Irvine, CA– So the college season kicked off last Friday for most programs across the country and I received a clear reminder of where we stand as a soccer nation with the horrific display between UC Irvine and USD. Yes, the game was such a disappointment that it could be considered a waste of a Friday night even to me with my ‘soccer is life’ mentality. UC Irvine came out on top in a boring lackluster 1-0 match over the visiting Toreros. Below is a tactical breakdown of both teams and a little game recap.
UC Irvine 4-2-3-1
Gk: #1 Andrew Fontein
Def: #3 Marco Franco, #15 Everett Pitts, #2 Jonathan Rivas, #28 Victor Calderon
Holding Mids: #13 Tarek Morad, #6 Jimmy Turner
Attacking Tri: #10 Miguel Ibarra, #9 Christian Hernandez, #5 Syd Tom
Fw: #7 Christopher Santana
Gk: #27 Adam Campbell
Def: #13 Elijah Galbraith-Knapp, #4 Thomas Fiskerstrand, #24 Jorge Reza, #5 Callum Whittaker
Holding Mids: #19 Charles Blase, #6 James Cohn
Attacking Trio: #14 Stephen Posa, #8 Conor Mcfadden, #20 Christian Duke
Fw: #10 Patrick Wallen
UC Irvine breakdown:
The Anteaters are ranked in numerous preseason polls (as high as 17th). It leads me to believe that all that preseason hype and respect is solely based on their high standard over the past few seasons. The honeymoon with the polls will not last long. On paper they have a relatively soft preseason schedule. The losses will begin to accumulate by the time they make it home from the Florida trip later this month.
The senior GK Fontein has appeared to have regressed in his game instead of developed. His ball distribution is a nightmare!!! His shot stopping abilities were not put to test on the evening but he seems to be the same player as he was 3 years ago and that does not bode well when getting to the next level.
The back line seems very unorganized defensively. What makes up for this lack of organization is usually Pitts deceptive speed. He comes from behind to clean up a lot of sticky situations. The right back Franco offers a lot with the ball at his feet. He is very comfortable in possession the way defenders at the highest level should be. Both Pitts and Franco have a good level of play but neither has leadership skills to keep this boat afloat when playing against top notch opposition. The weak links in the back row are clearly Rivas and Calderon. Anyone who wants to navigate straight to UC Irvine’s goal should attack the left side of this defense. Both of these players are not at the level and are the reason the Anteaters will give up more goals than in previous seasons. I can’t wait to see Creighton’s Finley, Acoff, and Gomez carve this back row to pieces in October.
The two holding mids are no better than the weak links in the back. Jimmy Turner is a decent outside back at this level. Now when we talk about what a true world class defender should look like on 3four3 we communicate that worldwide they convert technically gifted attacking mids to play left/right back. Here, the opposite has been done. A “decent” outside back is now playing in the middle of the field. A HUGE PROBLEM! Next to Turner is another deficient midfield player in Morad. Neither can tackle consistently! Neither reads the game well! Neither can make the simple play because they do not have awareness of their surroundings. Winning the middle of the field is a necessity in the modern game and with this tandem UCI has no chance when playing good D1 opposition.
The attacking portion of UCI’s line up is not bad. They do not have a natural goal scoring presence that will guarantee them goals but do have some creative flare with Ibarra, Hernandez, and Santana. Enrique Cardenas coming off the bench was a spark. He is the type of player that can naturally take big robotic D1 tree trunk defenders on with ease and showed that in the 45 minutes he was on. The next puzzling thing is Syd Tom starting and playing nearly the entire game. How can this be? He offers absolutely nothing on both sides of the ball. So, like I said, the honeymoon in the national polls will soon be over for the Anteaters.
If UCI lacks a playing identity I have no clue what to say about USD. They have zero structure all the way across the board. No game plan! No tactics! NOTHING! It’s just a sad case of throwing 11 players on the field and having them play. Come on lads, work hard! Tackle!! Get stuck in!!! It’s pathetic! I did not see one 5 touch sequence the entire 90 minutes. Needless to say, the coaching department leaves a lot to be desired at USD. Unfortunately, there is no accountability when it comes to men’s soccer in most programs nationwide and nothing will be done.
