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The Mustangs dropped the first of their final three regular season games 2-1 at Alex G. Spanos Stadium as Sacramento State stunned Cal Poly with two goals in 6 minutes in the second half of Wednesday night’s match.
The loss, which included an own goal that gave Sac State the lead in the 84th minute, drops Cal Poly into third place in the Big West North heading into the final two games of the season.
“The game, unfortunately, comes down to little moments,” interim head coach Phil Ruskin said. “You let a team hang around and hang around and don’t finish your chances, you know, something silly is bound to happen.”
The own goal that deflected of a Cal Poly player was initiated by Sacramento State freshman forward Cylus Sandoval, who had scored just 6 minutes earlier on a free-kick that snuck around the wall and beat junior goalkeeper Wade Hamilton to his right.
“There was a lot of interchange in the back line, switching players in and out,” Hamilton said. “So i think maybe our rhythm broke a little bit because of the backline switching. But we have to deal with what we’re given. We had to figure out quickly and slowed down a little bit.”
The Mustangs had plenty of opportunities to score in the match as they fired off 6 shots on goal and found themselves with room to run in the attacking third on many occasions. The Mustangs’ lone goal came in the 54th minute after assists from junior midfielders Chase Minter and Matt LaGrassa lead to a header by sophomore forward John Chronopoulos.
“I was just anticipating something — a goalkeeper save or a crossbar — and I was just there to clean it up,” Chronopoulos said. “I thought we were exploiting them pretty well. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t put away our chances. Again, that’s been a result that we’ve seen over the season and it’s something we have to work on in training and every single day to get better at. We can’t keep costing ourselves valuable points in the league.”
The Mustang’ biggest opportunity came when a tripping foul in the Hornets’ penalty box earned the Mustangs their fifth penalty kick of the year. However, the penalty kick was missed by Minter and proved to be the difference between the Mustangs closing out the game and leaving empty handed.
“I think that starts in training,” Ruskin said. “I think it’s just us establishing a mentality and [practicing] what I call scenario training. These next two games we’ll approach them with certain scenarios [like] it’s 1-0 Cal Poly against Santa Barbara… you have 7-10 minutes win the game. It comes down to all of us being committed to winning the Big West and that’s ultimately what the goal is.”
The Mustangs have one more home game against UC Santa Barbara this Sunday at 5 p.m. before they travel to UC Davis to close out the regular season. The Blue-Green Rivalry against the Gauchos Sunday is one of the biggest soccer matches in the country every year. Players, coaches and students are already gearing up for the spectacle.
“It’s just work rate [in training],” Chronopoulos said. “Just wanting it more than the other team. At this point, every team is very evenly matched and I think our work rate will just separate us from other teams.”
“Whether you’re away or not the guys are up for [the UC Santa Barbara game] because of the environment,” Ruskin said. ”The electricity, the atmosphere… we’re going to have a rockin’ house on Sunday afternoon at five o’clock. In fairness, I think this is one of those things where you just say shake it off. We get back, we look at the film, we talk some tactics with them on Thursday and Friday, and we get back to business as usual on Sunday.”