By Hunter Anderson
UC Irvine men’s soccer (7-7-4) took a tough loss on Saturday at Anteater Stadium during Senior Night, losing 4-1 to the CSU Northridge Matadors (9-6-2).
CSUN’s unrelenting defense allowed them to remain in control of the division, almost stifling the ‘Eaters playoffs hope in the process.
The Matadors came out swinging, scoring in just the 6th minute when junior forward Michael Flores launched a cross just high enough for senior Emmanuel Usen Jr. to head the ball into the top right corner, just outside of UCI redshirt sophomore goalie Alex Waldron’s reach.
Neither team gained much ground for the next 60 minutes. The ‘Eaters, despite controlling the ball for much of the game, were plagued by over-powered attempts on goal that sailed over the goal and an inability to clear the middle of the field for space to shoot.
The ‘Eaters players were attacked with each touch of the ball, the aggressive Matadors players swarming within seconds to allow as little breathing room as possible.
Their physical defense combined with 6’5” junior goalie Henrik Regitnig took its toll on the ‘Eaters, never allowing them to get into any offensive flow. By the middle of the second half the game was quite chippy with the Matadors’ junior midfielder Julio Rubio acquiring a yellow card and the ‘Eaters’ senior forward Christian Carrillo getting a red card within seconds of each other.
However, junior midfielder Luis Leon, the sole goal scorer, insisted that the ‘Eaters had no excuses.
“This is a man’s game, and if you don’t come to play you get spanked on your home field,” Leon said.
Head coach Yossi Raz also had similar thoughts on the physical nature of the game.
“That’s how soccer work,” coach Raz said. “There’s a physical commitment to the game. They weren’t dirty, they played to the ball hard. You have to play hard if you want to win, especially in this conference.”
The game was blown off the hinges after the 70th minute with 3 Matador goals in 15 minutes, the first on a close shot from Usen Jr. that just got past a diving Waldron, with an assist from the driving Daniel Trejo.
Eight minutes later, Trejo outran three ‘Eater defenders to notch one into the right post from outside the goalie box.
The Matadors final goal was scored in the 83rd minute when Davis Moreno-Jaime managed to get his leg around the defender and pop an unexpected shot into the left post.
The ‘Eaters managed to end their scoring drought 88 minutes in when Leon Luis received a cross field pass from Erick Gallinar, taking the Matadors by surprise and launching a quick ball in the opposite, right goal post.
The game has serious implications on the Eaters’ playoffs chances. With CSUN leading the Big West South, an ‘Eater win would have tied the two teams a top the division.
With the loss, however, the ‘Eaters are left in third place behind CSUN and CSU Fullerton (8-6-3).
Even with one of these games being against CSUF, the ‘Eaters chances at the playoffs remain slim, an unfortunate stark contrast from the 2014 team who was being honored just that night.
The ‘Eaters remain resilient, however, senior forward Giovanni Godoy said after the game, “[The loss] hits hard, all I can think about at this point is the last couple games.”
The brisk night started out with a heart warming ceremony for Senior Night.
One-by-one, each senior was introduced to the crowd and brought onto the field with their family to thank them for their years of passion and hard work.
Seniors leaving the team at the end of this season include: Ignacio Ramirez, Corey Schramm, Christian Carrillo, Alda Perez, Felipe Silva, Giovanni Godoy, and Mario Ortiz.
Ortiz, Ramirez, Schramm, and Silva were part of the memorable 2014 season, leading the ‘Eaters to a historic 16 win season, including an upset to #1 ranked Stanford and a trip to the Sweet 16 championship tournament.
With a majority of the seniors being starters, including the blossoming star Godoy, the team looks to be in for a changing of the guards in the year to come. When asked about the future of the team, coach Yossi Raz said, “Just like any void, someone is going to have to fill the void. Somebody in the group will have to step up and take more of a leadership role, and hopefully we can grow from it.”