If there will ever be a must-win situation for the Cal Poly men’s soccer team this season, it’s tonight’s match against UC Irvine at Mustang Stadium at 7 p.m.
The Mustangs (4-6-0) are coming off two consecutive losses to Cal State Northridge and UC Santa Barbara, making them 0-2 in Big West Conference play. The Anteaters (4-3-2, 1-0) will be coming fresh off a win in their Big West Conference opener against UC Riverside (2-7-1, 0-3) on Saturday.
“This is a pivotal game for us,” said Cal Poly coach Wolfgang Gartner as he expressed the importance of being at home for only the third time this year. The Mustangs split the last two home games.
“Hopefully we can come out with a performance similar to how we played against UC Santa Barbara or Sac State,” Gartner said.
History favors the Mustangs, as they are now 9-7-3 all time against UC Irvine (4-3-2, 1-0) with two victories coming from last season. However, Cal Poly will have to find a way to get the ball past senior goalie Ryan Mathy if they expect to win. Mathy tops the Big West with four shutouts and leads the conference in goals allowed, averaging less than one per game.
The UC Irvine offense has been led by freshman defender Matt Murphy and junior midfielder Anthony Hamilton, each with three goals and one assist on the season.
Senior midfielder Moses Venegas and freshman forward Marcus Griffin have led Cal Poly this season with three goals apiece. Sophomore midfielder Nikhil Erlebach has also added two goals and three assists.
“It’s going to be a difficult match,” Gartner said. “But I expect us to win.”