By Kevin Vote
UC Irvine men’s soccer (1-3-2) is still struggling to score goals following a 0-0 draw against the San Diego State Aztecs (3-0-2) on September 13 at Anteater Stadium and a 2-1 loss at Oral Roberts (2-3-1) on September 17.
UC Irvine 1-1 San Diego State (OT)
UCI started the match playing a high defensive line and pressed the Aztecs in order to gain more possession of the ball early on, particularly in the Aztec half of the field. The ‘Eaters’ strategy paid off almost immediately as freshman midfielder Ivan Canales was played in during the 6th minute, however sophomore Aztec goalkeeper Adam Allmaras blocked the shot.
The next chance for UCI came in the 31st minute when junior midfielder Andy Mendoza was fouled just outside of the box, setting up a direct free kick. Junior defender Thomas Janjigian curled the free kick into the box and senior midfielder Mats Bjurman’s bouncing header hopped just over the goal.
Senior goalkeeper Michael Breslin didn’t have much to do in the first half, especially with a solid UCI defense in front of him. That changed early in the second half with the expulsion of Mendoza in the 61st minute, who received a straight red card for his tackle on an Aztec player near midfield.
“Our whole back line’s experienced, so we’ve all been in those situations, which helps,” said Breslin, referring to the added pressure that comes with playing a man down.
While SDSU may have had more shots in the second half (8 shots to UCI’s 5 shots) due to their extra man advantage, the ‘Eaters had better scoring chances. Senior midfielder Eduardo Calzada almost gave UCI an unexpected lead just minutes after the ‘Eaters went down a man. In the 69th minute, Calzada found himself in a pocket of space and launched a dipping shot that hit the crossbar of the goal from approximately 30 yards out.
“Even in stretches of that part of the game (after the red card), I thought we had some quality chances to actually win it,” said head coach Chris Volk.
Both teams almost scored late winners towards the end of regulation. The Aztecs eventually began piling on pressure using their extra man, and it almost paid off in the 83rd minute.Breslin made a diving save on an Aztec shot and spilled the rebound, but the ‘Eaters’ resilient defense quickly cleared the danger out of the box for him.
Despite playing with ten men, UCI had a final chance of regulation, a shot Calzada attempted that skimmed just wide of the goal post after a counter attack in the 89th minute. Both teams had a few chances to score in the overtime periods, but none were threatening, and the ‘Eaters settled for a 0-0 draw. Although UCI may still be searching for the cure to their goal scoring problem, a second straight draw wasn’t a terrible result given the red card in the second half.
“It was a physical game. The issuing of the cards wasn’t consistent throughout the match, and that’s all we’re looking for sometimes, but that didn’t dictate the outcome of the game,” said Coach Volk.
Oral Roberts 2-1 UC Irvine (OT)
On September 17, UCI lost to Oral Roberts in overtime by a score of 2-1. Alexis Derennes, a freshman forward from France, gave Oral Roberts a 1-0 lead with a goal in the 49th minute, but UCI freshman midfielder Ivan Canales tied the match with a deflected shot that managed to beat Oral Roberts’ junior goalkeeper Ben LaCourse in the 85th minute. Things turned sour quickly for the ‘Eaters in the overtime period however, as senior midfielder Gerardo Gonzalez received a straight red card in the 108th minute for a rough tackle, and Oral Roberts earned a penalty in the 109th minute following a foul in the box. Junior forward Matthew Rogers slotted the penalty kick home with ease to give Oral Roberts the 2-1 victory over UCI. UCI senior goalkeeper Michael Breslin racked up nine saves in the loss, almost matching his record for saves in a match, which dates back to his freshman year. The match marks the third consecutive time that the ‘Eaters have finished in overtime playing with a man down following an expulsion.
UCI men’s soccer will finish their two game road trip against SMU (3-2-2) before returning home to play Loyola Marymount at Anteater Stadium on September 24. The ‘Eaters will also play at UCLA on September 27 to close out their non-conference schedule before heading into the Big West conference.