Despite putting on a strong offensive front in the first period of their match, it took an equalizer and 48 minutes of stout defense from the SF State men’s soccer team to earn a 1-1 draw with Notre Dame de Namur Friday.
The first 45 minutes featured fierce offense, effortless ball control and countless scoring opportunities from the Gators (3-1-1), but lacked the finishing touch that the team showed in its three previous victories.
Although the Argonauts were outshot 8-4 by the Gators in the first period, it was Notre Dame (1-3-1) who drew first blood at the 53:27 mark, compliments of an Alex Guillen-Torres shot from the top of the box.
“I really don’t know what was wrong with us today,” said defenseman Max Talbert, who noted a good energy from the team during warm-ups. “I really thought we were going to pull out the win.”
Guillen-Torres’s goal was the culmination of a substantial pushback from Notre Dame to start out the second period. The tide completely turned on SF State, suddenly playing on its heels with very little time of possession to speak of following a solid first period.
Momentum turned back in the Gator’s favor at 58:48,when a scoring chance fell right into forward Jakob Velega’s lap at the goal line. Velega spun around to find the ball at his foot and shot it high over the crossbar to a chorus of groans from the home crowd.
Redemption ended up being Velega’s just five minutes later when he found the equalizer – a shot from five yards out past the goaltender into the top right corner of the goal. It was Velega’s second of the season, assisted by Sam Merritt.
“It felt good to score,” Velega said, although he lamented not being able to put in a game-winner as well.
The scoring equilibrium evened out from there, but the physicality never dwindled, all the way to the final buzzer to close out the game’s second overtime period. Despite outshooting Notre Dame 20-11 over 110 minutes, the Gator’s offense simply couldn’t break through.
“They just picked it up,” Velega said of Notre Dame’s efforts in the second half. “We didn’t finish out chances in front of the net.”
Both Velega and Talbert pointed to the middle of the field as a pitfall in Notre Dame’s defense. It was on the edges that they said the Gators found its scoring prowess.
“We had our opportunities to get wide and we just didn’t finish them,” Talbert said.
With eight fouls spread evenly between the two teams and a total of 12 yellow cards – eight for the Gators and four for Notre Dame – physicality ruled the day at Cox Stadium.
SF State head coach Matt Barnes kicked off a series of wholesale changes by substituting starting goaltender Daniel Boyer at the half in favor of Colt Reichl. Barnes followed the move with six more substitutions.
Those substitutions should help to keep the upstart Gators fresh for the team’s next match against Brigham Young University-Hawaii Sept. 23.
“Our coach is pushing a blue collar attitude,” Talbert said. “On the field, in practice, everywhere we go.”