On a cold, wet night at UC Irvine’s Anteater Stadium, the CSUN men’s soccer team hit a snag in its journey for a second Big West Conference title in the last three years, as the team fell to UCI 2-1 at Anteater Stadium Nov. 9.
Brad Evans provided the difference for Irvine, scoring two goals in the first half to pace the Anteater attack. Senior Gianni Facio scored the lone goal for CSUN in the second half, but CSUN couldn’t keep pace with an Irvine squad, which was in a must-win situation for a shot at the postseason.
“You have to tip your hat to their intensity,” said head coach Terry Davila of Irvine’s effort. “They were playing for their playoff lives, and that’s playoff intensity. We have to be able to match that and this could end up being a good thing for us.”
Irvine struck four minutes into the game, when Evans took the ball at midfield, moved in and fired a shot, beating Matador goalkeeper Kevin Guppy for the early 1-0 UCI lead. Evan’s score marked the first time in four games that Guppy had allowed an opponent to find the inside of the goal.
CSUN had a chance to respond when Ryan Rossi took the ball and moved in on the box, but the pressure of the Irvine defense was too tough. Junior Ryan Rossi did find senior Alec de Mattos at the top of the box, but his shot sailed high.
Irvine continued to put pressure on Guppy. Evans had a chance to make it two goals in the game, but his attempt was negated, Evans had another chance when he received a pass at near midfield, raced in on the goal and fired a shot, but it was saved by Guppy.
Irvine finally got the ball in the net a second time in minute 31, when Scott Shiraishi fired a cross-pass from the left side of the box to Evans, who finished the play by heading the ball into the net, giving Irvine a 2-0 lead.
Davila started Matador forward Willie Sims in the second half, who had come off the bench in the last two games, in hopes of providing a boost to the offense.
But it was Facio who finally got CSUN on the board in the 52nd minute. Mathy deflected the ball away from the net, but Facio was in the right place at the right time, as he recovered the loose ball, and launched it from 35 yards out into the net for his second goal of the year, cutting Irvine’s lead in half.
CSUN had another good look at the goal when senior Daniel Paladini sent a free kick into the box and sophomore Sean Franklin fired, but was stopped by Mathy.
A free kick by Matt Murphy in minute 59 was tipped away by Guppy, then later in the half, Hamilton stole the ball away from CSUN on a clear-out attempt and passed off to Evans on the outside to set up a possible goal, but Evans’ pass to Hamilton instead went wide left.
Irvine’s best shot, however, came in minute 82 when Hamilton sent a header past Guppy, only to have the ball bounce off the crossbar.
The Matadors had one more good look at the net, inside the ten-minute mark, when Paladini sent another free kick into the box. Matt Tracy took the ball and fired one towards the net, but Mathy made a sliding save to the right of the goal and Irvine held on the rest of the night.
“It showed some character,” said Davila of his team’s resilience in the second half. “We went long a little too much. We probably should’ve played though the minutes a little bit more.”
Mathy made six saves in the net for Irvine while Guppy finished with five. Both teams took 13 shot attempts, with Evans leading the way for Irvine with five and Franklin leading the Matadors with three.
CSUN closed out the regular season against UC Davis on Friday.
Ivan Yeo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.