Before the UC Irvine men’s soccer team kicked off their 2017 campaign, first year head coach Yossi Raz promised that his team was ready to showcase an exciting, high energy style of play that will entertain fans.
Following a 2-0 exhibition victory over Bakersfield last Saturday, a match where the ‘Eaters had put up 10 shots and earned eight corners, coach Raz’s expectations seemed to be taking shape.
Opening conference play at Lynn Stadium Friday afternoon against No.9 Louisville Cardinals (1-0), UCI (0-1) continued to play with that same high, fiery energy for the first 20 minutes of the match, even converging on a free ball for the first goal of the contest. But as the Cardinals answered with two consecutive goals within the next eight minutes, strikes that would upend the ‘Eaters, it was apparent that coach Raz’s hungry nucleus has much more to uncover and pick apart moving forward as they look to improve in the upcoming season.
Redshirt senior midfielder Mario Ortiz put the ‘Eaters on the board first in the 21st minute of Friday’s showdown, launching one from 19 yards out into the Cardinal’s upper left side of the net. Ortiz would own the ‘Eaters sole two shots on goal, the latter of which came late in the second half and nearly forced the match in an extra time period.
Junior midfielder Adrien Cabon avenged the home team four minutes later with a shot from 21 yards out that rattled high and into the ‘Eater’s upper right. Cabon followed his equalizer with what would become the game winning conversion just four minutes later when he caught UCI redshirt junior keeper Greg Patenaude charging out as the net was left virtually uncovered.
While Patenaude finished with two saves for an overall total of three for the ‘Eaters, defense proves to be one of the areas that UCI will need to focus on against aggressive attacks which Louisville had shown to be capable of by taking the edge in shots (14-5, 5-2 shots on goal) and corner kicks (11-2) in their victory.
The ‘Eaters will stay in Kentucky for another match on Sunday against Northern Kentucky, this time at an early 10:00am start. Coach Raz’s bunch will then return to Anteater Stadium Sept. 1st when they go head to head with Penn State for their home opener.