San Jose, Calif. – Striker Rory Knibbs put three balls in the back of the net as the San José State men’s soccer team defeated the University of Massachusetts Minutemen 4-1 in the Spartans 2014 home opener. The win was the first for new head coach Simon Tobin and the team’s first win on its new home pitch, Spartan Soccer Field.
“Although this was our third game in five days, I knew the boys would have a good effort,” Tobin said. “We got a lift from being at home and from two players joining the squad (freshman defender Carlos Valdovinos and sophomore striker Ruben Want).”
Knibbs, who is the first Spartan to record a hat trick since Jorge Martinez scored four goals against Cal State San Bernardino in the opening match of the 2000 season, led the game with seven shots, was involved in each of the four Spartans’ goals.
In the 26th minute he and midfielder Johnathan Colunga assisted on the first collegiate tally of Want’s career. Knibbs fed the ball from the middle of the box to Want, on the right side. Want then threaded his shot, from an impossible angle, under the Minutemen (0-2-0) keeper Ryan Buckingham and inside the far post to give San José State a 1-0 advantage.
“Scoring goals breeds confidence, so I was pleased to see Ruben and then Rory get on the score sheet,” Tobin said. “People will see (freshman striker) Greg (Harte) will be a big time goal scorer at this level as well. When he and Rory have a year in this system, they will be lethal. Now you add Ruben who is a more refined player. The way he converted the first goal shows his composure. He just joined the team and really doesn’t have fitness yet. Today we saw just a glimpse of what he can do.”
Knibbs got his first goal of the game and the year at the 67:58 mark. The Spartans (1-2-0) were applying the pressure in the final third of the field where Knibbs picked up a loose ball inside the six and tucked it under Buckingham for a 2-0 lead.
Just four and a half minutes later, Knibbs struck again. He took a lose ball and fired a shot from seven yards out. Buckingham made the stop, but couldn’t control the ball. Knibbs picked up his own rebound and placed it over the Minutemen’s keeper for a 3-0 lead.
“The first couple of goals were really opportunities that presented themselves to me and I was able to convert,” Knibbs said. “I need to keep it simple and make the right runs because with someone like Johnathan (Colunga) behind you, he’ll find you and put you in a really good position to score. I’ve been putting too much pressure on myself, and thinking too much. I play better when I just react and let the game come to me. In the second half I feel I did that, but I still have a ways to go.”
After a penalty kick from UMass’ Josh Schwartz made the score 3-1, Knibbs and Colunga hooked up for what would turn out to be the Kinbbs’ third tally of the day. Colunga played a perfect throughball down the center of the field, Knibbs ran onto it and beat the keeper low to the right post. It was Knibbs’ third goal of the day and Colunga’s second assist.
“Johnathan can set the tone for a game in the middle of the park,” Tobin said. “Things should go through him and he should make us play. Today he did.”
The Spartans were in control throughout the match. They had a 17-to-6 advantage on shots led by Knibbs’ seven. Harte had three and Victor Parra added two. Kyle O’Mahoney, Jamison Loveless, Eric Mendez, Colunga and Want attempted one each.
Keeper Emmanuel Espinoza earned his first win of the year, turning away three of the four shots that reached his line.
“Compared to last year this is a completely different system, so it’s taken me and the team a little while to get it,” Knibbs said. “I really like Simon’s plan.”
“When we played the style that we are aiming for, and we are not there yet, we control the game by controlling the ball,” Tobin said. “It’s going to take a little more time to evolve into what we want, but it was pleasing today.
“I feel that we have been at least equal to, if not better than, every team we’ve played so far. These games are very similar to what we have to do in the WAC.”
The Spartans wrap up the week on Saturday night at Stanford. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium.
Massachusetts (0-2-0) vs. San Jose State (1-2-0)
Date: Sept 2, 2014 Attendance: 351
Goals by period 1 2 Tot
Massachusetts....... 0 1 - 1
San Jose State...... 1 3 - 4
1. 25:53 SJSU Want, Ruben (1) (Knibbs, Rory;Colunga, Johnathan) - hard angle to far post under keeper
2. 67:58 SJSU Knibbs, Rory (1) (unassisted) - picked up loose ball in box fired over diving keeper
3. 72:24 SJSU Knibbs, Rory (2) (unassisted) - took rebound of 1st shot shots from right to far post
4. 77:58 UMASS SCHWARTZ, Josh (1) Penalty kick
Shots: Massachusetts 6, San Jose State 17
Saves: Massachusetts 7 (BUCKINGHAM, Ryan 7), San Jose State 3
(Espinosa, Emmanuel 3)