Cal Poly SLO game
We opened up the Big West Season at home this past Saturday with the first of two games against the Mustangs. Cal Poly came into the game with a lot of confidence shutting out 5 of their 6 opponents but we were confident that the ability of our players would win out in the end. Although SLO have increased the overall skill level from past teams they have also integrated it with a much more physical brand of soccer. We came into the game expecting and knowing that we would have to match their energy but was confident that our skill would allow us to offset this type of play.
The majority of the first half was played in the middle third and I was pleased that we had most of the possession. SLO didn’t get their first chance in our box until the 26th minute and that was from a difficult angle. The physical style of play resulted in 11 fouls for SLO while we were charged with 6. They were also shown 2 yellows prior to intermission. With about 10 minutes to go in the half our senior captain and centerback had to be taken off the field with a dislocated shoulder that occurred during a challenge in the box. The injury forced us to move Shay Spitz from left flank to left back and Ben Hofstetter moved central. Ryan Kaylor came on in the wide position.
In the locker room I told the players that if we could commit more players forward we could take advantage of our possession and that with SLO’s overly aggressive play the opportunity to create set pieces was at a premium. I also instructed them that it would be extremely important not to retaliate to the fouling and to keep their composure.
The second half started out similar to the first half with two quick fouls and a yellow card to SLO. The Mustangs unfortunately would score 4 minutes into the half. It was a disappointing goal because it was from a dead ball situation (throw-in) and one we should have been able to deal with. We didn’t do a good job staying with our runners and got punished for it. Being up 1-0 allowed them to drop behind the ball and just try to put as many bodies as possible between us and the goal.
I was still very confident that we would get our chances and get back into the game. SLO’s only real chance of the second half came after a clearance was deflected toward goal, hit the post and fell to a Mustang player where fortunately for us Tyler Andrews was able to make a brilliant save to keep us close.
We were able to routinely get down the flanks but lacked a bit of quality on our crosses. Matt Sanders had a free kick that looked to be heading past the keeper but was accidentally deflected out by Ryan Kaylor. We had a number of flurry's forward but none were able to change the result.
Although we gave up a bad goal that cost us the game. I was disappointed most with the officiating. I don’t blame SLO for how they played. They did what they were allowed to do. The rules of the game have changed over the years to protect offensive players in an effort to increase attacking soccer. It is the responsibility of the officials to implement those rules and make sure that the game is played fairly and safely. In my opinion, I don’t think that they did a good job controlling the game. In the first 47 minutes the Mustangs were called for 13 fouls and shown 3 yellow cards. In the final 43 minutes they were called for another 11 fouls but no additional cards were shown. We were issued no cards in the game and have received a total of 8 on the year.
It wasn’t just the decision on fouls that bothered me. Every time we had a dead ball opportunity they kicked or threw the ball away. This is soccer gamesmanship but when it happens as frequently as it did the official needs to step in. The rules state that after the whistle is blown and you contact the ball to delay the game it is a card.
I was very pleased and proud that we kept our cools and didn’t react negatively when it would have been very easy to do so. The players understand that they can’t retaliate and need to stay on the field to help us. I was also happy for Tyler Andrews. His save was real quality and will surely give him confidence.
We dropped 3 points but still have 33 available. I believe that it will take about 25 or 26 points to win the League. We will look to rebound this week and hope to get some points out of these two games.
This weeks games
Cal State Northridge comes to Titan Stadium this Wednesday at 7:00pm to open their Big West schedule. The Matadors are coming off a big win after defeating UCLA for the first time in their program’s history. They enter the game with a record of 4-2-1. We have actually played three of the same opponents (Detroit, Michigan and Memphis). CSUN went 1-1-1 while we went 2-1, losing only to Michigan. It should be a very entertaining game because both teams play similar styles and look to keep the ball. I anticipate a hard fought match that will be end to end.
This Saturday we will play the defending National Champion UC Santa Barbara Gauchos in Santa Barbara. The Gauchos are 4-2-2 on the year and beat UC Davis in the Big West opener for both teams this past weekend. They have scored 10 goals in their last 3 games while holding their opponents to only 2. I anticipate a very physical demanding game similar to SLO. We always have very competitive/tough games and I don’t anticipate this being any different. School has just started so they should have a good crowd which should make for a great atmosphere.
- Amir Shafii is out indefinitely with a separated shoulder.
- Brent Douglas has been limited to no contact training but should be available to start soon.
- Pete Kingman participated in training this week.
- Armando Padilla has been out since preseason on the request of the cardiologist. More testing is still required and ongoing.
- Josh Meyers is attending classes and training but not eligible to compete due to issues with his junior college credits.
- Kevin Puder is still out recovering from his abdominal injuries suffered versus OSU.
- Sean Keefe’s broken hand has healed and is available to play.
- Gabe Farfan has returned to the lineup after missing 3 games