Since UCR doesn’t offer a video stream, I was relegated to listening to Gerry Fall’s call via the audio stream. So, I am not in a position to comment much on the match itself, but I can offer some general comments.
Batista will be unavailable on Saturday at Fullerton after he picked up 2 yellow cards tonight. I think we’re all hip to the fact that UCR’s pitch is comically/tragically small. Being down a man on a small field has less of an impact than being down a man on a regulation field. As long as players move for each other, the team that is down a player can pretty easily outplay the other team. In fact, being down forces one to work more and move more, so it can have the counterintuitive effect of raising a team’s play. Being down a goal as we were just adds to the sense of urgency while the urgency of the team that is up both a player as well as a goal loses that sense of urgency. Then Feucht.
The result definitely felt like a win, especially after losing 5 matches in a row.
Davis and Poly both lost their road matches while Sac St won at UCI, so we’ve started conference play in decent shape. While those results won’t do our RPI any favors, given the overall RPI situation, the focus should be on winning the North division, earning the first round bye, and hosting both the semifinal and final. In the past, the Big West determined the host of the final if the equal seeds (ie. if both number 1s, both number 2s, etc) advanced to the final by which division did better overall in the interdivisional contests. This year, the North Division has been predetermined to host the final if they meet their seed counterpart (I imagine the South will enjoy that advantage next year). So, if we win the North Division, we would host both conference tourney matches. It’s all about that now.
The Gauchos received bad news from the NCAA on Wednesday when the organization denied UCSB’s appeal to overturn the 2-1 loss to UCLA on Sept. 17. UCSB had protested the game saying the referee had no grounds to stop the clock with five seconds remaining since he did not issue a yellow or red card, and there was no injury.
While the appeal had great merit, I also recognized that the NCAA would be reluctant to change the result. I was quite positive that the NCAA would not give us the win, but despite my cynicism of the NCAA, I was hopeful that the result would be vacated as though the match had never been played.
I don’t know if the NCAA provided reasoning for the result or simply rejected it without explanation. At this point, it really doesn’t matter.
Since the Big West conference sponsored men’s soccer on 2001, the NCAA has done UCSB dirty on several occasions. It actually started that same year when UCSB finished the season as Big West champions with an overall record of 11-5-3 and 7-2-1 in conference play. As a newly sponsored soccer conference, the Big West did not have an auto-bid and the selection committee snubbed UCSB by not extending an at-large invitation. That slight fueled the freshman on that 2001 team and caused them to play with a chip on their shoulder for the following 3 years which culminated in a trip to the College Cup in 2004. That year, UCSB was #1 in most of the polls for much of the year, and if memory serves me, we were #1 0r #2 in most polls at the end of the year. The NCAA gave us the #9 seed. That already motivated 2004 class became more motivated and advanced to the title match which was tragically lost in PKs. But that class set the stage for the 2006 team which finished what the class of 2004 had started for them. It all stemmed from the NCAA snub in 2001.
If I am to find a silver lining in the NCAA’s rejection of our appeal, it is that the team will play as though the NCAA is against them and to turn that injustice into determination and destroy every team it faces. Many people are doubting this team, and now is the opportunity to play with righteous anger and prove everyone wrong.
I am going to need testosterone replacement therapy following this team.
First some quick news…
No decision yet from the NCAA regarding our appeal of the UCLA match.
Amo’s injury seems to be serious. I wonder if we will see him again this year.
Ilskens is getting ever closer to returning.
Athletics will start construction on a new practice facility in February. We can use it.
Must we discuss this match. Begrudgingly, yes we do.
Once again, this recap needs to begin toward the end of regulation, somewhere around the 87th minute. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the cameraman was beaten as badly as our defense when Klinsmann was allowed to walk the ball upfield and find a streaking player. I imagine the goal looked something like this:
We started the match with this lineup.
Strong and Quezada swapped centerback positions and Perez started at right back with Batista getting the assignment at holding/defensive midfield.
