Men’s Soccer Earn One Point on Conference Opening Weekend
By: Kevin Vote
UC Irvine men’s soccer (2-6-3) opened up Big West conference play last week with home matches against UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly. While the ‘Eaters lost to UCSB by a score of 3-1, they bounced back against Cal Poly to earn a point in a 1-1 draw.
UC Santa Barbara 3-1 UC Irvine
UCI got on the scoreboard first in Thursday’s match against UCSB thanks to senior midfielder Eduardo Calzada. In the 3rd minute senior midfielder Gerardo Gonzalez played Calzada in on goal, and he chipped the ball over UCSB freshman goalkeeper Justin Vom Steeg in a one on one situation to give the ‘Eaters an early lead.
UCSB tied it in the 10th minute via forward Geoffrey Acheampong. The freshman curled in a long shot from outside of the box, which senior goalkeeper Michael Breslin seemed to lose track of while it was in the air. The Gauchos took a 2-1 advantage just minutes after that, when junior forward Nick Depuy beat the offside trap and coolly slotted the ball past Breslin in the 12th minute.
“We capitalized on an early chance. I think they were full of energy to start the game, but then within ten minutes we conceded two very soft goals and now we’re chasing the game again” said head coach Chris Volk.
Trailing at halftime, the ‘Eaters came out looking for an equalizer early in the second half. It almost came in the 49th minute when Calzada sent a shot just wide of the goal in a rebound attempt following a failed clearance by Vom Steeg. UCI almost tied it in the 63rd minute as well, but senior forward Jaime Phillips’ shot hit the post after a counter attack.
As the second half continued, UCSB pressed for an insurance goal, and got it in the 86th minute. Junior midfielder Josue Espana was played in on goal and scored with a cheeky chip over Breslin to make it 3-1, sealing the match for the Gauchos.
UC Irvine 1-1 Cal Poly (O/T)
It was Cal Poly who scored the early goal in Saturday’s match, as senior defender Kip Colvey slipped into the box and tapped the ball neatly past UCI’s Breslin for the 1-0 lead in the fifth minute.
Cal Poly took a slim, but deserved advantage into halftime despite only mustering four first half shots compared to nine for UCI. The ‘Eaters proved wasteful with their shots in the first half though; one of their best chances was a powerful header by senior midfielder Mats Bjurman in the 15th minute.
“We had 19 shots, only 3 on goal tonight. Their goalkeeper was forced with two saves. So I think a higher percentage of shots on goal [would help]. In and around the goal we’ve been pretty dangerous. I think we need to be a little bit more dangerous on our set pieces, on our corner kicks and free kicks,” said head coach Chris Volk.
Both teams pushed for goals in the early part of the second half. In the 58th minute, Cal Poly senior midfielder Matt Lagrassa hit the post after a quick turn and shoot move at the top of UCI’s box. The ‘Eaters had the next two chances, as UCI’s Phillips curled a free kick over the wall but wide of the goal in the 61st minute, and then freshman midfielder Luis Leon missed a header from close range following junior defender Thomas Janjigian’s cross in the 69th minute.
Senior goalkeeper Michael Breslin kept UCI in the match in the latter stages of the second half with a pair of clutch saves. In the 75th minute, Cal Poly’s Colvey once again found his way into the box and almost netted his second goal, but Breslin denied him. In the 81st minute Breslin came through once again when he saved sophomore forward Kaba Alkebulan’s shot from close range.
UCI finally found an equalizer in the 87th minute when Phillips trapped the ball in the box and crossed it to Calzada, who hammered the ball into an open goal to tie the score 1-1 and force overtime.
At the end of the first overtime period, junior midfielder Andy Mendoza received his second yellow card of the match, resulting in an ejection. The ‘Eaters were able to hold on for the draw even though they played the second overtime period with 10 men.
UCI will now depart on a road trip to Northern California this week to face Sacramento State on October 8th and UC Davis on October 10th as Big West conference play continues.