The Dogs Escape The Cage With A Buzzerbeater:
UCSD is entering the Aztec Cup with the hope of bouncing back and demonstrating their true talent, after their loss against SDSU. The first game of the group would be against Utah State, who the Tritons were expected to beat. However, the cage always brings surprises and this was seen from the first minute as players were slipping across the field. Utah State would score first, after a loss of focus from the Tritons early in the game. Trying to battle to get back in to the game, the Tritons would create many chances in the first half and it wasn’t until UCSD’s Full-back and Winger would connect to create a dangerous chance in which a hard ball was crossed amongst the backline who would eventually put the ball in the net. This would give the Tritons a moment to breathe and regroup, they did just that as David Contreras would convert on a corner kick after a great cross from Nikita. The half would end 2-1 in favor of the Tritons. Going into halftime, UCSD knew that they had to start rotating players as it was going to be a long weekend, along with the extreme heat, so certain changes were made to give players rest. However, this would harm the Tritons as Utah State came out hot in the second half and quickly flipped the game 2-3, so the Tritons had to fight their way back into the game again. Becoming more desperate as the time passed, UCSD would leave more spaces open and Utah State would attack those spaces but failed to put the nail in the coffin. So UCSD pushed numbers forward, switching to a 3-5-2 formation. This ultimately paid off as the Tritons would equalize. Time was ticking and the Tritons were eager to win the game because it would mean 3 points gained instead of just 1. The clock hit 40 seconds when UCSD gained a corner kick, knowing that this was probably the last opportunity in the game, UCSD had to capitalize. The corner kick would be played, and bodies were dropping left and right, which led to a magical moment where Lucas Venetoulias would control the ball in the box. Lucas demonstrated extreme composure, it is believed that he certainly has “Ice in the Veins” as he took his time, even with oncoming defenders, he waited for the perfect moment and he struck the ball with just a couple seconds on the clock. It was glory for the Tritons as they celebrated the winning goal. The game ended 4-3 in favor of the Tritons.
Heartbreak Defeat against Cal Poly SLO:
After a miraculous victory against Utah State, UCSD would come into the game with high expectations, especially since Cal Poly SLO were unable to put up a chance against UCSD in the past season. However, the first half showed the complete opposite as the Tritons came out incredibly flat and conceded an early goal after a slip up occurred amongst the defenders. The half would end 1-0 and the Tritons were lucky to not have conceded more goals. Once again, UCSD had to fight back from behind, so players were moved around in order to try to bring a spark. The Tritons dominated the second half entirely, keeping Cal Poly SLO on their heels for the full 45 minutes. The desire to win was there from the Tritons as they fought for every single ball, and did everything they could to try to bring it back. However, this time UCSD would take the loss and this meant that the next group game was a must win.
Prime Time for the Tritons Against San Jose State:
Playing two games the day before was becoming more obvious amongst the Tritons. With a must win game on the line, it would be impossible to rotate especially when San Jose State could knock out UCSD from the tournament with a draw. UCSD knew the game plan, which was to possess the ball and play the style of soccer that UCSD knows how to play. A perfect execution of their game plan led to an incredible performance from UCSD, as they didn’t allow SJS to touch a single ball in the first half. The Tritons would swing the ball from side to side waiting for the perfect moment to strike and this patience paid off as Kalani would find the back of the net halfway through the first half. A couple minutes later, David Contreras would extend the lead to 2-0, after an amazing cross from freshman Arya. The half would end 2-0 and the Tritons were looking forward to playing the quarter final later that day. The halftime talk was pretty simple, do not bottle this lead and maintain a one hundred percent level of focus. With certain rotations taking place, UCSD had a shaky start to the half, but quickly got back on their feet and dominated the game as they did in the first half. San Jose State failed to convert on their small amount of chances, which forced them to open up more spaces and become more vulnerable. UCSD would take advantage of these spaces as fullback Antonio Lopez would push the ball into the final third and send a miraculous cross which found Tristan Hernandez on a diving header. A 3-0 lead solidified the win for the Tritons and they would now wait to find out who they would face in the Quarter Finals.
The Lights Were A Little Too Bright:
An amazing game against San Jose State had UCSD pumped up as they finally felt that they were back in form, that the barrier that was holding them back had finally been broken down. After finding out that they would face rivals San Diego State in the quarter finals, the Tritons felt that this game was “personal”, especially after their demoralizing defeat a week ago in league. UCSD would start the first half trying to replicate what they did against SJS, but San Diego State was actually shoving away the claims of being “overrated” as they played an exceptional half. The midfield looked stunned as they couldn’t keep up with the pace and aggressiveness from the Aztecs. The Aztecs would take an early lead after an incredible strike from the edge of the box that left the Tritons in disbelief. UCSD would try to fight back and emotions were starting to be shown as players couldn’t create much. The half would end 1-0. Not much was said during halftime as the task was clear, win the game at all costs and get revenge for the loss in league. The Tritons would show an incredible amount of determination to win the game, but all their efforts were not turning into anything. This led to frustration amongst the Tritons, and this created a very aggressive environment. Dangerous tackles were starting to occur and players began to get into scuffles. Several shoves were seen, which only endangered the Tritons desire to win. Ultimately SDSU would stun UCSD on a counter-attack, making the scoreline 2-0 with very little time to play. The Tritons tried everything, switching their formation and putting more players forward, which would help them find a consolation goal at the very end of the game, but it was not enough. The Aztecs defeated the Tritons 2-1 for the second time this year.