UCSD Men’s Soccer Falls 2–0 to Anteaters

In their first meeting with the UC Irvine Anteaters since 1995, UC San Diego men’s soccer team conceded 2 first-half goals to the Anteaters and couldn’t answer with one of their own, losing at Irvine 2–0 on Oct. 20. The loss is the UCSD Tritons’ fifth in a row, dropping them to 4–10 overall and 1–6 in their conference, as they continue to struggle in their first season in the Big West.

The UCSD squad came to Irvine looking to post their first-ever away victory in the Big West, with their sole conference victory this season coming at home, 3–1, against California State University, Fullerton, on Oct. 2. In the match against Irvine, they started off on the wrong foot as the Anteaters employed a high press to keep the ball in the Tritons’ half, placing enough pressure on the UCSD defenders to keep attacks from opening up in the first few minutes of action. But as the first half developed, the Tritons were able to get downfield more regularly.

UCSD’s first real chance came in the 9th minute, as a throw-in developed into a fastbreak for the Tritons. Junior midfielder Alessandro Allen crossed the ball into the box and found the chest of senior forward Nick Cirrito, who redirected it to freshman forward Max Carvalho near the goal line. But Carvalho didn’t have much space to operate in, and he pulled his left-footed shot across the face of goal and out the back for a goal kick. It was the same story in the 20th minute, as senior midfielder Mason Haubrich whipped an excellent cross to Allen at the left post; Allen got a foot on it but couldn’t put enough power into the first touch, as the ball bounced to the Irvine goalkeeper, Gordon Botterill, although Cirrito lurked dangerously nearby.

Allen was once again involved with the Tritons’ best chance yet of the night in the 23rd minute, as he took a through ball from Carvalho to the left corner, cut inwards, and uncorked a right-footed ground shot that forced a great one-armed save from Botterill.

But just as it seemed like momentum was swinging towards UCSD, the Anteaters got on the board first in the 25th minute. An incisive through ball from Irvine’s Beto Alvarenga cut through the box, past players from both teams, to the feet of midfielder Ashish Chattha, who fired the ball into the bottom left corner past a diving effort from UCSD’s junior goalkeeper Nick Shor to put the Anteaters ahead.

The margin got worse for the Tritons in the 41st minute, as Chattha got the ball inside to a well-positioned Ryan Khedoo, whose shot forced an excellent kick save from Shor. But the rebound from Shor’s save was directed back in front of goal by Irvine, and Anteater forward Kelvin Neumetzler was right in position to tap the ball into the open net, making it 2–0 in favor of UC Irvine.

This was the first time the Tritons had trailed by multiple goals this season, in addition to the first time they had given up multiple first-half goals. UCSD went into the half having been outshot 9–3 in the period and struggling to find consistent answers to the Anteaters’ aggressive defensive play.

UC Irvine almost made it 3 goals in the 48th minute, as poor placement and failed clearance from the Triton defense allowed a cross into good position in the box, but senior Triton defender Noah Sonenstein made a key block on the first shot attempt, and nothing came of the chance.

In the 57th minute, Haubrich made a nice play by himself, dispossessing the Anteaters at the halfline after a lazy pass and breaking downfield; Haubrich took a powerful strike with his right foot, but it knuckled towards the Irvine keeper, who fell on the ball. Less than a minute later, Cerrito made a similar play at the left side of the box, as he made a big steal and got the ball inside to a streaking Allen. But Allen’s shot just sailed over the crossbar, and the Tritons remained scoreless.

Another great chance for UCSD came in the 66th minute, when Carvalho made a cross from the right side of the box to wide-open senior defender Jonah Bryan. Bryan perfectly executed his header towards goal, where Botterill made a great right-handed save to once again deny the Tritons.

UCSD’s night got even worse in the 81st minute, as Sonenstein drew a yellow card for a hard forearm shove on an attacking UC Irvine player; Sonenstein was visibly incensed with the call and let the official know how he felt — apparently in no uncertain terms, as the referee responded with a red card and an ejection. Down 1 man and 2 goals, the Tritons didn’t pose much of a threat for the remaining ten minutes, and a clutch last-second tackle from Bryan in the UCSD penalty box was required to possibly keep the deficit from rising to 3.

The 2–0 loss was the first defeat of the season for UCSD by a multiple-goal margin, and the 8th time the Tritons have been kept scoreless. That wasn’t for lack of trying, as UCSD equaled Irvine with 6 shots on goal each, but the Anteaters’ attempts found the back of the net where the Tritons’ didn’t.

“We put forth a valiant effort tonight, and the score didn’t reflect the way the game went,” said 13-year UCSD head coach Jon Pascale. Pascale hasn’t had a losing season since 2009, but such are the downsides of a move to Division I.

UCSD will finish out their first Division I and Big West season on Saturday, Oct. 30, as they travel to UC Riverside looking to end their year on a high note.

Image courtesy of Derrick Tuskan / UC San Diego Athletics