If you checked out my player ratings, you may have noticed that I gave Batista a below average rating, and that was in large part due to him looking lost as a wide attacking player. When a player is used to playing a position where everything is in front of you, it’s difficult to transition to a role where the action is all around you. As a defensive midfielder tonight, he played an exceptionally strong match. He tackled well, showed great energy and work rate and even showed off some nice moves. If I was to rate him tonight, I’d give him a 7-7.5. I found he a Pando particularly impressive (more on Pando below).
I had also given Perez an average 5 rating as a holding midfield. He looked more natural at right back and got some nice crosses into the box. He had a good match. I’d rate him at a 5.5-6 tonight.
With Perez starting, that put Pando on the bench. But he was the first player to sub in and played very well as a winger. While all his 1-v-1 battles weren’t won, he has more freedom to take more risks playing higher up the field, and some of his attacking moves led to quality chances, and it was his great cross from the endline that led to DePuy’s goal.
Espana had a great match, Le Roux had some nice saves but his short punch out led to Cal’s first goal, Feucht was below average for him given his usually high standard (he and Mendoza were not on the same page), and Billingsley is continuing to show consistency to go along with his positive qualities. On the flip side, I thought Liua was largely invisible when we played toward the end of the first half, and Mejia was unimpressive in his limited minutes.
We did concede Cal too much space as times and allowed them to approach our box relatively unopposed at times. Cal also dictated the action for stretches including for about 4 minutes during the first half with us resorting to clearing the ball and concede possession back to Cal.
If I may play the role of Mr. Brightside, there are a number of positives to take away from this match. We’re finding the right players in the right positions as we enter conference play. We’re also playing well… while we lost to Cal and don’t know yet what will transpire with the UCLA result, I believe we played better than both opponents. The unfortunate thing, though, is that our path to the NCAA playoffs has narrowed significantly. Also, we’re extremely unlikely to earn a seed and even an at-large bid is looking very dicey at the moment. It’s critical that we play well in conference, earn the top seed, and finish out our games and earn results. Moral victories just won’t be good enough any more.
On to the more structured part of the recap with video highlights.
Although there were a couple opportunities for both sides in the first half, there was one sequence in particular that was pivotal. It started with this save by Le Roux.
That led to a FK for us which led to Espana being in on the keeper where Klinsmann made a spectacular kick save.
That, in turn, led to a corner kick where Feucht beat Klinsmann with a header but a Cal defender headed it off the line.
Early in the second half, Feucht made no mistake about it after he smashed in a well taken corner kick by Perez.
But as has been our tendency during our losing streak, we lose focus on defense and concede goals at the worst times, namely after we have scored or near the end of 90 minutes. Le Roux’s punch on the ball was far too weak. He actually got under the ball as the ball had backspin on it. He would have been much better off just giving up the corner kick if he didn’t think he he could get distance on the punch. Keeper mistake.
Conceding that goal was painful. With the way Klinsmann had been playing, I was sure we wouldn’t get another ball passed him. But I was proven wrong as Quezada won a tackle at midfield, Batista finds Espana, who led Pando down the wing, who made a move to the endline, and found DePuy who finished nicely. I should note that DePuy had some other quality chances. I want to say that he headed two other balls right at Klinsmann from close range. Anyway, the goal…
Have I mentioned yet that we concede goals at the worst possible times? Well, here is Cal’s equalizer late in the match. The cameraman was beaten on the play, but it looks like Strong missed his assignment. It’s possible that Quezada was playing too deep and kept Cal onside, but it’s impossible to tell by the video. Seemed to be Strong’s mistake.
Of course, with that goal, we headed to extra time. On Cal’s game winning goal, Quezada does well to cover for Strong and stand up the attacker at the edge of the box, but nobody picked up the runner at the far post. That was chiefly Perez’s assignment. Neither he nor Batista looked over their left shoulders to check for a runner and instead both became spectators and gave up that far post run.