The men’s soccer team fell 3-0 to the Occidental Tigers due to two late penalties Sunday night at Ortmayer Stadium.
Occidental had the opening kickoff as well as the front foot for the first minutes of the game.
Not only were the Tigers controlling the field but the stands too. All game the Occidental ultras blew horns and rattled their shakers every time the Occidental players touched the ball. The La Verne supporters weren’t too happy about it either.
In the 15th minute, Leopard sophomore forward Matt Moreno received a long ball down the right wing that he slotted across the box to senior midfielder Christian Ibarra who skyed it just over the bar for what could have been a 1-0 lead.
“Something our team needs to improve going into the next game is picking our heads up and continue playing no matter how bad the situation is,” Ibarra said.
After that attack, the tide of the game shifted back in La Verne’s favor. In the 20th minute, freshman defender Anthony Bastidas supplied forward Tyler Thomas with a cross field ball with Thomas’s shot forcing a save from Occidental sophomore keeper Riley Nyhan.
From then on the energy fluctuated with the lack of goal scoring chances coming from both sides for a large part of the first half. Occidental’s crosses were not working at all with each cross being blocked or cleared out of the La Verne box with ease.
In the 29th minute, Occidental had a dangerous throw-in that bounced around in the La Verne box but was eventually cleared away. In the 37th minute, La Verne junior forward Asher Smith broke down the right wing and supplied a dangerous ball across the Occidental box. But the Occidental defense just barely tipped it away to stop a key goal scoring opportunity away from senior forward Owen Osagiede and junior Mario Urbina who were waiting to pounce on it.
“We need to generate more goal scoring opportunities, and have a more attacking mindset,” Osagiede said. “When we win the ball, we need to look to attack straight away.”
In the 39th minute sophomore midfielder Oliver Alfonso received a yellow card for a cleat up challenge that resulted in a free kick for Occidental but they could not capitalize.
The first half ended 0-0 and with both teams having minimal chances they headed back to the locker rooms with much to talk about.
La Verne kicked off the half but it was Occidental that would come out of the locker room looking revitalized. Three minutes in, Occidental senior midfielder Adrian Paredes skyed the first chance of the half from outside the box over the bar. Just a minute later sophomore defender Christian Corcoran burst down the left wing and forced a save from the La Verne keeper, sophomore Hector Duenas-Pena.
There were a few back-and-forth weak chances from both sides until the 61st minute when La Verne won a free kick just outside the left side of the Occidental box. The service forced the Occidental keeper to punch out the ball.
Just a minute later off an Occidental won corner, junior defender Evan Karp opened the scoring for the game heading in the service from the corner. He went over and celebrated with the bench while the Occidental ultras went crazy in the stands.
Four minutes later in the 65th minute, Corcoran drove into the La Verne box and was taken out by a La Verne defender and Occidental was awarded a penalty. Senior forward Jake Foster slotted it in the bottom left corner despite Duenas-Pena diving the right way and went on again to celebrate with the Occidental bench as the ultras blasted their horns and shakers.
By this point tensions were high and it showed as two minutes later head coach Trevor Persson and the La Verne bench were shown a yellow for arguing with the referee on a call that happened right in front of them.
Persson said besides the team’s seven injuries, tactically they play really well.
“Going into Redlands if we can be healthy I think we can compete in every single game,” Persson said. “It’s just a matter of sticking to the game plan for the full 90 minutes, not just 45 minutes.”
With two minutes left senior forward Joey Schwartz earned a penalty for Occidental from within the fray in the box. He stepped up and slotted it in the bottom right corner, leaving the keeper looking and making it 3-0.
“We are all at this level for a reason,” junior forward Angel Cardenas said. “We have the quality to play and it shows in practice but we are a very emotional team and it can haunt us. I think if we come out with a strong mentality, a fight for each ball, each teammate and each play we can potentially be the best in our conference.”
The Leopards faced the Redlands Bulldogs Wednesday at Ortmayer Stadium and suffered a 2-0 loss.
The Leopards now stand at 3-8-1 overall and 2-4 in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.
They will continue SCIAC play Friday, hosting Cal Lutheran at 7 p.m.
Michael Hill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.