On a rainy Friday night, the No. 23 Washington men’s soccer team had a bit of trouble gaining its footing early on in its contest against Cal State Northridge. But the Huskies quickly found their groove and scored a couple first half goals, which is all they would need to improve to 2-0 at home, defeating the Matadors by a score of 2-1.
This game was a tale of two halves for Washington. The Huskies’ (4-1) offense was firmly in control of the pace of play most of the first 45 minutes, leading in the shot department 7-1 and not allowing the Matadors (3-2) to attempt any corners. The second half was a bit of a different story, as CSUN started to play more aggressively and almost made the comeback in the process. In the end, the defense held the line and prevented the opposition from drawing or stealing a game at Husky Soccer Stadium.
CSUN pressed the issue to start out the game, pushing its forwards and midfielders deep into Washington’s side of the field in an effort to force the defense to make a mistake. For the most part, they held firm at the back, but in the sixth minute, there was a bit of a close call. After a bit of confusion in the box, junior forward Johnny Rodriguez ended up with the ball off of a deflection and scored on redshirt junior goalkeeper Saif Kerawala, but after the refs conferred, they deemed a Matador player was offside on the play, negating the goal.
This incident seemed to signal a turning point in the momentum of the game, as the UW began to aggressively push the ball to the outside wings on the counterattack, providing opportunities for players like redshirt sophomore defender Kasey French and sophomore midfielder Blake Bodily to make plays and put the ball into the box.
Twelve minutes later, the Huskies scored for real. Redshirt junior midfielder Joey Parish was in possession of the ball on the right wing, and found redshirt senior forward Kyle Coffee making a run into the center of the box. Parish got in a perfect cross to Coffee, and his header looped perfectly over the CSUN goalkeeper, leaving him helpless as he watched the ball go into the back corner of the net for Coffee’s third goal of the season.
Senior midfielder Corban Anderson helped Parish get a goal of his own in the 32nd minute. After a UW player looped the ball into the box from the middle of the field, Anderson controlled the ball and made a little dump-off pass to the right to Parish, who easily finished the ball past the keeper, tying him with Coffee with his third goal of the year.
“It was the most complete performance in the first half we’ve had, it was two [goals] going on five”, head coach Jamie Clark said. “But if you don’t put away your chances against a good team like Northridge, they’re going to find a way to get themselves on the scoreboard and once they did they made it awfully hard on us.”
The first 15 minutes of the second half were relatively uneventful, as the attacking play for both teams seemed to stall out in midfield. In the 60th minute, however, things the Matadors got a glimmer of hope. Off a Washington foul, CSUN freshman forward Wolfgang Prentice sent a free kick from about 35 yards out into the box, and Rodriguez got his head to the ball and sent it past Kerawala for a goal, cutting the UW lead in half at 2-1.
Bodily, redshirt senior forward Scott Menzies, and junior midfielder Daniel Ribas each had good chances to widen the UW lead back up to two goals, but the CSUN keeper came to his defense’s rescue on multiple occasions.
In the 89th minute, with CSUN desperate to find the tying goal, senior defender Jumoke Holton took a shot from 20 yards out that sailed wide and was called out for a goal kick. Immediately after, Matadors players and coaches were screaming at the referees, claiming that the shot had been deflected before going out, which would have given them a corner. In the end, the officials stuck with their original call, and Washington cleared the ball away to secure the win.
After the whistle was blown, a couple of players got engaged in an altercation that had the potential to get physical, but personnel from both teams stepped in to break it up.
“That was borderline chippy today,” Clark said on the game in general.
The UW will try to take the momentum from its now two-game winning streak into Sunday’s contest against No. 14 Akron. The game will begin at 4:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks.
Reach reporter Chris Angkico at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @chrisangkico