Tritons Shut Out at Home

    UCSD’s offense has struggled over the last four games, getting shut out three times. The Tritons are 3-2 in league play, which puts them in a tie for third in the south division with a total of 10 points.

    MEN’S SOCCER — Over the course of a long, challenging collegiate athletic season, it is almost inevitable that there will be extreme highs and lows. The UCSD men’s soccer team learned this lesson well on Sept. 28 after suffering a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Cal State San Bernardino at Triton Soccer Field.

    The Tritons, in the midst of a four-game home stand, were coming away from one of their most impressive victories of the year after scoring a three-goal win against Cal Poly Pomona on Sept. 26, but momentum proved to be a strange and fickle beast. After impressively winning their first five games of the season, the Tritons have dropped two of their last three.

    The squad started the match off looking sluggish and the Coyotes took full advantage, netting two scores before the 20-minute mark of the first half. In the 11th minute, the Coyotes were able to put together a quick counterattack after winning the ball at midfield, resulting in a goal by forward Jorge Aguirre. Aguirre benefited from a well-played cross by midfielder Miguel Alatorre.

    The goal put UCSD down one early and the Coyotes showed little sign of letting up. Only three minutes later, forward Obi Agwu threaded a pass to midfielder Brock Steele, who buried his chance in the back of the net for the second goal of the day.

    Rather than roll over after going down by two scores early, the Tritons turned the energy on, showing the intensity and focus the team has displayed all season long. UCSD picked up the physical play and did a better job creating chances, but the Coyotes proved to be the better, putting their third and final goal through in the 36th minute of the first half. Alatorre was awarded a penalty kick as both he and senior goalkeeper Peter Akman fought for a ball played into the box. The referee charged Akman with a yellow card for interfering on the play and UCSD’s goalkeeper could not stop Alatorre’s ensuing penalty kick.

    The Tritons picked up their play in the second half but missed perhaps their best scoring chance during the 61st minute of the match. Sophomore midfielder Aaron McDowell played a beautiful ball into the box off a corner kick, and senior forward Tony Fernandez nearly headed the ball past the Coyote goalkeeper. Chances were limited for both teams after that, and the Coyotes prevailed with a tough road victory. The loss dropped the Tritons’ record to 3-2-1 in California Collegiate Athletic Association play and 6-2-1 overall. The team currently stands in a tie for third place with 10 points in the south division.

    While this may have not been UCSD’s finest moment, the Tritons certainly believe that the problems that plagued them against Cal State San Bernardino are more than fixable.

    The defense has been stalwart thus far, led by Akman and sophomore defender Jared Kukura, who was named the California Collegiate Athletic Association men’s player of the week for the week ending Sept. 28.

    The three goals allowed against the Coyotes equaled the entire total on the season going into the match.

    “We did not work very well as a group on offense and defense and we got really spread out,” Fernandez said. “In practice this week we really worked on positioning and where we are relative to the person in front and behind us.”

    Head coach John Pascale agreed that it was time for his team to work on some fundamentals in training, especially on the defensive end, where the Tritons were challenged during their last game.

    “We made a lot of mistakes and this week we really got back to basics,” Pascale said. “We did individual and small group defending, just trying to get organized again.”

    The normally strong Triton defense faltered against Cal State San Bernardino, allowing three goals to the Coyotes. UCSD had only allowed a total of three goals in their previous eight games.

    The Tritons will need to be more than organized as they host CCAA powerhouse Sonoma State University on Oct. 3. With an overall record of 8-1-2, the Seawolves are currently ranked No. 1 in the Division-II NSCAA/Adidas West Regional Rankings and No. 4 in the nation.

    The Tritons have experience in big games like these, earning a hard fought 0-0 tie with then-No. 4 Cal State Dominguez two weeks ago. Sonoma State certainly poses a stiff test for UCSD, but it is one the Tritons believe they are ready for.

    “The mindset of the team is ‘let’s beat Sonoma,’” Pascale said. “We have a chance to knock off one of the best teams in the nation at home on Friday.”

    Fernandez said the seesaw of emotions created by the results of the last two matches has done little to change the mentality of the squad as they head into this important match.

    “We have the same mentality that we had in preseason,” Fernandez said. “We just come into practice every day and work hard — the same as day one."

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