In a 4-0 victory against UC Riverside (1-11-0, 1-4-0) that was well determined by the end of the first half, senior forward Giovanni Godoy electrified Anteater Stadium Wednesday night with two thunderous goals that not only solidified the win for the UC Irvine men’s soccer team (7-4-3, 2-1-2) but also assesses him nine goals to become the sole Big West leader in goals—a title that he had previously shared with fellow ‘Eater Ivan Canales at seven.
The two goals also help Godoy retain his top conference slots in points (20) and shot attempts (44).
“Since this is my last year, I know I have to step it up,” Godoy said. “My dream is to go pro so I know this is my last opportunity to shine here and so I got to give it all I got with no regrets…no what-ifs later on.”
While the statistical significance of the match against UCR belonged to Godoy, the heroics of it went to freshman midfielder Alvaro Quezada who chipped in the game winner in just four minutes after coming on to the pitch.
After his header flittered over the net, the ‘Eaters’ sixth shot thus far in the evening, Quezada caught and controlled a curving pass from sophomore defender Jose Ortiz off a break lead by junior midfielder Daniel Crisostomo in the 40th minute and weaved inside the box before putting up a shot that flew high right side of the keeper for the match’s first goal.
The conversion was also Quezada’s first career goal in conference play, second on the year.
“I’m just trying to give it my all,” Quezada said. “With the minutes when I do get in I just try to take advantage of those opportunities to do the best I can.”
Quezada also took on the role of the set-up man on the next goal. With Crisostomo engaging the quick break once more, the Lancaster, Calif. native fed a through ball to Ortiz this time to hand UCI a 2-0 insurance.
“Alvaro is a very talented player and good young man but we have to remember he is a freshman [and] he’s learning what it means to play in the NCAA and to play fast pace where everybody is talented and tough to play against,” head coach Yossi Raz said. “He’s making strides everyday and we’re very proud of him…he has a bright future here.”
It was all Godoy late in the second half thereafter. Approaching the 80th minute, redshirt senior Mario Ortiz dispossessed a Highlander and sent a long outlet pass to a wide-open Godoy who took a few long strides to ride up straight towards the keeper who impatiently dived right as Godoy kissed one skidding left for goal number eight on the year.
Just two minutes later, Godoy placed the finishing touches on the night with a set piece conversion that sailed high through the net.
“Godoy has great movement upfront and he finds himself in really good positions,” coach Raz said. “He does his role on the team and he gets a lot of credit because he is in the higher last line and he’s always looking for opportunities to make us dangerous…and he does it very well. He has dreams and he wishes to reach them and as a team we will try our best to help him reach them.”
As explosive as their attack turned out to be the ‘Eaters zeroed in on their defensive work to ignite their offense, noted by the fact that Riverside managed to fire on frame just four times despite taking a total of 15 attempts.
“Right away, it was ‘no goals against’…that was our first priority,” Godoy said of the ‘Eaters game plan heading into Wednesday’s match. “From their we knew that goals were going to come for sure [but] that we would have to work hard for them.”
UCI redshirt sophomore keeper Alex Waldron snagged three saves to collect his fifth shutout on the year and first in conference play. Leading the Big West with a goals-against average of 1.03 a night, Waldron has defended the fort well with a .764 save percentage, enough for second in conference.
The ‘Eaters’ shutout also snapped a seven match scoring streak for UCR as the Highlanders had previously recorded at least one goal in their last seven games prior to Wednesday.
On the attack, the ‘Eaters kept coming at the Highlanders with constant pressure. UCI would finish the night having fired 17 shots, nine of which reached the keeper’s radar.
“It was about having high energy,” Quezada said, “to get them before the match starts. We had to be up and with a high tempo so that they wouldn’t know what was coming.”
“We knew that we were going to play at home with all our fans out there so we had to take advantage of that,” Godoy said. “We got that job done [and] the crowd left happy…so we got to come back the same way for the next home game.”
With a victory Wednesday, the ‘Eaters slide past Cal State Fullerton (7-5-2, 2-2-1) for the top spot of the South Division after the Titans ended their match against CSUN (6-6-2, 1-2-2) in a draw.
“Every game is a war,” Quezada said. “It’s about focusing on one game at a time. It’s always going to be a hard game so we just have to get going with a good mentality.”
As the ‘Eaters resume busy South Division play Saturday when they travel to CSUN for a 7:00pm start, coach Raz also has similar sentiments about the team’s preparations.
“The Big West South has just started tonight [so] there’s a lot of games coming up,” coach Raz said. “There’s a really, really long road ahead of us [so] we are going to take one game at a time. We’ll regroup tonight, we’ll regroup tomorrow, we’ll get our bodies and minds ready, and we’re going to put together a game plan that we hope will be successful at Northridge…one of the toughest environments in the Big West against a quality, quality team.”