San Jose, Calif. - San Jose State University and Cal Poly played to an entertaining 2-2 draw in front of 609 fans in a non-conference men’s soccer match at Spartan Stadium on Thursday night, September 18.
The host Spartans tied the match and sent it into overtime on a penalty-kick goal by senior tri-captain Ed Brand with just 59 seconds left in regulation, following a Mustang hand ball in the penalty box. Neither team could find the back of the net during the two 10-minute overtime sessions. San Jose State played those 20 extra minutes with a man advantage, as Mustang junior defender Josh Didion was given a red-card ejection for the deliberate hand ball in the box.
San Jose State out-shot Cal Poly on the night, 32-17, as sophomore attacking central midfielder Efrain Burgos, Jr., nearly matched the visitors’ total himself with a game- and career-high 13 attempts, four of them on goal. The team tally was a season high for the Spartans.
With the draw, San Jose State moves to 2-1-2 on the year. Cal Poly, a second straight Spartan opponent from the Big West Conference, is now 3-2-1.
The Spartans dominated large chunks of the first half in particular, mainly using a direct path up the middle of the field to explore scoring opportunities. One such foray early on resulted in the game’s first goal. Nick Cukar, the Spartans’ left-sided midfielder, ran onto a beautiful, perfectly-weighted lob pass over the top of the defense from senior teammate Hiroki Akiyama and slammed it past senior Mustang goalkeeper Eric Branagan-Franco at the 12:55 mark.
Several chances to extend the advantage were squandered over the next few minutes. In the 22nd minute, a nice combination play down the right flank saw the ball go from senior right back Gavin Wenyon, to Burgos, and over to Cukar near the far post, but the junior put his shot high. Later, the Mustangs almost scored on themselves, as Didion’s attempt to clear a ball with his head went backwards and forced Branagan-Franco into a desperate leap to keep it out.
Cal Poly answered with a pair of header goals by redshirt freshman defender Patrick Sigler off of corner kicks by sophomore Kyle Montgomery, at 41:43 and 67:12. The scores provided the Mustangs with an odd statistic, having now registered four consecutive goals in the exact same method, against back-to-back Mountain Pacific Sports Federation opponents on the road. Cal Poly was coming off a 2-1 upset at then-23rd-ranked New Mexico on two Sigler headers from Montgomery corner kicks at the UNM/Nike Invitational last Sunday, September 14.
In between, the Spartans earned a free kick from a prime spot outside the penalty area with just 13 ticks left in the first half, with Burgos’ effort getting blocked by the Cal Poly defense.
After Cal Poly’s go-ahead score, the Spartans surged forward to try and find their equalizer. In the 76th minute, they had consecutive chances to do just that. First, Burgos, Jr., provided a laser from outside that Branagan-Franco had a difficult time dealing with but was able to grab, and just 16 seconds later, Stephen Cordova could only get a nudge on the ball with his head from in close, with the Mustang goalie controlling it easily.
Finally, in the 90th minute, Akiyama’s long-range pass found Cukar in the penalty area, with Cukar in turn getting the ball to Cordova. Cordova’s header was slapped down by Didion, with the head referee pointing to the penalty spot and sending Didion to the locker room early. Brand calmly walked up and slotted his shot on the ground to the right side of the net for his sixth career goal, all coming on six successful penalty shots.
The most dangerous chance from other side in the first overtime, was a long-range effort by senior Cal Poly midfielder Anton Peterlin at 91:32 that was rising as it reached the goal and went just high. Over seven minutes later, Wenyon’s corner kick found the foot of Cukar in a crowded area, with the shot going wide to the right.
There will still opportunities to win the game by both teams in the final session. Another Montgomery corner kick to Sigler header wound up in the hands of senior Spartan goalkeeper Lewis Sweeney on the goal line at 106:58. Thirty seconds later, a deep ball by Ricky Dorrego was trapped down by Colby Moore for fellow junior striker Cordova, but the San Francisco product’s shot on the ground to the right was saved by Branagan-Franco.
Sweeney finished with four saves over 110 minutes, with Branagan-Franco stopping six shots. The Spartans out-shot the Mustangs in each of the four periods of play. Alongside Burgos’ 13, Cordova matched his major college high of five shots, off the bench, while Cukar added five efforts of his own.
“This was another battle,” said San Jose State head coach Gary St. Clair. “This was a war from the first minute to the last minute of overtime. Cal Poly is an extremely good team. They are a real quality team. I think our players showed that on our night, we are as good as anybody. I could not be more pleased with our players’ effort and heart. I thought it was absolutely brilliant.
“I was very disappointed about the set pieces. We work on those all the time, and to give away two set pieces (for goals) in really the only dangerous situations they had in the game, has got to be disappointing for all of us, but we played a top-30 team tonight, and on the night, I don’t think anybody will think that we weren’t the better team.”
The Spartan central midfielders, Akiyama, Burgos and sophomore Josh Boemecke, were particularly effective throughout the evening, with Burgos having to deal with a soft cast around his left forearm due to an injury suffered in a 2-0 loss at UC Davis on Sunday, September 14.
“As they go, so goes our team,” added St. Clair about the trio. “They defend extremely well together, particularly Josh and Hiroki. Junior is a very special player on the ball. If we are going to win the midfield, when we have the ball and when we defend, those three have to play, and they played extremely well tonight.”
“I thought San Jose State was a terrific team,” remarked third-year Cal Poly head coach Paul Holocher, a former standout player at Santa Clara University. “I told Gary St. Clair that they were one of the best teams that we’ve seen. They were organized. They were fast. They had pace. On the first goal, they got behind us. We came back with a couple of nice set pieces, which was great. I think a tie was probably a fair result.”
San Jose State next contests one final non-conference home match against Seattle University (5-1) this Sunday, September 21, with kick-off at Spartan Stadium scheduled for approximately 2:30 p.m., after the San Jose State women’s team faces Miami (Ohio) beginning at 12:00 p.m.
Cal Poly (3-2-1) - 1 1 0 0 - 2
San Jose State (2-1-2) - 1 1 0 0 - 2
SJSU - Nick Cukar (2) (Hiroki Akiyama), 12:55
CP - Patrick Sigler (3) (Kyle Montgomery), 41:43
CP - Patrick Sigler (4) (Kyle Montgomery), 67:12
SJSU - Ed Brand (1) (Penalty kick), 89:01
CP - 17
SJSU - 32
CP - 6 (Eric Branagan-Franco-6)
SJSU - 4 (Lewis Sweeney-4)
CP - 8
SJSU - 2
CP - 21
SJSU - 13