By David Wilson
The men’s soccer team finished its regular season with two games at home, winning the first against Cal State San Marcos and dropping the second to UC San Diego.
The Broncos won the first game against San Marcos easily, shutting out the Cougars 4-0. Cal Poly Pomona put the game to bed in the first half with three goals in the space of three minutes.
Junior midfielder Sergi Monso was CPP’s main attacking threat, notching two assists to junior midfielder Jose Garcia and freshman midfielder Jordan Jackmon. Junior forward Luis Najera Jr. and sophomore defender Eduard Lucas also got their names on the scoresheet. The win moved CPP to a tie for first in the California Collegiate Athletic Association with their final regular season opponent UC San Diego.
In their final game of the season, seniors Rubik Zazian, Jesus Tamayo, Eshel Chardon, Leonel Espinoza and Adi Azran were honored prior to kickoff. It was a bittersweet day as the Broncos were unable to clinch a CCAA conference title, losing to UC San Diego 2-1 in heartbreaking fashion.
CPP got out to a fast start putting pressure on UC San Diego for the first 15 minutes and creating a couple of chances. Three minutes in, Najera and Monso played a quick combination of passes just outside the box that set up Najera for a shot that forced a save out of the Tritons goalkeeper Cameron McElfresh. Najera nearly gave the Broncos the lead again two minutes later when a clever chipped pass from Garcia had him in on goal, only to be denied by a combination of McElfresh and a swarm of Triton defenders.
“I think we started great, we had great momentum building,” said Najera. “When good teams battle, one team starts out good, the other team picks up their momentum, so I just think it was a back and forth battle the whole game.”
After CPP’s spell of dominance it was UC San Diego’s turn to put on the pressure. The Tritons were able to get more control of the ball and not allow the Broncos much joy going forward.
UC San Diego midfielder Nick Palano had two chances toward the end of the first half to take the lead, but CPP junior goalkeeper Jason Trejos came up big.
First, Palano lined up a shot that looked destined for the bottom right corner until Trejos stretched out a strong left hand to turn it past the post. Nine minutes later, CPP sophomore defender Nadeer Ghantous played a short back pass that forced Trejos off his line to smother another shot from Palano.
“It’s an overall team effort. We make mistakes, but I’m there to back my team up,” said Trejos.
In the second half, neither team was able to get a foothold and more physical play took over, stopping both teams’ rhythms.
In the last 15 minutes the game came to life, starting with the Broncos being awarded a penalty after a Triton defender was called for a handball inside the box. Najera stepped up and made no mistake, rifling a shot into the bottom right corner and putting CPP up 1-0.
“In a situation like that, I’m one of the older guys in the group. I like to step up and be a leader,” said Najera. “There’s a few of us that step up for that and at that moment it was my turn to step up.”
The Tritons pushed to equalize and were given a penalty of their own after Tamayo was called for a foul inside the box with five minutes remaining. UC San Diego midfielder Justice Duerksen had his shot saved by Trejos but the rebound fell straight back to Duerksen who finished a simple tap in.
“I dove to my left, saved it, unfortunately the rebound went straight to the guy,” said Trejos. “I tried to get back up to save the second ball but he tapped back in. It happens.”
With the game looking set for overtime, UC San Diego won a corner kick that midfielder Christian Cordell was able to poke home after the Broncos were unable to clear. With seconds left, CPP launched one final attack that resulted in a goal by Lucas that was ruled offside just as the Broncos wheeled away to celebrate.
“They pushed a lot harder and we didn’t manage the game well enough,” said head coach Yossi Raz. “We played too far back and ended up with two opportunities for them that they capitalized on.”
Raz accepted that losses like this are part of the game.
“We’re a good program that plays in a lot of important games and you can’t win them all,” said Raz. “We played against quality opponents, well-coached, and today they were a little bit better than us.”
The loss meant the Broncos finished third in the CCAA standings, setting up a CCAA Championship tournament first round game against Cal State LA at Kellogg Field at 7 p.m. today. The Broncos still have a lot of soccer ahead of them and are hoping to use this loss as a learning experience.
“Time will tell,” said Raz. “I hope that they are going to learn from this game. I hope we all learn from this game. It’s not just the player’s job, it’s the coaching staff’s job to maybe manage better from the side.”
“We’ll learn from this game,” said Trejos. “We’ll learn from our mistakes and move on, hopefully we’ll bring the tournament championship back home.”
David Wilson / The Poly Post
Junior Forward Luis Najera Jr.
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