For a game that should have been over right from the opening whistle, the Dons really made a mess against top ranked opponent Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners on Sept. 11 at Negoesco Field. Starting the game confidently and applying high pressure on the Roadrunners’ defense the Dons forced a scramble in the opponent’s 18-yard box just one minute into the game. With the goalkeeper beat and only two Bakersfield players standing in the goal, freshman Mauricio Diaz de Leon volleyed the ball right off the crossbar and the Roadrunner’s clumsily cleared the ball away.
Just five minutes later, after some great combination plays between USF mid-fielder Karl Kraft and forward Oscar Englund on the left flank, the Dons looked to be settling down just as the Roadrunner’s Ernesto Hinojosa received the ball took a touch toward the left corner of the box and struck a low hard shot past goalkeeper Brendan Roslund into the bottom right corner of the net.
Down 1-0 the Dons’ coaches started to rotate some of the new talent recruited this past year and freshman midfielder Vergard Karlsen, back from a knee injury early in pre-season training, played his first minutes for the Dons. Also freshman Benkay Kajihara started his first game for the Dons playing defense along with senior Victor Cortez, who is back from injury as well. Junior defender Samir Najmeh also came off the bench and played a solid game at right back.
The Dons played a very physical game but in the 41st minute the Roadrunner’s struck again. After some fancy footwork and a quick fake Bakersfield’s Jesus Sanchez sent an absolutely incredible curling shot, away from the keeper, into the upper left corner of the net. The ball was struck with such power and accuracy that it fit perfectly into the goal-post’s 90 degree angle.
Not willing to give in, the Dons closed the first half with two dangerous free kicks from outside the 18-yard box. With so many tall players on the roster USF controlled the air and used this advantage effectively. Freshman defender Fred Loechen nearly finished on a high ball but could only muster a soft shot straight to the goalie.
In the second half the game continued to get more physical as Roadrunners’ coaches berated the referee for making what they believed to be very inconsistent calls. In fact the Dons got caught fouling 20 times while the Roadrunners only committed 6. The Dons just couldn’t find the back of the net and Bakersfield’s defense made some spectacular plays. In what looked to be another certain goal a Roadrunner defender performed a bicycle kick to deny senior forward Jeff Penna a goal from inside the 6-yard box. Roadrunner goalkeeper Eric Shannon also came up with some big saves especially when he blocked Vergard Karlsen’s shot one on one.
Meanwhile the Dons continued to dominate in the air threatening the Roadrunners with free kicks and shots from outside the area. Freshman forward Tanner Smith, who played a huge part in the Dons’ victory over Northwestern, came onto the field and looked to score on a few high crosses. At the last second, still battling for a goal, the Dons almost earned a point when senior defender Rafai Eddy’s shot flew just wide of the goal.
With this loss to Bakersfield the Dons are now 1-1-1 and play Stanford next at Negoesco Stadium on Sept. 16 at 7 p.m.
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