Men’s Soccer Earns Key Road Victory

MEN’S SOCCER — After nearly three weeks without a win, over 400 minutes without a goal and little time left in the season, it would have been easy for the UCSD men’s soccer team to phone it in against a Chico State squad that had not lost at home all season. But that is exactly what the Tritons refused to do as they captured a huge 2-0 victory against the Wildcats on Oct. 12 at the University Soccer Complex. UCSD got second-half goals from senior forward Tom Caplan and sophomore forward Jared Kukura to earn its first win since defeating Cal Poly Pomona 3-0 on Sept. 26 at home.

The Tritons went into the match looking to rebound after a tough 1-0 road loss to Cal State Stanislaus on Oct. 10. Rebound they did, shutting out a Chico State side that had outscored their California Collegiate Athletic Association opponents by a margin of 11-1 at home going into the match. UCSD finally ended its lengthy scoring drought in the 64th minute when sophomore defender Aaron McDowell blasted a shot on net that was initially saved by junior Chico goalkeeper Michael Keohane before Caplan pounded the rebound home for his second goal of the season. The early lead was huge, and after going so long without a goal the squad was understandably pleased.

“[The goal] felt great,” senior forward Tony Fernandez said. “It relieved a lot of pressure.”

It felt so good that the Tritons decided to do it again only 11 minutes later. Junior midfielder Tony Choi laced a free kick into the box, where Kukura soared above defenders and knocked a header inside the near post. The goal was Kukura’s third this season, tying him with fellow defender McDowell for the team lead.

After building the two-goal lead, the Tritons turned to their defense to finish the match, and they performed admirably, earning senior goalkeeper Peter Akman his seventh shutout of the season. The win improved the Tritons’ record to 7-4-2 overall and 4-4-2 in conference play. UCSD currently sits in fourth place in the CCAA South Division with 14 points. Cal State Los Angeles leads the southern pack with 23 points.

The offense was certainly the story coming into this match and Choi pointed to better fundamentals as one of the reasons for success.

“I think it was just a matter of execution,” he said. “We were just a lot sharper with our passing and when we had the opportunity to score we put it in the back of the net.”

Fernandez said the win was the result of the team working together on all parts of the pitch.

“The consistency was there — from our defense to the midfield to the forwards.” Fernandez said. “I think this was our best performance overall.”

Head coach John Pascale praised his squad’s commitment to a strong work ethic despite the rough patches they have encountered this season.

“It was easy in the beginning of the season when everything was going great,” he said. “Your true colors show when things aren’t going well and the guys did a great job of responding against Chico.”

With only four conference games left, the win could not have come at a better time as the Tritons look to build on their newfound momentum and finish the season strong.

“It was an all-time low after losing to [Cal State] Stanislaus,” Fernandez said. “We did a lot of soul searching after that and came out for this match fired up.”

UCSD looked to build upon its big win as the Tritons traveled to No. 10 Cal State Dominguez Hills on Oct. 15. As of press time, scores were unavailable. The Tritons will return home to battle No. 4 Cal State Los Angeles on Oct. 19 and Seattle Pacific University on Oct. 25.