By Kevin Vote
UC Irvine men’s soccer (2-4-2) morphed into a goal scoring machine on Thursday night, defeating Loyola Marymount (5-4), 4-1 at Anteater Stadium. In addition to freshman midfielder Luis Leon’s brace, senior forward Jaime Phillips and senior midfielder Eduardo Calzada each scored goals for the ‘Eaters, while sophomore forward Alvaro Madrigal managed to net a consolation goal from the penalty spot for LMU.
UCI, although not dominant by any means in the first half, showed more aggression than LMU from the start of the match. The ‘Eaters managed eight shots in the first half , two more than LMU, that were mostly from long range. Junior defender Matthew Tilley almost scored from close range in the 32nd minute, but his header was cleared off the goal line by the LMU defense. UCI senior goalkeeper Michael Breslin saw his only real action of the first half when LMU sophomore forward, Grant Sampson, had a breakaway in the closing minutes of the first half, but Breslin made the save to keep the match tied at 0-0.
LMU senior goalkeeper Paul Blanchette also made a save right before halftime to keep the score tied. In the 45th minute, UCI senior midfielder Mats Bjurman hammered a shot towards the LMU goal, but Blanchette denied Bjurman a breakthrough goal.
A large crowd at Anteater Stadium didn’t have to wait long after the start of the second half to see a goal. In the 52nd minute, freshman midfielder Ivan Canales headed the ball down into the path of Leon, who easily scored from just inside the box to give the ‘Eaters a 1-0 advantage. UCI struck again quickly, doubling the advantage in the 64th minute. The freshman duo connected yet again; this time Canales passed the ball onto Leon, who struck a powerful shot from the edge of the box to make the score 2-0.
“It feels great, especially as a freshman. I feel that coming back from really hard losses on the road, coming from a really hard losing streak, it feels good to come home with an amazing crowd,” said Leon after scoring his first collegiate goals.
Phillips signaled that the rout was on in the 68th minute, as he outmaneuvered Blanchette on a breakaway and coolly slotted home the ball to extend UCI’s lead to 3-0. LMU pulled one back in the 80th minute when the referee awarded a penalty against the ‘Eaters for a dangerous tackle inside the box. Madrigal stepped up to the penalty spot and beat Breslin to give LMU a lifeline, albeit a slim one.
Uncontent with only being ahead 3-1, UCI put the match out of reach a few minutes after LMU’s goal. In the 85th minute, Calzada dribbled forward with the ball, shot it, and scored on his own rebound to seal a 4-1 victory. Canales almost scored a fifth goal for the ‘Eaters very late on, but his long range shot hit the crossbar. The four goals scored in the match were more than UCI’s season total in goals scored (the ‘Eaters had just 3 goals through the first 7 games). UCI had 24 shots in the game, including 9 shots on goal.
“Our group’s been very resilient, and have kind of grown through every game. We’ve been starting three freshman at different moments of the season. I think some of our older players stepped up tonight too, so it was good” said head coach Chris Volk.
UCI finishes non-conference play with a tough away match to UCLA on Sunday night before returning home to Anteater Stadium to open Big West conference play against UC Santa Barbara on October 1st.