Cal State Fullerton men’s soccer avenged their 2-1 loss to UC Irvine on Oct. 13 by defeating the Anteaters 1-0 at Titan Stadium Saturday night.
“Losing to Irvine the last game was really hard because we felt that we should have won that game, but coming back here and getting the win proved that we should have won both games,” said Titan senior Gerzon Blanco.
After scoring the game winner in Fullerton’s 3-2 double-overtime win over UC Riverside last weekend, Blanco did it again as he lifted the Titans (7-10-1, 3-4-1 in conference play) with the winning goal to break a scoreless tie in the 83rd minute of the match.
“It was a great team effort out there, from the defenders to the forwards and midfielders. Everyone did a great job that allowed me to have a chance at the end,” Blanco said.
With the Anteaters (4-13-1, 1-7 in conference) fighting for their season, the Titans’ defense stepped up and held the game scoreless despite being outshot 15-10.
UC Irvine set the tone early by taking control of the match from the start, and nearly broke through early. Christopher Santana got a shot from 20 yards out deflected off a
Titan defender, but junior goalkeeper Bryan Escalante was there for the block.
“Bryan (Escalante) makes me age, he is full of energy and sometimes too much for my liking, but he definitely plays with his heart out there and, fortunately, he was in the right place at the right time tonight,” said Head Coach Bob Ammann.
Escalante was the driving force of the defense as his exceptional play netted him with six outstanding saves while earning his first career shutout.
“It was just a great team effort for the most part, it was one of the few games that we came out very aggressive from the beginning and we got the result we needed,” Escalante said.
Titans senior Jonathan Birt answered the Irvine attack with several of his own, including a blocked shot in the eighth minute and a scoring attempt that was stymied by UCI goalkeeper Michael Breslin in the 11th minute.
Birt finished the game with three shots on goal while Breslin finished the game with five saves and one goal allowed.
The Anteaters began the second half strong, taking six of the first eight shots. Escalate made saves on each of them, one of which was a wide-open shot from the center of the goal box, kicked by Irvine freshman Austin Burke.
The game was marred by an excessive amount of fouls, mainly from CSUF, who finished the game with 19 fwouls. UCI had nine of their own.
“It certainly wasn’t pretty for sure, it was just a grind, we knew it was going to be a grind as Irvine was playing for their life and had to get a result,” Ammann said. “We weren’t our best on the day with a number of chances to score in the first half and the longer the game went we knew it was going to come down to special moments, and fortunately, for us we were on the winning end of that special moment.”
With both defenses controlling the match, hard fouls being committed and time winding down, Titan Ian Ramos sent a low shot into the box from the right corner that went through the legs of teammate Jameson Campbell and right to Blanco, who had an open net to put the ball in for the eventual game-winner, ahead of a defender closing in from the left post.
“Gerzon is a guy that we count on and instructed him to stay on their center-back and he was and (Ramos) made a great run which caused problems for the defender and goalkeeper and (Blanco) was in the right place at the right time which goal scorers have a tendency to do,” Ammann said.
It was Blanco’s third goal of the season, which ranks him third highest scorer on the team.
The win, their third in as many matches, puts the Titans four points ahead of UCR for the second and final Big West Tournament berth out of the South Division with only two matches to go as UCR fell to Cal State Northridge 2-1 Saturday. The Anteaters suffered their fourth consecutive defeat.
“We worked on some things today, working through the middle and getting in behind, I don’t think we did as well as we could and that’s something we need to work on moving forward,” Ammann said. “Most importantly we need to make sure we stay physically and mentally fit as we have a very short turn around.”
The Titans now look to keep their momentum high as they go on the road and visit CSUN on Halloween night, before finishing the season at home taking on the UCR Highlanders on Saturday. Both matches are scheduled for a start time of 7 p.m.
For more information on the men’s soccer team, visit FullertonTitans.com.