There were a lot of strange, entertaining and fun things at Anteater Stadium on Halloween. Elvis “The King” Presley sang the National Anthem to open the game between fourth-ranked UC Santa Barbara and 19th-ranked UC Irvine. The stands were full of people, young and old, among them a soldier, cupid and even a Boba Fett. A spontaneous cheer group also sprung up in the second half of the match and kept the crowd pumped up for the rest of the game.
The only knock on the night was that the UC Irvine men’s soccer team suffered a heart-breaking 1-0 loss in double overtime against the top seed in the Big West Conference. In an extremely physical and controversial soccer matches, UCI seemed to give the Gauchos all they could handle, but were never able to break down the door. UCSB just hung on and capitalized at the right moment to earn a victory and left a sour taste – worse than a Warhead candy – in the mouth of the UCI players.
The game opened up with UCI dominating ball control early on in the first half. The defense was also strong and didn’t allow the UCSB offense a chance to set-up shop in the Anteater zone. The Gauchos were able to get the first shot on goal of the game when Waid Ibrahim fired one from the top of the key, but was snatched down by Anteater goalie Victor Chinchilla.
Amani Walker had a goal taken away from him when he headed a free kick that was smothered by UCSB goalie Sam Hayden. Amani also got in a scuffle when he landed on Hayden and a few players started shoving each other before the referees broke it up. No penalty cards were given out following this incident.
The second half proved to be just as energetic as the first. Both teams traded opportunities and UCSB had a momentary breakaway in the opening minutes of the period, but Chinchilla made a beautiful kick save on the ball. At the 65:40 mark, Anteater Jonathan Prieto had a clean slide tackle on Gaucho Luis Silva, who got up and shoved Prieto which started another scuffle. The crowd booed the referee, who gave Silva and Prieto yellow cards. The mere yellow card on Silva seemed especially unfair, given that retaliation in most sports results in automatic ejection. The crowd was also vicious towards the main ref, who seemed to blow obvious calls and make bad calls on tick-tacky fouls.
After the dust had settled, the score was still 0-0 at the end of regulation. The first sudden death overtime was completely dominated by UCI. The Anteaters put two great shots on goal, but came up empty. UCSB goalie Hayden played a beautiful game all night long.
The second overtime ushered in ten more minutes of physical, scoreless soccer. This would not last, however. The Gauchos were given a free kick on another iffy call and Danny Barrera sent a ball to Martin Hedevag, who passed it into the box where Tim Pontius netted one at the 102:56 mark for the game winner. The UCI crowd was stunned with the outcome, but soon directed their frustration to the referees.
After the game, head coach George Kuntz was obviously not pleased with the outcome.
“We controlled much of the match. We were unlucky not to score; we hit the post on a few shots,” Kuntz said. “We put ourselves in this position. The team has to take this one personally. [We] can’t sit back and accept this. We’ve got to be able to finish our chances. Our goal is get as many points as we can in the Big West.”
Senior forward Irving Garcia commented on how the team can rebound from the loss, with the season coming to a close.
“We just have to keep on playing like we have and create opportunities and finish on them.”
UC Irvine plays their last home game of the year on November 7 against Cal State Northridge at 7:00 p.m. Please go out and support the men’s soccer team in their last regular season match of the year.