San Jose, Calif. - Nick Cukar’s strike from outside the penalty box into the left corner at the 104:24 mark gave the San Jose State University men’s soccer team a 1-0 double-overtime victory over the University of San Francisco in a battle between non-conference area rivals at Spartan Stadium on Wednesday night, September 10.
The result allows San Jose State to maintain its undefeated record at 2-0-1 on the season. USF is still searching for its first success of the new campaign, now at 0-3 after a third straight 1-0 loss away from home.
No player on the current San Jose State roster had previously experienced a triumph over USF, as the visiting Dons entered the contest on a four-game win streak against the Spartans dating back to a 3-0 home victory by then-23rd-ranked San Jose State on October 5, 2003.
It wasn’t easy on this night, either. San Jose State held off its opponent while playing a man down for over 53 minutes following a red-card ejection issued to junior striker Colby Moore at 50:57, and ultimately produced the deciding goal short-handed.
Cukar, a junior and the Spartans’ leading returning scorer from a year ago, opened his 2008 scoring account when he took a through pass up the center of the field from sophomore midfielder and San Jose native Ricky Dorrego and tucked his hard, right-footed shot into the left corner to send his teammates into a euphoric on-pitch celebration and the Spartan faithful home happy. Hiroki Akiyama, a senior midfielder, was also credited with an assist on the play.
The assists were the first of the year for both Akiyama and Dorrego, who led the Spartans with five as a rookie in 2007. Cukar’s goal total from a breakout sophomore season was six.
Senior goalkeeper Lewis Sweeney was not called upon to make a single save in earning his second shutout of 2008 and fifth of his two-year Spartan career. In fact, USF was not credited with a single shot on goal among its 15 total attempts. San Jose State tallied 17 shots, with five on goal, and has out-shot each of its first three opponents.
Akiyama matched his career high with a game-high six shots. Dorrego added three attempts of his own. Cukar and junior transfer Stephen Cordova, the lone San Francisco product on the Spartan roster, had two shots apiece.
The Dons’ own senior goalkeeper, Jeremy Coupe, made four saves. Conor Chinn had a team-high four shots.
The Spartans were without the services of sophomore playmaker Efrain Burgos, Jr., who was serving a one-game suspension from a red card in the August 31 draw with Stanford. Oscar Yniguez, a true freshman from Redwood City, Calif., and Woodside High School, made his first college start in his place and played 46 minutes, showing off some skilled moves, including a nice heel pass to a teammate on the left wing, during parts of the first half.
Akiyama, Sweeney, and the whole four-person Spartan back line of Brand, junior Oscar Monjaras and seniors Sam Shore and Gavin Wenyon played the entire match.
For Wenyon, a fifth-year Spartan, the match marked a 50th straight start.
The first half of Wednesday’s contest featured a sluggish start and finish by both sides. The Spartans went without a shot over the first 12 minutes, before an effective but brief stretch of strong play. In the 13th minute, Moore was first to a bad clearance attempt by Coupe, calmly slotting a pass on to the path of Yniguez in stride, only for the rookie’s shot to go wide left of the empty net from distance. Over a minute later, nice combination play inside the USF penalty area saw the ball go from Akiyama, to Moore, to Cukar right in front of the net, but Coupe came up with the point-blank save. Akiyama followed a short time later with a shot attempt that went high.
In the 33rd minute, Brian McGuire found the ball at his feet by the penalty spot when a cross from the left somehow managed to make its way through several defenders, but with his unexpected fortune, the junior’s kick wound up in the hands of Coupe.
Moments after his 39th-minute introduction, San Jose native Justin Castro strung a pass to fellow redshirt freshman Robert Jackson, who took it down with his chest and shot high.
Just seconds before his dismissal, Moore, a Bellarmine Prep graduate, had his close-range header saved by a leaping Coupe off a left-sided free kick by Yniguez.
On the defensive side, San Jose State dodged perhaps its biggest bullet at the 87:30 mark. Chinn’s deep, diagonal through ball was run onto by Rafai Eddy down the left flank. The sophomore forward cut his dribble to the inside once he got into the penalty box, but his shot attempt was blocked by Dorrego, who had sprinted back to thwart USF on a critical play.
As a whole on the night, the Spartans produced the better opportunities to score, and even playing short for so long, got their just reward in the end.
San Jose State next travels for the first time and faces its first ranked opponent for the 2008 season this Sunday, September 14. The 29th-ranked Aggies of UC Davis (3-1) earned a spot in the NCAA Championship in their first official season of Division I membership a year ago. Kick-off at Aggie Soccer Stadium is set for 1:00 p.m.
San Francisco (0-3) - 0 0 0 0 - 0
San Jose State (2-0-1) - 0 0 0 1 - 1
SJSU - Nick Cukar (1) (Ricky Dorrego, Hiroki Akiyama), 104:24
USF - 15
SJSU - 17
USF - 4 (Jeremy Coupe-4)
SJSU - 0 (Lewis Sweeney-0)
USF - 11
SJSU - 6
USF - 27
SJSU - 14