UC San Diego Men’s Soccer is Narrowly Upset by UC Riverside


Donovan Perez-Schipper

The UC San Diego Men’s Soccer Team (5–5–2, 1–2–0 Big West) lost a nail-biter against the UC Riverside Highlanders (3–6–2, 2–1–0 Big West). The Tritons were trailing the majority of a game, and fell by a score of 1–0. Although there were multiple great opportunities, the Tritons were unable to convert against a rigid Highlanders defense, and so the Tritons faltered on home turf.

Before the match even began, there was a significant delay due to an unfortunate injury to the lead referee. Once that was swiftly resolved, the game began with each team playing as they had been in recent games. UC Riverside came into the game with a propensity for having a leaky defense and playing at a deliberate pace. To start the match, both of these trends were manifesting themselves again with UC Riverside struggling to sustain any offense, whereas UCSD got quick opportunities near the goal. 

The Tritons seemed to have all the momentum early on, which had carried on from their success in recent weeks. Three minutes into the match, aggressive play from sophomore forward Max Carvalho netted the Tritons an early opportunity. Shortly thereafter, Carvalho passed to graduate defender Jake Serpa, who sent a beautiful pass that resulted in a header by senior midfielder Alessandro Allen, who forced a difficult save.

The game would mostly follow this encapsulated pattern of UCSD threatening, but not being able to convert after the Highlander’s condensed their defense. Through the first 20 minutes, the action was favoring UCSD in terms of possession, but UC Riverside did have one good chance that ended with a shot that sailed high. 

The exception to the general pattern of toothless threats coupled with dominating possession was broken for UCSD when defense against a UC Riverside counterattack went awry. Developing fast, the Highlanders surprisingly broke their slow form by pushing the issue against a light UCSD defense. While the Triton defense initially stood strong, a kick inside the box took an unfortunate bounce of a deflection. The score stood at 1–0, and the Tritons would have to now come from behind to earn a home victory.

The Tritons looked unphased, as they had recently completed a similar comeback feat in the prior game. The team once again dominated possession, and another great chance was had stemming from a pass from junior midfielder Alan Kim, which sophomore midfielder Andrew Valverde left just a touch too high. 

After the half, more of the same persisted for the Tritons. Possession was a little more even, but the Tritons continued to push the pace, whereas the opposition was clearly playing conservatively to stall the Tritons offense. UCSD earned a few corner kicks, but each was thwarted by an uncharacteristically suffocating Highlander defense. 

After a few more changes in possession, the 76th minute came along with a golden opportunity for the Tritons. Junior midfielder Jack Hagan received a deflected ball deep inside the box with only one defender between the ball and a free shot at the net. Hagan’s attempt to fake out the defender was intercepted, so he was not able to attempt what would have been the cleanest shot on goal the Tritons would have had on the night. 

With nine minutes to go, UCSD attempted to follow UC Riverside’s model and launch a quick and surprising attack. Alessandro Allan launched a nice kick, but the goalkeeper deflected it out of bounds resulting in a corner kick for the Tritons. Unable to convert, the Highlanders were able to run out the clock without much of a hitch, culminating in a 1–0 loss for the Tritons. 

While the Tritons were impressive in many facets of the game, it comes down to who can put the ball in the back of the net. The team certainly showed their fighting spirit until the end, and will surely bounce back as this season goes on. The next match for the men’s soccer team comes on Oct. 12, when the Tritons will look to exact a convincing victory against another Big West foe in a trip to California State University, Fullerton. 

Image Courtesy of Derrick Tuskan of UC San Diego Athletics