A dejected-looking Christian Soto walked off the field as tempers flared between players and coaches. The UW midfielder had just been shown a red card by the referee, making him the second Washington player to be sent off in Friday’s match.
After 12 straight wins, the No. 1 Washington men’s soccer team tasted defeat for the first time this season in an action-packed match which lived up to the hype against No. 8 Oregon State. The Beavers (9-1-2, 4-0-1 Pac-12) walked out 3-2 winners after an 87th minute penalty gave them the lead.
“It could be a galvanizing game,” head coach Jamie Clark said. “I certainly know there’s a lot of fight in this group. When a team has to celebrate [like that] about beating you on a penalty with nine men, I think we’ve done a lot of things right.”
Perhaps a fitting way to end a match where refereeing decisions were a central theme, OSU midfielder Mouhameth Thiam slotted the ball past Washington goalkeeper Sam Fowler, silencing an otherwise raucous crowd at Husky Soccer Stadium.
The intensity could be felt throughout the entire match, with many aggressive challenges drawing strong reactions from coaches and players. The match ended with a total of two red cards, four yellows, and 23 fouls. The first of the red cards gave the Huskies (12-1-0, Pac-12 4-1-0) a mountain to climb against one of the nation’s best teams.
Tyrone Mondi, who caused problems for the Huskies throughout the opening period, found himself through on goal with just the keeper to beat. However, in a last-ditch effort to keep the match level, senior Achille Robin brought down Mondi in the box. The referee had no choice but to send off the UW defender, reducing the Huskies to 10 men.
Despite the devastating blow, the Huskies caught a break when the ensuing penalty rattled against the frame of the goal, keeping the score level. Washington would head into the locker room relieved to have avoided conceding just minutes before the halftime whistle.
The first half red card gave an already competitive Oregon State team a path to victory. However, sophomore Nick Scardina flipped the script in the 55th minute, firing the shorthanded Huskies into the lead with a clinical finish.
The UW striker drifted beyond the defense after freshman Kalani Kossa-Rienzi played the ball into space, creating the shooting opportunity. Scardina has been prolific this season, tallying four goals, including a dramatic overtime winner against Seattle U earlier this year.
In what was the biggest test of the season to date for Washington, the team displayed the resilience that has been crucial to many of their victories this season. After Soto’s red card, the Huskies remained threatening, creating a massive chance for redshirt freshman Gabe Threadgold, who was able to round the keeper, but failed to find the net after an impressive goal line tackle.
“Getting away from the calls, we put ourselves in a position to win,” Clark said. “I actually thought we should’ve gotten a third goal. If we get that goal, we probably win the game. I was very proud of us in those moments, but we just had to hang on for a little bit too long.”
However, Oregon State’s pressure proved to be too much for UW when Joran Gerbet found the net with a devastating 25-yard strike.
The opening goal was scored inside 10 minutes, stunning the Washington crowd. It was the earliest goal UW has conceded since its season opener. After losing possession in their own half, the Huskies were punished by Mondi’s low-driven strike. The Oregon State midfielder created space by cutting inside before scoring his Pac-12-leading sixth goal of the season.
As they’ve done throughout the season, the Huskies relied on set pieces to create opportunities. Washington earned three corners in the first half, capitalizing through Ryan Sailor’s equalizer. The UW defender has been an unlikely source of offensive production, scoring a team-high five goals this season, all of which have come from set plays.
Sailor found space in the box, out-leaping his marker before nodding the ball across the face of the goal into the bottom corner. Junior Charlie Ostrem, who led the Pac-12 in assists in the previous campaign, picked up his fourth this season.
Despite taking their first loss of the season, the Huskies will take some positives out of a valiant effort.
“This team is unbelievably tough,” Clark said. “To make a team go down to the wire with nine men just speaks volumes to how good and brave we are. But, at the same time, we've made our road harder for Thursday. Our only focus now is getting a result and if we do that, we’ll get the train moving in the right direction again.”
Washington looks to bounce back Thursday, Oct. 28 against Cal in Seattle.
Reach senior staff reporter Luka Kučan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @luka_kucan
Like what you’re reading? Support high-quality student journalism by donating here.