Men's Soccer Resumes MPSF Play In Colorado

The San Jose State University men’s soccer team begins the second half of the 10-game Mountain Pacific Sports Federation schedule on the road in Colorado this weekend. The Spartans will play a pair of do-or-die contests at first-place Denver University (7-5-1, 5-0) on Friday afternoon, October 31, and at Air Force (4-9, 2-3) on Sunday afternoon, November 2. The Spartans are an even 5-5-3 overall and in last place with three points from a 1-4 league mark.

The match at Denver’s Pioneer Field, which is set for a 3:00 p.m. kick-off locally, is a must-win for San Jose State to keep its hopes of an MPSF title alive. Even a draw would keep the host Pioneers 12 points clear of the Spartans, with four matches left, and holding the tiebreaker based on what would then be a win and a draw in two head-to-head meetings with San Jose State.

Sunday afternoon’s match in Air Force’s 2008 home finale will begin at 1:00 p.m. local time.

San Jose State will have been idle for 11 days when it takes the field on Friday, October 31. Two weekends ago, San Jose State dropped a heart-breaking affair to Denver, 3-2, in overtime, allowing a tying goal with just under four minutes left in regulation, and a winner late in the first extra period. The Spartans bounced back by blanking Air Force, 1-0, two days later.

San Jose State is 1-4-1 away from home in 2008. Denver, ranked eighth in the latest NSCAA/adidas Far West region poll, is 4-1-1 at home, while Air Force is 1-4.

After these next two matches, San Jose State closes out the 2008 regular season with a trio of home matches. The team hosts UNLV at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, November 7, on Spartan Field, and New Mexico at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 9, inside Spartan Stadium, before welcoming Sacramento State into Spartan Stadium for a 7:00 p.m. kick-off on Saturday, November 15. Six seniors will be recognized prior to the start of that match on Senior Night.

GAME #14

GAME #15

No live stats are available for either road match this weekend in Colorado.

Nick Cukar’s right-footed volley into the back of the net off a deflection at the 66:11 mark sent San Jose State to a 1-0 triumph over Air Force at Spartan Stadium on Sunday, October 19.

Hiroki Akiyama had his initial shot from near the top of the penalty box deflect off a Falcon defender and float toward goal. Cukar was first to the ball, and picked it out of the air for his fourth goal of the year. The score proved to be his team-leading third game-winner of 2008.

Senior tri-captain Richard Mann earned his first start of the season in the Spartan net, and was hardly tested in notching his first individual clean sheet of the year and 12th of his career. The San Jose native out of Leland High School needed to make just two saves over 90 minutes.

San Jose State held an enormous shot advantage on the day, at 28-9, including a whopping 18-4 in the second half. Efrain Burgos, Jr., wound up sharing the game high in shots with Cukar at six apiece, his half-dozen total coming in just 37 minutes. Three of his attempts were on frame.

SAN JOSE STATE (5-5-3, 1-4 MPSF) at DENVER (7-5-1, 5-0 MPSF)
(DU Leads Series, 9-8)
Denver is coming off a 1-1 double-overtime non-conference home draw with Alabama A&M on Saturday, October 25. The Pioneers, unbeaten in their last six matches, are a still-perfect 5-0 and atop the MPSF standings. DU is up to eighth in the latest NSCAA/adidas Far West poll.

Sophomore goalkeeper Joe Willis, the MPSF Brine Player of the Week for September 29-October 5, has kept three clean sheets in league action this year, with DU gaining back-to-back-to-back 1-0 victories before surrendering a third-minute goal to SJSU’s Hiroki Akiyama (9/17). The last two of those game-winners came from senior forward Kyle Christensen, including a 59th-minute strike at Air Force (10/11). Freshman forward Sam Garza, and junior midfielder Collin Audley, the MPSF Player of the Week back on September 15, were credited with assists. Willis made three stops. For the season, Colin Jones paces DU with 10 points from four goals and two assists. The senior defender tallied the 87th-minute equalizer against San Jose State. Freshman midfielder Jarod Stigall was named the MPSF Player of the Week after scoring two goals that night, including the 98th-minute winner. He and Audley each have three goals.

