Sacramento, Calif. - San Jose State University played well at the start and in stretches, but succumbed to a 77th-minute header goal by Sacramento State, 1-0, in the 2008 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation men’s soccer opener for both teams at Hornet Soccer Field on Sunday afternoon, October 5.
The loss snaps San Jose State’s four-match unbeaten streak and drops the Spartan record to 4-2-3 overall and 0-1 in conference play. Sacramento State improves to 6-2-2 overall and 1-0 in the MPSF. Both squads appeared in the latest National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA)/adidas Far West rankings, with the Spartans in eighth, two spots behind the Hornets.
The lone score of the day came at the 76:07 mark, when Sacramento State’s senior forward, Blake Nunes, got free down the right flank and eventually sent a cross into the Spartan penalty area. Zach Tuss was wide open and waiting for it at the back post, and the junior defender buried his header into the back of the net for his first collegiate goal.
The Spartans had a couple of half-chances the rest of the way, but the home side actually out-shot them, 5-1, over the remaining 14 minutes, and was able to hang on for just its second victory over San Jose State in the last seven meetings between the teams.
Lewis Sweeney awarded the Spartans one last opportunity to equalize with his major college high ninth save at 87:09, his best of the match on a day in which the senior goalkeeper was celebrating his 21st birthday in front of numerous family members and friends in attendance. Another dangerous cross from the right reached junior midfielder Scott Crandall at the near post, but Sweeney denied the point-blank attempt with a dive low to his left to keep SJSU alive.
Shots were even at 19-19 for the contest, with San Jose State having the better of it over the first 45 minutes (8-6). The Spartans also earned seven corner kicks, to just one by the Hornets. Sophomore attacking central midfielder Efrain Burgos, Jr., the reigning MPSF Brine Player of the Week, turned in a game-high five shots, with a game-high three of senior teammate Hiroki Akiyama’s four shots on goal. Central defender Sam Shore added a career-high three shots.
The Spartans were clearly the better side over the first 25 minutes of the game. Three corner kicks in quick succession early on, all taken by Burgos, Jr., netted headers by Boyah Kaar and Shore that were credited as hitting the crossbar and going wide to the left, respectively.
After sophomore Ernesto Carranza notched Sacramento State’s first shot of the game in the 11th minute, Shore had a strong effort blocked by a defender and had a third attempt go high over the goal above junior Hornet goalkeeper Ryan Kenny. In between, Burgos, Jr., produced the best scoring chance of the first half, blasting a free kick from the right side that hit exactly where the crossbar and the left post met at the 17:43 mark.
The Spartans continued to press for the game’s first score, as just over two minutes later, Akiyama’s flashing near-post header off another right-sided Burgos, Jr., free kick was tipped over expertly by Kenny for a corner kick.
Sacramento State began to balance the play a short time later, and almost scored in the 23rd minute, when sophomore midfielder Fernando Cabadas received a diagonal through ball from right to left, and took a dribble to free up a right-footed shot, only for his low attempt to be saved by Sweeney with a dive to his left.
In the 29th minute, junior striker Stephen Cordova's hard shot was blocked after a long, accurate pass from senior right back Gavin Wenyon. Over a minute and a half later, Cabadas hit the side netting from the right diagonal. The Hornets found enough time for one last chance to break the deadlock going into the interval, at 44:21, as Brady Nunes got his head to Omar Martinez’s cross from the right, but Sweeney was again in place to make the stop.
Sacramento State generated a couple of early second-half opportunities with its redshirt freshman brother tandem of Adam and Chris Bettencourt. Sweeney saved the latter’s shot at 46:47, but received a gash just above his left eye on the play. He remained in the game, but looked to require stitches upon the Spartans’ return home.
Colby Moore ran onto a perfect through ball by Akiyama a short time later, sped down the right sideline, and turned in a cross from around the goal line. Unfortunately for San Jose State, the Bellarmine Prep product did not have any teammates that were able to latch on to the end of his pass, with fellow junior Nick Cukar closest near the back post.
A set piece put the Spartans close to getting on the scoreboard again in the 61st minute. A surge saw Moore and Burgos, Jr., both hit the ground inside the Hornet penalty box, only for play to continue until Cukar was definitively brought down by an opponent just outside the area on the left side. The ensuing free kick by Burgos, Jr., was seemingly headed toward the upper right corner of the goal, but ultimately saved nicely with a dive to his left by Kenny.
One final close call by San Jose State came at 71:14, just minutes before the Hornet score, as a perfect, long pass from the right by junior midfielder and Sacramento native Brian McGuire was put just narrowly wide at the back post by Cukar.
Kenny earned his fourth career shutout in goal in just his second appearance of 2008, making six saves. Tuss had a team-high four shots off the bench.
The league rivals combined for 32 fouls and seven yellow-card cautions.
San Jose State continues conference activity and concludes a season-long five-game road stretch next weekend, first traveling to Albuquerque, N.M., to take on four-time defending MPSF champion New Mexico on Friday, October 10, before heading to Las Vegas, Nev., to face the Rebels of UNLV on Sunday afternoon, October 12.
San Jose State (4-2-3, 0-1 MPSF) - 0 0 - 0
Sacramento State (6-2-2, 1-0 MPSF) - 0 1 - 1
SAC - Zach Tuss (1) (Blake Nunes), 76:07
SJSU - 19
SAC - 19
SJSU - 9 (Lewis Sweeney-9)
SAC - 6 (Ryan Kenny-6)
SJSU - 7
SAC - 1
SJSU - 18
SAC - 14