Author: Jonathan Fernandez, CW
The Highlanders’ men’s soccer team took on the Anteaters from UC Irvine in conference play on Wednesday, Oct. 26. Although UCR couldn’t come up with a victory in this match, they are still in a very good position to capture first place. Right now they are currently third in the south division but only five points out of first place.
The Highlanders led late in the match against Irvine 1-0, courtesy of a goal from midfielder Jacob Arrieta in the 55th minute. Then, everything changed when goalkeeper Vincent Morales went down in the 75th minute. He was replaced by backup goalkeeper David Heredia, but it was difficult for him to come off the bench cold on a minute’s notice and he gave up goals in both the 84th and 86th minute. Head Coach Tim Cupello defended his keeper saying, “It’s a difficult thing to step in late in a game as a goalkeeper.” Cupello also refused to blame any of his guys for the two late goals saying, “I think it was our team. We had an opportunity to close out a game and we didn’t … we need to be more mature in how to finish games.”
The Highlanders were able to take the lead by keeping possession and moving the ball well, which Cupello says is when the team is at its best. “We were best when we kept the ball moving and played simple in our possession,” attested Cupello. “There (was) a very, very good spell in the first half; good spell in the second half where Irvine could not get the ball off of us and we were very good in those moments and when we did lose it, we were very good at getting it back quickly and I felt that’s when we were at our best and hopefully that’s what we can replicate in future games.”
The Highlanders took on first-place Cal State Northridge on Saturday, Oct. 29. The team was confident about its chances of getting a victory against them. Cupello said, “I think we can get a result and a win if we put things together and we have a total 90-minute performance.” A 90-minute performance will be key as we saw what can happen when you only play a total of 83 in the match against Irvine. They took the last seven minutes off and it ended up costing them the match. Cupello also said that keys to the game against Northridge will be “defending well in transition, competing for 50-50 balls and then keeping possession so we can create chances.”
With UC Riverside having already clinched a spot in the postseason, they know that every game serves as preparation for the playoffs. Where they fall in the standings heading into the playoffs does not faze Cupello, as he offered, “If we end up going on the road then we go on the road and we look to get the result.” The team feels they can beat any opponent whether at home or on the road as long as they play well during the full 90 minutes.
The Highlanders open up their Big West Tournament run with a visit to Sacramento State on Saturday, Nov. 5 at 3 p.m.