San Jose State has lost five straight to Denver in a series that the Pioneers now lead, 9-8, after their 3-2 triumph in overtime inside Spartan Stadium back on Friday night, October 17. Last year, the Spartans dropped both meetings in overtime, by the identical score of 2-1. In Denver, Colo., on October 29, Ed Brand tied the match on a penalty kick with just 16 seconds left in regulation, but then-freshman Ryan Aweida’s second college goal, his second of the match, at 93:14 in the extra period, gave the home side the win. Both scores came on headers off of corner kicks. Lewis Sweeney made five saves for San Jose State. At Spartan Stadium on Sunday, November 4, on Senior Day, the Pioneers got goals from Christensen (19:45) and Audley (94:39) around a 21st-minute equalizer from Ismael Ibarra, with Nick Cukar assisting. Sweeney made seven stops. The Spartans’ last win over the Pioneers came in Denver on October 30, 2005, 2-1 in overtime. Denver head coach Bobby Muuss is 17-9-5 in his second year in charge of the Pioneers.

SAN JOSE STATE (5-5-3, 1-4 MPSF) at AIR FORCE (4-9, 2-3 MPSF)
Air Force will be hosting Sacramento State on Friday night, before the Spartans visit the Academy on Sunday for Senior Day. The Falcons have been idle since getting edged at San Jose State, 1-0, on Sunday, October 19. Air Force previously won September’s BSC Armed Forces Classic in Birmingham, Ala., with wins over Navy (1-0) and Army (2-1).

Air Force is led by junior forward Steve Noller. The MPSF Brine Player of the Week for September 15-21, has nine points from four goals and one assist. He had his four-game goal-scoring streak ended in a 4-0 home loss to New Mexico on Sunday, October 5. Only four other Falcons have one goal apiece in Kevin Rosser, Zach Brinlee, Ben Chavez and Ryan Robinson.

Junior goalie Jim Gullo has been busy the past few games for Air Force. In each of Air Force’s last three games, Gullo has made eight saves, tying his career high. In the game just prior to this stretch, he had seven saves. Gullo currently leads the MPSF with 66 saves and is ranked 24th in the country in saves per game at 5.08.

San Jose State and Air Force have split their two-game season series the past four years, with seven of those nine games decided by one goal, and four of them needing overtime to decide matters. They have not tied since a 1-1 draw in San Jose on November 2, 2001. SJSU took the 1-0 shutout decision in this season’s earlier meeting, inside Spartan Stadium on Sunday, October 19. In 2007, each team won away from home, with the Spartans taking a 3-1 decision in Colorado Springs, Colo., on October 19, and the Falcons returning the favor at Spartan Stadium, 3-2, on November 2, during a stretch of three consecutive overtime losses for San Jose State. Now in his second season at the helm, Doug Hill has compiled an overall record of 9-21-1.

The 2008 MPSF slate continues with all six squads in action on Friday, October 31. San Jose State travels to Denver for a 3:00 p.m. start. Sacramento State plays at Air Force at 7:00 p.m., as does UNLV at New Mexico. On Sunday, November 2, San Jose State is at Air Force and Sacramento State is at Denver, both for 1:00 p.m. kick-offs.

Hiroki Akiyama has played in 62 consecutive games dating back to his debut as a freshman in 2005, with 50 straight starts. The 2-1 loss at UNLV (10/12) was the 60th match of his career. Fellow senior Gavin Wenyon has started 60 matches in a row, having missed just a single contest in his three seasons in a Spartan uniform, back in 2005. The 2-2 home draw with Cal Poly (9/18) marked his 60th game played, and all 68 of Wenyon’s appearances have been starting assignments. Nick Cukar has started all 32 games since the beginning of the 2007 season.

Sophomore midfielder Ricky Dorrego has appeared in 32 straight games going back to his collegiate debut in the 2007 opener, starting all but one. Junior midfielder Brian McGuire has appeared in 33 straight matches, 11 of them starts.

Hiroki Akiyama gained selection for the second straight season to the CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VIII men’s soccer first team on Thursday, October 30, to add to his increasingly impressive list of academic honors, which now stands at nine. The senior holding central midfielder and team tri-captain, majoring in kinesiology with a 3.32 cumulative grade point average, now moves on to the national Academic All-America ballot.