Before I talk about the two games I want to state that I am not going to discuss the officials and their performances.
CS Northridge game
Our second conference game started with 8 underclassmen in the lineup. Amir Shafii who suffered a dislocated shoulder in the SLO game was unavailable which forced us to move some players around. The frequency of injuries has gotten me pretty comfortable with lineup shuffling so I was prepared and confident that the players on the field could get it done.
The game started in the worst way possible. At the 2 minute mark we made a couple of poor decisions on a throw-in that enable Northridge to gain possession just outside our box where their player carried and took a shot after just entering the area and beat Tyler near post. The blame could be placed on as many as 4 different players. As much as I was disappointed and surprised by the quick deficit I couldn’t have been happier with the response.
The goal lifted the intensity of the team as we backed Northridge into their own half. We did make a change taking Tony Terrazas off and bringing on Pete Kingman after 10 minutes. Pete was inserted up top while German came central from his wide position. Gabriel went out wide taking over German’s responsibilities.
After a number of opportunities and restarts we were rewarded with a goal by Matt Sanders off a ball swung in by Mike Farfan in the 24th minute. The goal was Matt’s first of the season as well as his first of his collegiate career. Often after tying a game you will find that there is a bit of a let up. This let up never came and we continued to get chance after chance but couldn’t capitalized. We went into the locker room with an advantage everywhere but on the scoreboard. Corners: Titans 5 Matadors 0. Shots: Titans 8 Matadors 2. Chances: too many.
There really wasn’t much to say at the half other than we can’t make poor decisions like the one that cost us on the goal and that we need to continue what we had been doing from that time on. I could see the boys were up for it and were eager to get back out on the field.
We went back out for the second half just as we ended both with regards to players on the field and our intensity. We did a very good job of limiting their possession and any chance of getting into any rhythm. We got a lot of pressure on the ball while taking advantage of the turnovers and countering. Our transition was very good and we created a number of chances going forward. Gabriel Farfan had an excellent opportunity going 1v1 with the keeper only to put his shot inches past the far post. Pete Kingman had a very good look from the inside the box, on a ball pulled back, but wasn’t able to get enough on it to really challenge the keeper. Shay Spitz had two excellent cracks. One forced a good save from the keeper and the other had him beaten but skimmed off the crossbar.
While dominating and squandering numerous chances we suddenly found ourselves having to play a man down in the 76th minute. German Moreno who had received a card in the 65th minute was shown his second yellow on an ill timed challenge at midfield. Although the timing was poor I didn’t feel that there was any intent or that it was malicious.
I was concerned that now playing a man down we would have to settle for a draw and that our dominance in the game would come to an end. Tactically I didn’t want to make any changes so as not to disrupt the flow that we had going. Our rotation and pressure didn’t let up and we were able to continue pressing the game. You wouldn’t have known that we were playing a man down.
Northridge is a good team and that was evident in their previous game beating UCLA 3-0 but on this day we were better. I was disappointed that we didn’t reward ourselves on the scoreboard. Taking only one point when we should have had three is tough.
I told you I wasn’t going to discuss the officials.
Our first conference road game found us at the home of the defending National Champions. They were undefeated in league at 2-0. They beat UC Davis and UCI each 4-0 and were buzzing on all cylinders. This was truly our first test and it would go a long way in defining who we were as a team.
We received a boost with the return of Brent Douglas in goal who had been out since the first minutes of the Michigan game. Brent replaced Tyler Andrews who did an admirable job stepping in for the two injured keepers. In games that Tyler started we were 1-1-1, not bad for a keeper who had no experience prior to those games.
We had three players that would normally start- not play in this game. German Moreno was suspended and Amir Shafii was still out with injury. 2006 Big West Freshman of the Year, Mike Farfan, sat out with a sore hamstring.
The Gauchos came out very strong and dictated the play in the early going. They had a number of chances that they didn’t capitalize which allowed us to settle in. When our pressure on the ball increased so did our possession. The half ended knotted at 0-0 and was the first time in conference that they had not scored prior to intermission. They scored in the first half in 7 of their previous 9 games.
At halftime we discussed how the longer the game went on the better it was for us. The pressure they felt to get a result at home as well as a fitness level that is a bit suspect put us in a great situation to steal something from this game.
UCSB’s best chance of the 2nd half came with about 20 minutes left after Ben Hofstetter slipped while trying to receive a Matt Sanders pass about 30 yards directly from goal. The ball was picked up by a Gaucho who raced uncontested into the box only to find Brent who came up big and foiled the attempt.
Defensively we were frustrating them as we took control of midfield forcing them to play very direct out of the back. The majority of time their backs had the ball they hoofed it forward in an attempt to get in behind us or win the knock downs. The deadlock finally broke with 12 minutes to go after a half cleared ball found the feet of a Gaucho player out wide. His second touch drove the ball to the penalty spot where they were able to head home leaving Brent stranded on his line.
Shortly after their goal we manufactured a corner that fell to the feet of Ben Hofstetter who coolly rounded the defender on the end line and drove a ball where Skyler Thuresson headed off the under side of the cross bar bouncing down but not across the line.
As the time ran down so did our chance for any points. We did a good job of competing and had them on their heals but unfortunately left with nothing to show for it. This is the third game in a row over the last two years with them that was decided by a goal. Both games played in Santa Barbara ended 0-1. We look forward to our next meeting in Fullerton.
I still didn’t mention the officials.
UC Riverside (Wednesday Titan Stadium 7:00pm)
UCR comes into the game 3-3-3 overall and 0-1-1 in the Big West. They lost their Big West opener at UC Davis 1-2 but bounced back with a 2-2 draw versus Cal Poly at home. We are tied in the standings with 1 point each. They have 3 draws in their last 4 games and will be without their leading scorer who picked up a red card against SLO. The Highlanders had 24 shots against SLO which was the second most in the program’s history since jumping up to D-1.
We will look to duplicate the results of our two encounters from last year. Each of the games ended by a score of 4-2 in our favor.
We will have German Moreno back after his suspension but could be without the services of Gabe and Mike Farfan who will be attending a funeral in Northern California.
I have told the boys it is a must win and an opportunity that we must get the maximum points from. Any hopes of making noise with the conference will depend on this match.
UC Irvine (Saturday Titan Stadium 7:00pm)
UCI also sits level with us at one point after losing the opener at UCSB 0-4 and drawing at home with CS Northridge 1-1. Irvine started the season undefeated going 5-0 but have since gone winless in the next five. They have 3 draws and 2 losses during that time.
We have two common opponents to date Long Island and UCSB. We both beat Long Island 2-0 and both lost to UCSB. Although they have a –4 goal ratio in the last five games they were +9 in the first 5.
Irvine lost a number of players from their team last year but brought in a number of good players. If you look at Irvine’s roster you will see that they have made a concerted effort to recruit players with size. 28 of the 35 players on the roster are 5’10 or taller.
The Eater’s will play at SLO Wednesday before returning home for our game Saturday.
I anticipate a very difficult game no matter what the records or where the teams sit in the standings. The “OC Derby” is always action packed and I anticipate a very emotionally charged game. We will looked to capitalize on our home field advantage and stamp our mark on the game early.
Hope to see a number of you out in support. Go Titans!