By Daniel Shinhyun Park
Aggie Soccer Field, Davis — Despite playing away from home and conceding a goal early in the second-half, UC Irvine Men’s Soccer was able to claw their way back to their third consecutive win in the Big West Conference. Their win over UC Davis means that the Anteaters remain undefeated in Big West play, and retain first place in the conference standings with 9 points.
UC Davis started the first-half strong, forcing redshirt senior Greg Patenaude (last week’s defensive player of the week) into consecutive saves as early as the second minute. The Aggies looked dangerous on the break, with winger Adam Mikelson whipping in several crosses from out wide. The ‘Eaters missed a golden chance to take the lead, however, when Senior Ivan Canales failed to convert a one-on-one chance with the keeper after a beautiful lofted pass Junior Jose Ortiz had sent him through at the fifth minute. Nearly a minute later it was Ortiz’s turn to hold his head in his hands when he sliced a shot across the goal after some clever footwork by Sophomore Alvaro Quezada (last week’s offensive player of the week) had set him up to take a shot.
Despite conceding these chances, the Aggies continued to employ a high backline, catching Anteater forwards offsides on four separate occasions. This, combined with aggressive tackling and a fluid counter-attacking system, meant that the ‘Eaters struggled to assert themselves in the game as they usually do. Sophomore Lawrence Yamaguchi had a penalty shout in the twenty-third after being tackled in the box, but referee Val Huerta waved play on. The first half ended scoreless with neither side able to grab a foothold in the match
It was Davis who drew first blood early in the second-half. Aggie defender Jacob Rudolph’s long throw-in was cleared onto the path of Mikelson, who laid it back to Rudolph before continuing his run to the byline. Rudolph cut a diagonal pass back to the winger, who then crossed it straight to the head of defender Kaleb Schirmacher. The redshirt freshman put the header home, scoring his first goal in the process.
Irvine eventually responded with a beautiful team goal of their own in the fifty-first minute. After some neat passes between Freshman Michael Orozco, Ortiz, and Senior Daniel Crisostomo, the ball was recycled back to Senior Darren Hamilton. The center-back burst forward on his own and played a long ball onto the path of Ortiz, who headed it past his marker down the left hand side and cut it across for Yamaguchi to slide home. Ortiz wasn’t finished however, as nearly ten minutes later he scored a goal of his own to give Irvine the lead. Collecting a ball from Canales on the left, Ortiz beat his defender and smashed the ball past the Aggie goalkeeper’s near-post, claiming his eighth goal of the season.
For the remaining twenty-five minutes, keeper Patenaude would be the ‘Eaters’ hero, pulling off save after save of every variety. The redshirt senior would record a total of five saves in the second half, though he would also need the additional heroics of Senior Jose Soto — who had a goal line clearance of his own–to stave off the Aggies’ offense. Despite the dominance of Davis in the final minutes of the game, the Irvine defense held strong and ensured an Anteater victory.
Patenaude’s total of ten saves this match is the first double-digit save effort since 2012, and doubles his career high. Ortiz was credited with the game-winner–his second of the season–and eight goal overall which ties him in the conference lead with CSUN’s Daniel Trejo. Sophomore Yamaguchi scored his first goal of the season, and will undoubtedly be looking to add more to his tally in the coming games. UC Irvine Men’s Soccer will next be playing UC Santa Barbara at the Anteater Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 13.