After coming off of a close win against San Diego University last week, the Gonzaga University men’s soccer team could not keep the momentum kicking against the strong Loyola Marymount University (LMU) team ranked 9th in the country. The game was close, remaining 0-0 through most of the match, but in the final 10 minutes of the game, LMU struck hard and fast, leaving the Zags with no time to recover in a 2-1 loss.
The beginning of the first half was a battle of possession with LMU taking the first shot on net. Each team took turns with the ball but were unable to break through the other’s defenses. GU attempted long passes over the middle field line to get the ball into a scoring position but struggled to consistently settle the ball and create an effective attack. LMU used its speed from its forwards to beat out GU’s defense but could never get a decent shot off before becoming overwhelmed.
The first real scoring chance for GU came at the 14-minute mark when a LMU player got called for a foul on the far corner, just outside of their box. GU took the difficult shot on the net, but it went into the side netting. The team would have a few more close opportunities for a goal through the middle of the first half but each time failed to capitalize.
Meanwhile, LMU continued to press, taking advantage of the numerous turnovers made by GU and its speed up front. LMU attacks were relentless, eventually ending the half with seven shots on goal to GU’s five.
GU goal keeper and redshirt sophomore Johan Garibay played a vital role in stopping the attacks in their tracks.
"I just do what needs to be done, to do the best for the team in any way I can,” Garibay said. "Unfortunately, there were some [breaks in the GU defense], but I just try and do the best I can in every play.”
The 33rd minute of the half was the toughest moment for GU’s defense with LMU finding its way through and getting a breakaway. LMU took two corner kicks, with the first one being deflected out by GU and next one being intercepted by Garibay.
The first half ended with GU finally building a strong attack in the final five minutes, managing two shots on goal. Jorge Aspas took the first shot at the 42-minute mark and Leon Sitz shot the second in the final seconds of the half. This shot by Sitz forced LMU’s goal to dive across the goal and was the closest shot that the Zags had to scoring in the first half.
With the first half standing 0-0, tensions rose in the second half with both teams were anxious to strike first. Each team became more aggressive with the attacks hoping that its opponent’s would crumble under the pressure.
For GU’s head coach Aaron Lewis, this meant making serious adjustments going into the second half.
“We asked our backline to step in a little closer to see if we could keep them from turning, facing, and running us out,” Lewis. “We also did better with the ball than in the first half and kept it in our possession longer.”
Like the first half, LMU struck first. This was the closest that LMU had come to scoring so far in the match. Garibay had to jump in the air and was only able to tip the ball over the net with one hand to prevent it from going in. LMU then received two corners kicks in succession but both of these went long and were easily launched out of GU’s box.
GU was able to respond though, taking more shots on goal and finding more ways to sneak through LMU defenses.
The real blow to GU came at the 81-minute mark when a LMU corner kick was launched right into GU territory and was failed to be cleared out. Garibay blocked one shot on net, but was not able to recover for the rebound which followed and resulted goal for LMU.
Not even a minute after, freshman Logan Dorsey received his second yellow card of the game, removing him off the field and forcing GU to play a player short.
The Zags then got called for a penalty in the box, resulting in a penalty kick. Luckily, this was impressively stopped by Garibay, who refused to allow his team to go down 2-0.
However, with a player short and with hopes running low, LMU was able to sneak the ball through both Garibay and a GU defender for a goal.
Yet, the GU team did not surrender and continued to press. In a desperate attempt to score, freshman Wylie Trujillo passed the ball to junior Demetrius Kigeya who was able to kick the ball into the net in the 86-minute.
With only four minutes remaining in the half, the Zags were unable to equalize the game and LMU came forth victorious.
While the result did not go the Zag’s way, it did demonstrate the tenacity of the GU team who fought to the very end and was able to score a goal down in a player when all things seemed hopeless.
“I speak on the character of the team. We always fight back; We never give up,” said Garibay. “We don't give up at all, even with nine minutes ago we're still fighting for an equalizer.”
The Zags will play Washington University, an undefeated team ranked number two in the country, next Saturday on Oct. 16.