By Daniel Shinhyun Park
Anteater Stadium, Irvine–UC Irvine Men’s Soccer continued their bright entrance into the Big West Conference with a comfortable 2-0 win over Sacramento State, making their record two wins out of two games in Big West play.
Playing on a brisk fall night, the Anteaters welcomed a sizeable crowd for their first official home game of the season, and delivered an energetic first half performance characterized by a strong high-press. Chances for the ‘Eaters came as early as the second minute when Hornet keeper Ryan Curtis denied a well-stuck shot from outside of the box by Senior Ivan Canales. The early pressure continued as the Anteaters earned a penalty kick in the fifth minute, but Junior Jose Ortiz but was unable to convert from the spot, keeping the match scoreless.
The ‘Eaters continued to dominate the early game with several more chances, although UCI keeper Greg Patenaude (redshirt senior) was called upon to make a few smart saves to deny the Hornets on the break. The Anteaters were finally able to break the deadlock when, after Senior Daniel Crisostomo was forced off the pitch with a cut, a quick lofted ball into the Hornet’s box was cleared right onto the path of Sophomore Alvaro Quezada who volleyed it into the bottom right corner in the 22nd minute. Irvine almost doubled their lead shortly after, when a short corner play created room for Ortiz to smash a shot that rattled off the crossbar in the 24th minute. While the first half ended 1-0, the ‘Eaters dominated possession and created several chances through clever set-piece plays, and short interplays orchestrated by midfielder Canales.
The Hornets started the second half strongly, seemingly determined not to take the long trip back home on a loss. Hornets right-back Tyler Moss and forward Justin Bedig worked hard to create several chances on the right-flank for the Hornets, but Patenaude commanded his box well, and was able to nullify the threat of their crosses. The Anteaters were able to form their own chances down the left hand side with freshman Michael Orozco and Quezada combining well to create opportunities for Anteaters forward Lawrence Yamaguchi.
The second half was an impasse rife with latent tension, with the Hornets pushing for an equaliser, and the ‘Eaters seeking a second goal to put them out of reach. In the end, it was another set piece play that made the difference as a quick corner to Quezada allowed him to slip it through to Ortiz, who was able to make up for the missed penalty and slot home the crucial second goal.
The conclusion of the match sees the ‘Eaters finish the first week of the Big West Conference with all of the 6 points possible–the only team to do so. Patenaude record his fifth clean-sheet of the season, ending the match with 6 saves. Quezada was credited with the game-winning goal, as well as the assist for the second goal. UC Irvine Men’s Soccer will next be playing against No. 16 UC Davis in an away game on Oct. 10.