UC Irvine Men’s Soccer (4-7-2, 2-1-1) defeated the Cal Poly Mustangs (4-5-2, 2-1-1), 1-0, at Anteater Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 9. The Anteaters are proving that they can hang with the top teams the Big West has to offer — paired with their tie against UC Santa Barbara earlier in the week — with this win.
This game can be summed up in one word: physical. The Mustangs and Anteaters racked up a combined total of 22 fouls with even more high contact collisions left uncalled. This wasn’t surprising, according to UCI sophomore defenseman Kwabena Boateng.
“We knew that coming into the game what type of game Cal Poly [played]. We knew they were going to be very direct and looking to play into their big guys,” Boateng said.
That physical mindset paid dividends on defense, with Irvine only allowing five low quality shots on goal for the entire game. The best play by Cal Poly was 25 minutes in when they were able to push the ball to freshman midfielder Nathan Colley just outside the goalie box. Seemingly going for a clean shot on goal, Boateng dragged him down; this earned himself a yellow card. With that, Cal Poly was given an ineffectual free kick.
While the ‘Eater defense shut down the Mustang’s attack, offensively Irvine took its time setting up plays. Every foot of space was a battle ground. Moving the ball up the field proved to be a tricky endeavor for UCI. Evidently, momentum was in short supply as most promising possessions were stopped by fouls, both called and uncalled.
After their first shot on goal 16 minutes in, the Eater’s offense was able to pressure the ball upfield multiple times. By halftime they had nine shots on goal; however, none of that struck fear in the Mustangs.
The physicality of the game boiled over at the end of the 49th minute when UCI sophomore midfielder Oscar Cervantes brutally elbowed Colley in the neck. Earning himself a red card, Carvantes was removed from the lineup. This left the Anteaters with only 10 men for the remainder of the game.
Minutes later, Colley returned the favor by smashing his elbow into the shoulder of Irvine’s freshman defender Mathias Winum. No card was given, sending the Anteaters into an indignant rage.
As Winum lay writhing on the field, the Anteaters gave the main referee Robert Sarfaraz an earful. Once Winum was able to make it to the bench, the team focused this passion into the game and sprung to new life.
Boateng executed a beautiful header to divert a shot on goal at the end of the 57th minute. Following that, the Anteater’s big break came in the form of a 3 on 3 mad dash down the field in the 59th minute. They were able to outrun the Mustangs down the field, converting a gorgeous cross by freshman midfielder Francesco Montanile to redshirt junior forward Axel Adler.
“We always say we have to run hard to the spot. So I just put my head down and ran to the spot. All I had to do was tap it in,” Adler said. “First goal in five years so I’m happy about that.”
After the goal, the game wound down with neither team able to put away a ball before the clock hit 90 minutes. The Anteaters hope to carry the momentum of this victory into a crucial home game against UC Davis on Wednesday, Oct. 13 at 7 p.m.
Benjamin Hendricks is a Sports Intern for the fall 2021 quarter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.