Sammi Mulhern/Mustang News

The Cal Poly men’s soccer team went winless in the first half of a four-game homestand, tying CSU Northridge 1-1 Thursday night before losing 2-0 to UC Irvine on Saturday.

Versus CSU Northridge

In the game against Northridge, the Mustangs (2-6-2, 0-2-1 Big West) got off to a fast start and tried to use their speed to overwhelm the Matadors (5-4-2, 2-0-1).
Junior defender Brett Foreman’s shot in the eighth minute went wide to the left and was the first of 18 shots for the Mustangs.
Following Foreman’s attempt, the match continued with close calls for both teams. The Matadors were inches away from taking the lead in the 15th minute when a shot went past junior goalkeeper Eric Kam and bounced off the far post of the goal. Two minutes later, the Mustangs had a similar chance, but sophomore midfielder George Grote bounced a shot off the left post of the goal.
Later in the first half, junior forward Adam Olsen took a curving through ball up the seam and powered a cross to senior forward Justin Dhillon, who fired it past the left side of the Matadors’ keeper and gave the Mustangs a 1-0 lead in the 38th minute.
In the second half, Northridge was able to even the score in the 74th minute after a scrum in front of the goal kept Kam from making a save on a rebound shot. As a team, the Mustangs were less aggressive in the second half before picking up the pace and attacking in overtime, but it wasn’t enough to pull off a victory.

Versus UC Irvine

In the match against UC Irvine, the Mustangs (2-7-2, 0-3-1) had a great chance to notch their first conference win of the season against the last-placed Anteaters (3-10-0, 1-3-0). But again, similar to the second half of the game against Northridge, the Mustangs weren’t aggressive on offense in the first half. Most of their possessions ended in a turnover instead of a shot on goal.
“We just didn’t bring enough energy in the first half,” head coach Steve Sampson said. “Normally, we have [energy] here and I have no explanation as to why that didn’t happen.”
UC Irvine scored in the 28th minute to take a 1-0 lead that carried into halftime. Coming out in the second half, the Mustangs were on the attack immediately, with sophomore defender Nick Carroll powering a cross through the box and narrowly missing freshman midfielder Kenneth Higgins in scoring position. Following a corner by Carroll, Grote and Dhillon each had a shot on goal in a scrum in front of the net. The shot by Dhillon appeared to cross into the goal before UC Irvine’s goalkeeper caught it, but the referees waved it off for no goal in the 60th minute.
From there on, the Mustangs continued their energetic attack as sophomore forward Jared Pressley fired a shot off a cross from Olsen in the 65th minute that went wide left in the first of many shots on goal. However, the attack led to some trouble on the other end with the Anteaters countering the attack with breakaways of their own.
“They were looking to counter on us really quick,” Kam said. “I had to stay high off my line to try to come get all the through balls when they had some breakaways.”
Kam had four saves that night, but couldn’t keep the Anteaters from scoring again in the 73rd minute to all but seal the game with a 2-0 advantage. This marked the first home loss of Sampson’s career at Cal Poly and snapped a 13-game unbeaten streak at home.
For the Mustangs, this weekend was the chance to gain some ground in the Big West against a team from the top (CSU Northridge) and the bottom (UC Irvine) of the conference. Walking away with a tie and the first loss at Alex G. Spanos Stadium since November 2014 was a bad way to start a four-game home schedule. Coupled with early losses to ranked opponents, the Mustangs find themselves well on the outside looking in with six games left in the regular season.

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