again play on the same field they once called home.
‘It’s definitely a fun experience to come back and play against a team that you built so much chemistry with,’ Dunn said.
Hamilton added, ‘It felt good, especially playing against these guys. We knew it would be competitive and it was fun.’
For UCI Head Coach George Kuntz, Saturday night’s game was almost a win-win situation as his former players showed they were capable of playing among the professional ranks while at the same time his young Anteaters put on a much-stronger-than-anticipated performance.
Commenting on watching his former players perform, Kuntz said, ‘It’s just amazing. How do I feel? I am just ecstatic. I feel like a dad. To see those guys, I just want to give them a hug. It’s amazing. Cameron Dunn, no one knew how he would blossom. … Anthony Hamilton has already scored a couple of goals in the preseason. I just want to see [Chivas] latch onto them because they are waiting for their signings.’
In addition to Dunn and Hamilton, Chivas is likely to sign former UCI goalie Kenny Schoeni, which would make him the fourth Anteater from the 2006 team to play for MLS (Brad Evans currently plays for the Columbus Crew).
Dunn was quick to thank Kuntz for helping him and the other former UCI players currently in MLS.
‘[Coach Kuntz] has been one of the main factors to us getting to this point in our career,’ Dunn said. ‘You got to thank him for doing all the things he’s done over the years.’
After a scoreless first half, both offenses managed scoring opportunities late in the second half.
Robles gave Chivas’ an early 1-0 lead in the 59th minute, beating UCI junior goalie Greg Larson with a shot from the left side of the box.
The Anteaters would quickly respond as Attaway retained possession of the ball off a Chivas turnover and bent a shot around the right goalpost to tie the game at 1-1 in the 65th minute.
Kuntz expects Attaway to be a big contributor to the offense next season given his talent at the forward position.
‘We redshirted [Attaway] this year because we knew he had potential but we had Anthony and Brad,’ Kuntz said. We thought that [Attaway] wouldn’t get that much time. We know he is going to explode and have some good years for us.’
The match looked as if it was going to be a draw but with less than three minutes left in the game, Robles scored his second goal of the night off a cross in the 87th minute to give Chivas a 2-1 victory.
‘I expected a little different game,’ Kuntz said. ‘I expected [Chivas] to download on us tonight. I thought it was going to be a lot worse. Now, I am a little frustrated because we kept it so close that we deserved a draw.’
The Anteaters will need Attaway and Larson to step up for the loss of Evans and Schoeni if they hope to replicate last season’s 13-4-3 record. Junior midfielder Matt Murphy will also need to lead the way offensively after leading the team with 10 goals scored last year.
Kuntz also expects his highly touted incoming recruiting class to make a difference when the season begins in the fall.
‘There is a pretty good class coming in that is one of the best classes we have ever had,’ Kuntz said. ‘When those guys come in it doesn’t guarantee anything … but we are so excited with the promise it brings for the coming years because we are trying to build upon each year.’