Young Squad Posts Consecutive Shutouts

    The Tritons fell to Division I UC Santa Barbara in the season’s first test, but with help from senior midfielder Thomas Pham the team has rebounded with back-to-back wins over Cal State San Marcos and UC Riverside. (Eric Rounds/Guardian)

    The final day of tryouts for this year’s men’s club soccer team was on
    Oct. 7, and the newly formed squad had only two days a a team before its season
    opener against UC Santa Barbara. The Tritons showed an unusual amount of
    cohesion for a team new to playing with each other, but despite some early
    attacks they fell 2-1.

    As if the challenge of playing as a three-day-old team wasn’t enough, UCSD
    faced its hardest opponent of the year in the Gauchos, a team that prides
    itself on reflecting the skill level of their varsity brethren, who are
    Division I national champions.

    Since losing their season-opener, the Tritons, supported by junior midfielder Edgar Lozano, have been flawless and hope to extend their win streak to three against Loyola Marymount University. (Eric Rounds/Guardian)

    The Tritons had some scoring chances in the first half, but after the
    opening period the score remained tied at zero. In the second half, the Gauchos
    earned a corner kick after increasing their offensive pressure and attacking
    the goal more frequently. UCSB played the corner short to a trailing
    midfielder, whose ensuing cross met the foot of a crashing defensive back. The
    back needed no extra touches and put the one-timer away, breaking the scoreless
    tie.

    Later in the half, the well-conditioned UCSB squad exploited the Tritons’
    mounting fatigue and notched its second goal of the match when one of its
    talented midfielders created enough space between him and a tired Triton
    defender.

    Once the Gaucho midfielder had enough space, he pushed the ball to his
    left and ripped a shot from 18 yards out. The kick was not unstoppable, but
    strong enough to find its way to the back of the net, giving UCSB a two-goal
    cushion.

    Despite the deficit, the Tritons continued to fight, sending balls into
    the Gaucho’s half of the field but falling short of goal repeatedly. The lack
    of scoring was not a result of poor offense; the Tritons had many open
    opportunities at goals, but twice hit the crossbar and at least once shot the
    ball wide with only the keeper to beat.

    Finally, with less than five minutes left, freshman forward Brian Labadie
    notched his first career goal when he stayed onside and received a ball from
    behind the Gauchos’ back line. Labadie controlled the pass and flicked it past
    the goalkeeper to bring UCSD within one goal.

    An energized Triton squad made several more runs at the goal before simply
    running out of time. Despite losing the match, the Tritons were optimistic.
    During the team’s post-game huddle, head coach Kaveh Pajouhan said he was very
    impressed by the team’s early cohesion and was looking forward to its next
    match.

    The Tritons rebounded from their opening loss by beating Cal State San
    Marcos on Oct. 12 by a 2-0 margin. Junior forward Patrick Salazar netted the
    first goal from an assist from senior midfielder Thomas Pham. Pham scored a
    goal of his own to distance his team from the visiting Cougars.

    Fresh off their promising Cal State San Marcos victory, the Tritons faced
    UC Riverside on Oct. 14 in a game that at times resembled an Ultimate Fighting
    Championship match. The Highlanders started the carnage by earning the first
    red card of the match when a player lashed out at sophomore forward Evan Cook
    after play was over. UC Riverside drew its second red card when the referee
    caught a Highlander giving senior midfielder Julio Palacios a high elbow.

    The Tritons, not to be outdone in the card game, received a red of their
    own late into the match. Junior stopper Carlos Ordaz, who had found himself on
    the ground, kicked one of the UC Riverside players and was ultimately sent off
    the pitch.

    Finally, after the fights had been quelled and the dust had settled, UCSD
    emerged with a quality 5-0 win.

    According to junior forward Norman Pitt, playing against a fellow UC team
    added an extra element of competition to the match, but he admitted that
    drawing three red cards was not ideal.

    “The game got a little out of control,” Pitt said.

    The early season physical play and determination is a good sign for the
    young team. According to Pham, the final score, not the amount of penalties, is
    what should be the main focus.

    “We scored two goals in the first half and another three in the second,”
    Pham said. “We destroyed them in the second half when they were down and
    devastated. And about the penalties, I think that the ref was a little red-card
    happy.”

    Penalties aside, the Tritons compiled an impressive 2-1 record to start
    the season. For a team with lots of fresh-faced players, the leadership of
    senior veterans like Pham and senior midfielder Jesse Lyon directs the squad.

    “The most vital element to our success this season will be playing as a
    team,” Pitt said. “We have been together as a team for about two weeks, yet
    we’ve already played three games, so it’s crucial that we quickly learn to play
    together, which so far we have done very well. That said, all aspects of our
    play seem to be going well: We have scored eight goals in three games and let
    in only two.”

    The Tritons’ next match will be Oct. 19 at Loyola Marymount University.

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