Men’s Soccer Crushes Broncos

MEN’S SOCCER — The UCSD men’s soccer team got its four-match home stand off to a superb start with a 3-0 thrashing of Cal Poly Pomona in front of a lively crowd at Triton Soccer Stadium. Sept. 26 marked the beginning of a crucial run through California Collegiate Athletic Association play, and the Tritons did little to disappoint.

With points at a premium in a stacked division, the men from UCSD made sure to take care of business against a Cal Poly Pomona team that looked overmatched throughout.

The victory over the Broncos earned the squad another three points, moving their record to 3-1-1 in league play and 6-1-1 overall. UCSD now has 12 conference points and currently sits in a second-place tie in the south division with Cal State Dominguez Hills.

The Tritons wasted little time early on, pressing the Broncos from the outset of the match. Their attacks led to a multitude of chances in the first half and their efforts were rewarded with two early goals.

In the 30th minute, senior forward Tony Fernandez nearly connected on a spectacular score as he controlled the ball and fired a bicycle kick on goal. Pomona goalkeeper Thomas Ryan was able to make the initial save, but sophomore defender Jared Kukura managed to get his head on the ball and put it in the back of the net. The goal was the second of the season for the Tritons’ impressive young defender.

Rather than settle for a one-goal advantage going into halftime, UCSD continued the attack and got a boost of energy from some well-timed substitutes.
Senior forward Ali Shams entered the match and quickly scored the first goal of his career on a beautiful cross from junior midfielder Kyle Parton just before the half in the 44th minute. Shams’ entrance into the game was his first action of the season and he took advantage of the opportunity, showing that he will be ready to play when called upon in the future.

After dominating the first half, the Tritons picked up right where they left off as they netted an early goal in the second frame to put the match out of reach. In the 49th minute, senior forward Tom Caplan got some space on the right side and unleashed a shot on goal. His attempt was blocked but the rebound was put right on the doorstep of Pomona’s goal and sophomore defender Brandon Yee was there to clean it up for his first tally of the season. Pomona attempted to fight back but simply could not get anything past senior goalkeeper Peter Akman and the stellar Triton defense. The shutout was Akman’s fifth of the season and eighth of his career.

Head coach John Pascale praised his team for being extremely focused in the final third of the pitch, allowing them to put on an impressive offensive display.

“Our success came from being extremely active around their goal,” Pascale said. “Our guys were a little more alert and we were able to score on some scrambles in front of the goal.”

Senior midfielder Joe Shah chalked the offensive outburst up to high energy play and determined finishing.

“We just kept pushing the ball up the field and at the goal,” Shah said. “We made our shots really count; we had a lot of shots and a high conversion rate.”
Pascale said that in order for the Tritons’ offensive success to continue they must be even better in front of the goal than they were against Pomona.

“We have some days where we are pretty sharp up front,” Pascale said. “As the season goes on, we will see fewer opportunities to score and we need to take care of goals when we get the chance.”

Shah said that the team must improve its technical skills as it goes forward if it hopes to continue winning.

“We are looking to improve the smoothness of our play and moving the ball well,” he said. “Like our coach has mentioned, we are bringing the intensity every game and the soccer aspect will come later.”

The squad will enjoy two more matches in the friendly confines of Triton Soccer Stadium, before hitting the road again on Oct. 10 when they face Cal State Stanislaus. Both players and coaches recognize the importance of racking up the conference points at home.

“Our conference is based on points and anybody can sneak into the conference tournament,” junior forward Tony Choi said. “There is always good competition and we take every game seriously.”

Pascale said he recognizes the advantage of playing at home, but like a true skipper he is preaching patience and focus as the season heads through the midway point.

“We are trying to take it day by day and game by game,” Pascale said. “Every game is going to be a war and we need to make sure to bring the effort.”

The Tritons took on Cal State Bernardino on Sept. 28 and were dominated early en route to a 3-0 defeat. Offensively, UCSD couldn’t get much going, settling for only two shots on goal, while allowing all three goals in the first half. The Tritons were unable to take advantage of their corner kicks even though they had five more than the Coyotes.

The squad will finish its home stand against No. 23 Sonoma State University on Oct. 3 and Humboldt State University on Oct. 5.