In the penultimate home game of the 2022 season, UC San Diego men’s soccer (7–7–2, 3–4 Big West) fell to California State University, Northridge (7–4–4, 4–2–1 Big West) in a disappointing 1–0 loss. Despite dominant stretches of possession and several good chances, the Tritons were scoreless and ultimately conceded a Matador header late in the game, which would be the only goal scored in this close match.
The first half was an even, tense affair, with both the Matadors and Tritons struggling to keep possession in a tightly packed midfield. Attempting to alleviate pressure on their midfielders, both teams employed a long ball tactic for much of the period. While neither side had much success finding their forwards through on goal, there were several chances by way of set pieces and counter attacks.
CSUN appeared to be the more threatening side in the first few minutes, winning a corner only forty seconds into the game. After a good cross pinballed in the box, the Matador shot was eventually blocked, and the ball was cleared.
UCSD’s first real opportunity came in the eighth minute after a skillful, driving run by senior midfielder Alessandro Allen that led to a Triton corner. The ensuing delivery fell to junior midfielder Alan Kim, whose shot from a tight angle flew over the bar. Allen and graduate student forward Nick Cirrito found themselves in threatening positions several times throughout the first half, but the CSUN defense stifled any attempt on goal.
The Tritons almost took the lead in the 27th minute when Cirrito was played into space on the Matador byline. His cross into the box almost snuck in at the near post, but the CSUN goalkeeper made a good save to keep the game level. A few minutes later, a CSUN forward was played through on goal, but Triton graduate student keeper Dominic Peters did well to come off his line and beat the Matador player to the ball.
The second half proved to be far more action-packed than the first, as both teams seemed to come to life after the break. The Matadors controlled the first 10 minutes of the half, threatening the UCSD goal several times. In the 50th minute, a floated cross left the Triton defense scrambling but could not find the head of a Matador player, leading to a goal kick. Soon after, a CSUN player hit the crossbar in the 53rd minute, rattling the frame of the goal with a right-footed effort from the top of the box.
After surviving this wave of CSUN attacks, the Tritons found their stride and controlled much of the remaining half. Their attack was mostly filtered through the left hand side, with sophomore midfielder Carter Jacobus, sophomore forward Max Carvalho, and Allen all finding space to cross into the box. One such instance came in the 70th minute when a ball over the top found Cirrito with his back to goal. The forward laid the ball off to sophomore midfielder Andrew Valverde, who cut back towards the middle of the park. An incisive pass into the path of graduate student midfielder Mason Haubrich set up a curling left-footed effort towards the CSUN goalie but struck the post, keeping the Tritons mere millimeters away from breaking the deadlock.
Three minutes later, a second chance fell to the Tritons in a similar fashion. Cirrito, once again, found his teammate Jacobus with his back to goal. The midfielder got to the byline, and his outswinging cross found the foot of junior midfielder Euan Clark. However, Clark’s curling effort dropped gently into the arms of the CSUN goalkeeper.
The CSUN goal came on the counter attack in the 85th minute, completely against the run of play. A Matador defender won the ball in his own half and advanced the ball on the right hand side. CSUN drove to the edge of the box and lifted a cross that found the head of a crashing CSUN forward. The header bounced over the outstretched arms of Dominic Peters and into the net, giving CSUN a decisive 1–0 lead.
UCSD’s final attacks were fruitless as the Matadors implemented a low block to preserve their lead. A last-ditch free kick sailed high and out of play. This was the fifth consecutive loss for the Tritons and the fourth loss in Big West play in which the margin of defeat was only one goal. UCSD can be proud of their stellar defensive display; unfortunately, the scoreline is not quite reflective of the impressive performance of the backline.
Currently sitting in seventh in a tightly contested Big West, UCSD will be hoping to finish their season with a victory. The Tritons’ last matchup will be Senior Night against UC Irvine where the team will try to end conference play with a winning record.
Image Courtesy of Derrick Tuskan of UCSD Athletics