If a fan blinked too hard or turned away for just a second Friday night, it is likely that he may have missed the two rapid goals that handed the UC Irvine men’s soccer team (2-1-1) their first definitive victory, 2-1, at Anteater Stadium over UNC Asheville (0-3-0).
After teasing at a potential goal on 11 attempts in the first half, it took the ‘Eaters just a minute and 46 seconds out of the half to crack home the first goal of the match. What would turn out to be the game winner came exactly a minute and 30 after.
The premiere goal came was ignited off a save from UCI redshirt sophomore keeper Alex Waldron and a long feed from sophomore Viktor Falck. Heading the other way, redshirt senior forward Ivan Canales a danced around a few defenders to find a diving Giovanni Godoy who flew in and connected with a flying knee that signaled the foghorns and stopped the clock at 46:46.
Having sustained a minor injury on the play, Godoy checked out of the match before he could properly celebrate his second goal on the season. The senior midfielder, however, would return shortly after and went on to finish the match with three shots in 54 minutes of action off the pitch.
It is not often that lightning strikes twice in quick succession and on the same spot, but the ‘Eaters struck again on a transition and turnaround from the defensive.
Freshmen midfielder Alvaro Quezda tapped it to freshmen defender Christian Bond-Flasza who sent a low cross into the box. Streaking ahead again, Canales found the opening—this time, for himself. Going head to head with the Bulldogs’ keeper, Canales one-timed it home to give the ‘Eaters a quick 2-0 advantage and a stoppage for the fans to celebrate at the 47:30 mark.
“Patience is key…we just need to stick to our game plan because we know it’s going to work,” Canales said. “I think we knew that [the goals] were going to come [and] that we needed to take a breath and just finish right in front of the goal. In the first half, we had a few [opportunities] but we just couldn’t finish and I feel like before the second half coach [Raz] talked to us and told us ‘relax’ and I think that what happened and we were able to finish.”
Canales led all players Friday with five shots, two of which were on frame. The Santa Ana, Calif. native joins Godoy as the only two ‘Eaters to have collected two goals on the season thus far.
The match however, was not necessarily flawless. Even though the Bulldogs mustered up just five shots on the night—all in the second half—three of those five shots managed to land on target. In the 72nd minute, UNC Asheville capitalized on a UCI foul to set up a blitzing header that escaped the reach of Waldron to spoil the shutout.
“UNC Asheville is a very good team [that] is coached by a very good staff…they compete until the very last minute,” head coach Yossi Raz said. “We conceded one inside piece and obviously none of us are happy about it…that’s one of the areas that we targeted to try to do well on today…but we are early in the season and we will continue to get better at how we defend inside pieces.”
Regardless, the ‘Eaters held on defensively and continued firing away offensively, finishing with 20 shots for the night (four on goal) to secure the win.
“We have good leaders on the field [and] a lot of older players who have been in different situations,” coach Raz said. “I’m excited that we got the ‘W’ against a very good team on our home field [but] we’re already moving on and thinking about next weekend.”
Following the three-game stay at Anteater Stadium, UCI will head back on the road where they are slated for a pair of matches in Albuquerque this weekend, starting with Denver on Friday at 3:00pm and host New Mexico Sunday at 5:00pm
“It’s going to be a tough environment,” Canales said. “We are playing two very good teams [but] we’re going to go out there with the mentality to win…that’s what we want and that’s what we look forward to.”