Sacramento, Calif. - In a true classic between Northern California and Mountain Pacific Sports Federation rivals, the San Jose State University men's soccer team stormed back from a 3-0 halftime deficit, only to give up the decider a mere 14 seconds after clawing out an equalizer to fall 4-3 to Sacramento State at Hornet Soccer Field on Saturday afternoon, November 7.
With a third straight loss to conclude the regular season, all by narrow one-goal margins, San Jose State falls to an even 9-9-1 overall and 4-3 in the MPSF. The Spartans had won four straight away from home coming in. Sacramento State, which had already clinched its first MPSF regular-season title since 2001 last Sunday, November 1, when the Spartans dropped a 1-0 home decision to New Mexico in overtime, improves to 10-5-2 overall and concludes league play an undefeated 6-0-1. The contest served as Senior Day for the host Hornets, and the second match between the teams in 2009. San Jose State had posted a come-from-behind, 2-1 victory at Spartan Stadium in a rare non-conference meeting back on Thursday, October 8.
San Jose State co-captain Nick Cukar scored twice, tallying the game-tying goal at 81:13 off assists from senior teammate Colby Moore and freshman Christian Romero. Sacramento State took supreme advantage of the re-start, however, and 14 seconds later, true freshman Max Alvarez found the back of the net on a 30-yard chip to settle matters.
Robert Jackson, a redshirt sophomore, had scored the opener for the Spartans to start their fight-back at 58:24. Moore, Romero and junior Josh Boemecke registered two assists each.
The match was a veritable tale of two halves. Down 3-0 at the break after arguably its most lackluster 45-minute performance of the season, San Jose State came out of the locker room flying, to conversely put together one of its best halves all year. The Spartans were spurred on by great energy as a team, but in particular Cukar and Jackson on the right and left flanks, respectively, Romero at right back, and Boemecke and Moore's efforts all around the pitch.
The lineup to begin the second half for San Jose State featured all three of its Sacramento natives in Romero (Woodcreek HS), fifth-year senior midfielder Brian McGuire (Bella Vista HS) and Tyler Newman (Natomas HS) in goal in place of fellow sophomore Jonathan Lester.
In the 59th minute, Romero laid the ball off to Boemecke, who whipped in a cross from the right. Jackson beat senior Hornet goalkeeper Nick Gargiulo to it at the center of the penalty area, directing his right-footed shot into the empty net for his second career goal.
The Spartans were only just getting going. A minute and a half later, Boemecke sent Cukar down the right wing for a dangerous cross, with Justin Castro latching on and putting his left-footed shot over the top.
At 66:21, it was a one-score deficit, as this time, Boemecke floated one from the right, Moore chested it back across the mouth of the goal, and Cukar picked out the lower left corner for 3-2.
By now, the San Jose State attack was coming in waves, with three legitimate chances to knot the score all happening in the 72nd minute. First, Oscar Yniguez crossed from the left, but Boemecke's left-footed shot was blocked away in the middle of the area by a defender. Then, Jackson's cross from the left was just narrowly too high for Cukar to get a good header on it from a close-range position. Finally, Yniguez took a left-footed shot from the top of the 18-yard box that clanged off the crossbar and over for a goal kick.
Moments later, the Spartans found Jackson in around the penalty spot, but the Las Vegas product was unable to keep his balance enough to slide the ball home.
At 81:13, the teams were level. Jackson sacrificed himself on the left wing to maintain possession for his side on a 50-50 ball. With Jackson still on the ground, the attack found its way to the right. Romero crossed accurately to the near side, Moore provided another deft flick with his right foot, Cukar gathered with his thigh, and in a manner befitting the Spartans' star, slammed home a right-footed shot through new Hornet goalkeeper Bryan Oliver from 15 yards.
The jubilation created by the equalizer was short-lived, however, as Hornet senior David von Stockhausen, out of San Jose's Pioneer High School, put a deep pass over the top off the re-start, with Alvarez running on and chipping it over the on-rushing Newman from distance, the ball bouncing once before crossing the goal line for Alvarez's league-leading ninth on the year.
San Jose State out-shot Sacramento State for the afternoon, 17-14, with Castro providing a team-high five, and Cukar adding four with a game-high three of them on goal. Lester and Newman played 45 minutes and made two saves apiece.
Junior Fernando Cabadas contributed a game-high six shots for the home side, two of them on target, with the opening goal and one assist. Gargiulo had two stops over the first 74:04, while Oliver, a sophomore, did not make a save over his 15:56 of action.
Cabadas' first goal of 2009 put a shock in the Spartan system just 99 seconds into the match. A through ball by Oscar Torrico found a wide-open Jason Duvall down the right flank. The senior picked out Cabadas in the penalty box, who buried his shot on the ground into the left corner.
In the 14th minute, McGuire sent Cukar in free down the left side, but his hard shot was parried away by Gargiulo. The rebound eventually found its way to junior Ricky Dorrego, whose shot went wide to the left.
The Spartans were victimized a second time within eight minutes. Torrico began the move once more, passing to Ernesto Carranza, with the junior standout's piercing through ball connecting with Duvall on a hop. The lower left corner was again the destination for a 2-0 scoreline.
The final score of the first half came in the 34th minute, as Cabadas crossed from the left, and von Stockhausen rose up higher than his defender at the far post to head it into the left corner.
San Jose State came close to pulling one back before the intermission when Moore stole the ball and Cukar shot wide to the left in the 38th minute.
San Jose State next travels to Denver, Colo., for the 2009 MPSF Tournament, to be held on the campus of the University of Denver, Thursday through Sunday, November 12-15. The Spartans fly to Denver on Wednesday afternoon, November 11, and open the six-team tournament as the third seed against sixth-seeded UNLV (7-6-4) on Thursday, November 12, at 3:30 p.m. PST.
San Jose State (9-9-1, 4-3 MPSF) - 0 3 - 3
Sacramento State (10-5-2, 6-0-1 MPSF) - 3 1 - 4
SAC - Fernando Cabadas (1) (Jason Duvall, Oscar Torrico), 1:39
SAC - Jason Duvall (1) (Ernesto Carranza, Oscar Torrico), 21:46
SAC - David von Stockhausen (2) (Fernando Cabadas), 33:19
SJSU - Robert Jackson (2) (Josh Boemecke, Christian Romero), 58:24
SJSU - Nick Cukar (6) (Colby Moore, Josh Boemecke), 66:21
SJSU - Nick Cukar (7) (Colby Moore, Christian Romero), 81:13
SAC - Max Alvarez (9) (David von Stockhausen), 81:27
SJSU - 17
SAC - 14
SJSU - 4 (Jonathan Lester-2; Tyler Newman-2)
SAC - 3 (Nick Gargiulo-2; Bryan Oliver-0; Team-1)
SJSU - 5
SAC - 2
SJSU - 14
SAC - 11