Having scored multiple goals in just one previous match, the Cal Poly men’s soccer team took its first two-score lead of the season against Big West Conference foe Cal State Northridge on Wednesday.
Tim White came off the bench to score in the first half, and senior David Zamora, the team’s leading scorer the past two seasons, broke through on a penalty kick in the 66th minute.
Then the Mustangs proceeded to blow that advantage in just a fraction of the time it took to build it.
Cal Poly (4-3-2, 1-0-1 Big West) gave up two set-piece goals in a span of four minutes in the second half as the Matadors (2-6-2, 1-0-1 Big West) overcame Zamora’s first goal of the year to earn a 2-2 tie with the Mustangs, who now head deflated into a matchup with No. 9 UC Irvine on Saturday.
For Cal Poly head coach Paul Holocher, it wasn’t the goals scored by Rafael Garcia in the 71st and 74th minutes that were so infuriating.
It was “that we allowed them the chances,” Holocher said, “that we weren’t ruthless enough in protecting the lead. We need to learn how to adjust our play. When you’re up 2-0, and you’re trying to protect a lead, there’s nothing wrong with getting the ball upfield and trying to play smarter.”
Coming into the week, the Mustangs, Matadors and Anteaters (9-1-1, 2-0-0 Big West) were tied atop the conference standings, and with victories, Cal Poly could have grabbed sole possession of first place heading into a road match with UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday.
Just beating Cal State Northridge would have been big going into the match against UC Irvine, which has established itself as the team to beat in the Big West so far.
“It would have taken off a little bit of pressure,” White said. “We would have been 2-0 instead of 1-0-1, but we can’t look at that now. We just have to look forward for the next one.”
Still, some pressure was taken off Zamora, who had a hat trick in last year’s home match against Cal State Northridge.
He led the Mustangs with seven goals last season, scored a team-high eight in 2008 and was tied for second on the team with seven in 2007.
But the senior from Costa Rica had yet to cash in on any of his chances this year.
“It was a weight that I had on my shoulders,” Zamora said. “I like scoring. I’m a forward.
“I’m supposed to score. That’s my job. Things weren’t happening in the beginning of the season. I didn’t capitalize on them. It’s a relief, but it’s also a bittersweet sensation because we didn’t come away with a result.”
Zamora’s goal was set up by a handball in the box by Nicholas Hamilton, who got his second yellow card of the game on the violation and was ejected. Hamilton touched the ball while Junior Burgos was threatening in front of the goal.
Burgos had another chance with 3:55 left in the second overtime period, but his shot went just a couple feet high of the cross bar and hit of the football goalpost.
After the penalty kick, the Matadors played the rest of the match a man down.
“I give them all the credit in the world,” Holocher said. “A player down and they kept fighting. For them to get a tie on the road, I’m sure they’re pretty happy about it.
“It’s a tie, but this is definitely one of those games that feels like a loss.”