The Gonzaga men’s soccer team fell to the University of Portland 2-1 Sunday afternoon on Luger field.
From the start of the game, both teams established a consistent fast pace that led to relatively even possession. The ball stayed between the 18-yard boxes for the majority of the game with each team having a breakaway every once in a while.
Portland capitalized on those breakaways in the first half by taking seven shots compared to GU’s one. Only three of Portland’s shots were on goal, but two of them went in.
One of Portland’s goals was a result of a controversial foul in the box by GU sophomore defender Gideon Davis in the 36th minute. Portland’s Luke Hendel took the penalty kick and made it in the lower left corner of the goal. GU redshirt sophomore goalkeeper, Johan Garibay dove the right way but just missed the catch.
“Giving up that goal in the first half definitely does change the game a little bit on how we’re going to play,” GU assistant coach Aaron Lewis said. “I couldn’t get a good view of it in terms of the foul, but that one hurt.”
Portland scored a second goal in the 44th minute just before halftime. With an assist from Soares Caua and Miles Robinson, Miguel Yuste shot the ball in the lower left corner past Garibay.
“They had a substitute that came in that was quick on that particular side,” Lewis said. “He just turned the corner and then it made us out of position, so they had a guy sneak in on that back post that just finished it.”
With the Zags trailing by two at halftime, they stayed in the game. The Zags came back to score a goal within the first minute of the second half. Freshman forward Andres Labate passed the ball to Davis, who took the shot in the upper right corner of the goal.
“It was a great response, honestly,” Lewis said. “For them to come out and put together a pattern that the guys have been working on for their weakness was great.”
That goal was a result of the one shot that GU took the second half. On the other hand, Portland took nine shots, three of them on goal.
“We’ve been working a lot on getting service from out wide positions,” Lewis said. “We created a lot of chances to get balls into the box today, which was great. Unfortunately, we only had two shots that were recorded, so we need to do a better job of coordinating those runs with that service, and that’s probably going to be something that we need to work on this week.”
From there, the intensity turned up to 100. GU received three yellow cards, Portland received one yellow card and there was a total of 18 fouls called on both teams (nine each) in just the second half. This is compared to the first half in which GU had 6 fouls and one yellow card and Portland had 5 fouls and no yellow cards. This foul-heavy game forced the referee to stop a fight near the end of the second half as a result of the competitive energy and intensity of play.
Meanwhile, the crowd continued to get rowdier as they accused Portland of flopping all over the place, berated the referees for bad calls and cheered on their fellow Zags who were now just one goal behind with a whole half to go.
Throughout the game, both teams used their keepers to their advantage and avoided leaving them standing in the box. Both teams slide tackled often to stop an offensive play from their opponent. Both teams used their heads to get the ball settled and win 50/50 balls.
“Really kind of just staying a little bit tighter in their shape and being able to pass guys off and on and then knowing the right times to make the tackle today was good,” Lewis said. “So it was a combination of being patient and disciplined but being opportunistic within our shape to defend at the right times.”
Portland simply took more shots than GU, which ultimately helped them to pull ahead. The Zags fought to the end of the game to get that tying goal, but it just didn’t happen. They still played well and are able to take the experience with them as they prepare for their next match.
“They put a lot of things into practice today that we had been training throughout the week,” Lewis said. “All in all, the result didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but there was actually some decent things on the defensive side today that the guys have been working on.”
The Zags will go on to play Santa Clara on March 28.