Cal Poly men’s soccer wrapped up its 2022 season with a 3-2 win over CSU Bakersfield on Saturday, Oct. 29 inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
The Mustangs (2-11-4, 2-3-4 Big West) used an 89th-minute goal to seal the victory, despite being outshot 17-12 by the Roadrunners (2-13-2, 0-8-1 Big West).
“We could have thrown it away, but God love ‘em, they chose a great night to show what they’re all about,” interim head coach Billy McNicol said.
Bakersfield struck first in the 29th minute with a rocket of a shot from Carlos Armendariz to take an early 1-0 lead.
Cal Poly did not wait around to respond to the Roadrunner goal. In the 31st minute, redshirt junior midfielder Jalen Atkinson found senior forward Nick Giacalone in the box, who buried his first career goal to tie the match at 1-1.
In a matchup featuring two sputtering offenses, Cal Poly and Bakersfield combined for 11 shots and four corners in the first half.
In the second half, the offensive mindset from the two squads didn’t waiver.
Atkinson gave the Mustangs a 2-1 lead with a 47th-minute rebound that found the back of the net. After a career defined by injuries and making his sixth career appearance, Atkinson finally secured his first career goal at Cal Poly in his final game with the program.
The Roadrunners didn’t let Atkinson soak up the moment however, countering with an equalizer just two minutes later as Armendariz drilled in a header off a corner kick for his second goal of the night.
For the next 35 minutes, the two sides looked for a go-ahead goal. Putting defense on the backburner, both the Mustangs and the Roadrunners exchanged field-length attacks that either ended in a turnover or an off-the-mark shot.
In the 89th minute, Atkinson found open space around midfield. With a single defender to beat, he took his chance and found the back of the net to secure his second goal of the night and a victory for the Mustangs.
“All I could have hoped for was to put them [goals] away for my team and walk away with a win tonight,” Atkinson said.
The most unlikely hero stole the show in a poetic ending for Atkinson’s career.
“I’m a big believer that if you play your heart out, luck eventually goes your way because you make your own luck,” McNicol said.
After a disappointing season, Cal Poly ends the year failing to make the postseason one year removed from being the No. 3 seed in the Big West tournament.