The California Lutheran University men’s soccer team hosted the Occidental University Tigers Wednesday, Sept. 5 at William Rolland Stadium, in its first Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference game of the 2018 season.
Neither team could find the back of the net, with missed scoring opportunities by both in the first 45 minutes. With 25 minutes left in the first half, the Kingsmen’s free kick was headed out of the box by Occidental’s defense. This led to a counter-attack that was quickly shut down by the Kingsmen defense.
Although the Tigers continued to test the Kingsmen defense, a scoreless first half kept the Kingsmen in the game, with some big saves by sophomore goalkeeper Antonio Welch. Occidental had a long throw into Cal Lutheran’s goal box, bouncing dangerously off the crossbar, but Welch got his hands on it, saving the Kingsmen from falling behind.
“We had a good first half, we stuck to the game plan pretty well, we contained them, but if you don’t score, you’re probably going to get scored on eventually,” said junior forward Alon Arnaldes.
That is exactly what happened just two minutes into the second half. An Occidental midfielder fired off a shot from outside of the box, just out of Welch’s reach. As the Tigers’ momentum picked up, the Kingsmen offense struggled to find a rhythm. The Kingsmen offense continued attacking the Tigers, but did not have any luck finding the back of the net.
Head Coach Miguel Ruiz acknowledged this struggle as something the team, collectively, needs to work on.
“I think we need to get better in the offensive end, for sure. I would like to get more creative, but I think that’s the hardest part of soccer,” Ruiz said. “I think that the offensive part just needs to get a little more fluid and that’s the job of us coaches to make sure that we get that done and get these guys rolling in the offensive end.”
Despite falling behind and the offense’s stifled attempts to push past the Tigers’ backline, the Kingsmen defense stood out.
“I was very pleased with our defensive presence last night,” Ruiz said.
The Kingsmen roster is 31 players deep, 24 of which are first-years or transfers. This is a big change from last year’s squad, which graduated 11 seniors and placed second in SCIAC. This season, there are only two seniors leading the Kingsmen: center back Alex Cortex and forward Jared Pischke.
“Since there are so many new guys, you just have to build relationships with the people around you,” Arnaldes said. “I think we’ve been doing pretty well, each game getting better and better.”
Coach Ruiz said he expects the hurdles that come with having so many new players because he is new to the program as well. He is a Simi Valley local, with about 10 years of experience coaching both men’s and women’s soccer teams.
“I think anytime you bring such a big class of freshmen and sophomores and transfers, you know, it’s always going to be tough,” Ruiz said. “The new guys are adjusting to the college environment, so I think that’s been more of the issue.”
For now, the Kingsmen will continue to get acclimated to each other and hope that an optimistic outlook will help them.
“I think right now, you know, it’s keeping it positive and doing a lot of teaching. As coaches, that’s what we are [doing],” Ruiz said.
The Kingsmen will get on the road to face the University of La Verne on Wednesday, Sept. 12.