The Occidental men’s soccer team (5–3 overall, 2–3 SCIAC) continued to build on a winning start to the season, taking two out of three conference games this past week.
The Tigers opened up play with a dominant, 4–0 victory over Caltech last Wednesday. First-year forward Tod Kawada scored the game’s lone goal in the first half in the 33rd minute. The Tigers then erupted in the second period when sophomore forwards Morgan Bennett-Smith, Grayson Burdon and defender Gabriel Barrett-Jackson (first-year) all managed to score. Defensively, Occidental was nearly perfect, allowing only two shots, neither of which were on goal.
While the Tigers were able to convert their offensive efforts against Caltech, they struggled in their second match of the week against Redlands. The Bulldogs were able to withstand an early barrage of shots and take control of the game with a 17th minute goal.
“We had a lot of opportunities in the first half that we could not quite convert on,” Burdon said. “We were pressing really hard, but their goalie had a great game, and seemed to come out of nowhere.”
Redlands goalie John Melito was the cornerstone of the Bulldogs defense, recording three saves and altering several more shots. Along with the stout goalkeeping, Redlands’ defense was able to command the air, keeping the Tigers out of the net on each of Occidental’s 11 corner kicks.
Offensive efficiency has been a focal point for the Tigers this season. The Tigers have a plethora of young forwards (Burdon, Barrett-Jackson and Bennett-Smith), and while they have gotten to the goal, they have struggled to put the ball in the back of the net
“We have not been able to execute in the final phases of our attacks, but we have been able to create danger, and we have managed to be the more dangerous team in every scenario,” head coach Rod Lafaurie said.
Despite stifling defense from Redlands, Burdon managed to fire off two shots, one on-target. His late game chip over the oncoming goalie nearly ended the Tiger’s offensive woes. However, the ball floated in the air a second too long, landing on top of the goal.
Defensively, the Tigers were anchored by goalkeeper Tristan Cooper (junior). The starting net-minder managed to collect six saves despite being under attack all night. Cooper’s most memorable save occurred with less than five minutes left in the game, when he dove across the pitch to divert an on-target Bulldog attempt.
The Tigers’ strong defensive play was not enough to outweigh the squad’s offensive inefficiency, as they dropped the game 3–0. Despite the loss, the squad is confident they have taken a step in the right direction.
“As a team we realize that we have the right component to finish in the top four of the league and qualify for the playoffs,” Cooper said via email. “At the moment, it comes down to execution and staying together as a team.”
The Tigers rebounded from the Redlands loss Monday night, defeating La Verne on the road, 5–3. Kawada stole the show, contributing on all five of Occidental’s goals, scoring four, including three in the span between the 14th and 15th minutes, according to La Verne’s statistics sheet.
The Tigers host Chapman at 7 p.m. this Saturday on Patterson Field.