The keeper didn’t have much work to do nor was he tested. The stats show UCI took 17 shots but only a couple of times did they even remotely come close to testing Campbell.
The back row is your typical D1 line up. A bunch of big physical specimens that cannot control nor kick – yes that’s right, do not know how to properly kick – a soccer ball. They cannot complete one pass; therefore my expectations of build up out of the back were not fulfilled. It results in your patented get the ball and launch it forward with no purpose except to get it out of danger and off your foot like a hot potato.
The midfield doesn’t exactly get much better. The two holding mids have no clue! They just attempt to destroy and clear the ball. The “creative” mid that sits behind the lone striker is Mcfadden. Yep, odd coincidence that he has same last name as the coach. Confirmed! It’s the coach’s son. But unlike the Bob and Michael Bradley duo, this kid does not belong on the field … much less playing in the creative role in a 4-2-3-1 formation under the lone striker. Midfield players … zero creativity. Yep, a recipe for disaster and a great way to realize my Friday night was a true waste sitting in the stands witnessing this chaotic display.
I will not even get into detail on the target forward since he didn’t exist on the field. Wallen had a couple of physical battles with Pitts and that was it. Maybe mixed martial arts could be his thing.
By now, you may have realized that I was not happy with the performance of either team. I promised some tactical breakdown but that is not possible when there is no structure or anything that resembles a team identity.
Both teams got the ball and launched is straight forward … kick ball if you may. Any goal kick or set piece in their own half was “booted” up with no intent to build out of the back. I was waiting for some good set piece play from both sides since they have very little build up during open play. Again, I was terribly disappointed.
UCI puts 5 men in the box on corner kick offense. Big man Pitts making far post run and is targeted. They leave 2 at the top of the box for any clearances to clean up and 2 men in the back.
Defensively, UCI has a man on near post and one in near post zone coverage on the 6 yard box. Everyone else is man to man with Ibarra staying high for counters.
USD does similar offensively with 5 guys in the box but nothing special in terms of runs or directions of where ball should be placed. They bring 2 players to the corner kick flag in attept to remove 2 players from defending teams box to open up space. Never played it short.
So there is some structure but nothing specific in terms of set piece offense on either side.
The games lone goal came in the 74th minute off a scramble in the box where the ball deflected off Syd Tom and fell to Christian Hernandez to bury it from 6 yards out.
UCI did make me smile on a couple of occasions in the 2nd half when they had several passing sequences holding possession. Oddly enough, when they did this they showed signs of true danger going to USD’s goal. Again, UCI can be dangerous when keeping the ball and giving Ibarra, Santana, Hernandez, and Cardenas a fighting chance at running at opposing defenses with the ball on the ground.
My plan was to provide player rating but none merited more than a 6 (scale of 1 to 10) so we shall save that for next game analysis. Ibarra was the lone bright spot showing glimpses of being a talented play-making midfielder. Too bad he was caged onto the right side of the field where he is limited instead of getting the free role just under the striker where he can do more damage.
Ironically, the only one who resembled a soccer player on USD’s roster came on as a sub on a couple of occasions. #16 Dan Delgado showed some glimpses of talent holding possession and connecting some passes going forward. Nice left foot on the kid. Too bad he has nobody to play with. I was shocked when learning that possibly one of the top players of his age group (1991) was no longer with the program in Sergio Carranza. But I quickly realized why, little to no playing time in that enviroment during his freshmen and sophmore seasons for a dynamite attacking player who can gallop at a defense and finish a la Messi. The kid probably wanted to commit suicide playing (or not) at USD.
Well, my rant is over! My stomach could not take much more of this. Luckily, Akron comes to town on Thursday and that is just what the doctor ordered! Stay tuned for Akron vs Cal State Fullerton game coverage this upcoming Thursday.