If there is someone the Titans aren’t going to want to remember after Wednesday night’s men’s soccer match at Cal Poly, it would be Julian Alvarez.
The Mustangs senior midfielder tallied two scores in his five shots on goal during Cal Poly’s 3-0 win and both teams’ Big West Conference opener at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
“This was great for our confidence,” Mustangs head coach Paul Holocher said. “We know we’re going into probably the toughest game of the year at Davis, and if we can carry some of this and try to pull out a result in Davis, that’s the next objective.”
Cal Poly’s offense, led by Alvarez, racked up a total of 18 shots (with 10 on goal) while its defense handed goalkeeper Eric Branagan-Franco a near-effortless 19th career shutout and his third of the year.
Holocher said that one change that has spurred Cal Poly’s sharpened defense was the transition of Wes Feighner – primarily a forward and midfielder – into a defensive role, a move that was implemented during the Mustangs’ match at Sacramento State on Sunday.
“We just wanted to utilize his speed in defense,” Holocher said. “He’s probably one of the fastest kids in the country and I think that helped us a little bit.”
The change seemed to work, as Cal Poly’s defense kept Branagan-Franco from recording his first save of the game until the 68th minute. He finished with two.
Cal State Fullerton’s offensive frustrations became apparent later in the game, as the Titans (3-7, 0-1) managed to pick up three yellow cards and a red card in the second period alone.
The Mustangs (6-2-2, 1-0) weren’t without their share of shenanigans, as they were issued four yellow cards, split evenly between the halves.
Alvarez opened up scoring early in the ninth minute when he headed in a one-touch cross by freshman midfielder Jacob Hustedt. Redshirt freshman midfielder Cameron Walters was also credited for an assist, as he started the play with a throw-in.
“Cameron just threw it right over the outside backs, Jake (Hustedt) out-hustled the guy, and I also beat my man to get the first result,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez came up big a second time on another set play, this time in the 59th minute. He managed to usher in a shot that had skipped off of teammate Evan Richter’s head following a corner kick by Jose Garcia.
Cal Poly sophomore midfielder Ryan Anderson capped scoring about a minute-and-a-half into his season debut when he finished Jeff Meyer Jr.’s cross in the 75th minute.
The Mustangs missed out on another opportunity to score in the 78th minute when they netted a one-timer goal on a free kick but the shot was waived for offsides.
“I thought we played great defensively, as a team,” Alvarez said, “and I thought we put a lot of pressure in the first 15 minutes on Cal State Fullerton.”
Cal Poly limited the Titans to 11 shots in the game, with only two on goal.
“I though it was a great team, defensive win,” Alvarez said.