Not 15 minutes into Friday's showdown with 11th-ranked Stanford, first-year USF men's soccer coach Eddie Soto decided to sub out Dons freshman midfielder K.J. Ahlo, one of five first-year players who started the match. This was a chance for Ahlo, a highly touted playmaker, to learn.
“We trained during the week with what his responsibility was and I just didn't see it,” Soto said. “Those are the growing pains you're going to have with freshmen. Hopefully he takes something from this game to make him better.”
That was perhaps the best way to describe USF's match against the No. 11 Cardinal, which ended in a resounding 3-0 defeat.
But at the point of Ahlo's removal, the match was taut and scoreless. USF was creating chances, most notably through senior forward Miguel Aguilar, whose left-footed shot flashed just wide of Stanford's goal.
But then came an ill-advised goal kick from USF senior goalkeeper Chase Hauser in the 33rd minute. USF freshman midfielder Mitchell McPartland, starting in place of senior Danny Kirkland (concussion), fumbled possession of the pass. Stanford senior Zach Batteer struck a shot that Hauser partially saved. The ball squibbed toward goal, and Dons junior central defender Josh Smith, diving across the goal line, instinctively attempted to parry the effort with his hands.
The result: Smith was red carded and sent off. The Dons were down to 10 men for the final hour of regulation. It was the first time they faced a numerical deficit all season.
“Until we got the red card, I felt we were doing all right,” Soto said. “We just shot ourselves in the foot, giving up that goal the way we did. That's the fourth time this year we've given up a goal off our own set piece in our defensive third. You do that against a team like Stanford, they're gonna make you pay.”
The lessons continue for this very young team. USF (8-4-2, 2-0-0 West Coast Conference) enters today's match at St. Mary's tied with San Diego for the conference lead.
Throwing them off: Entering last week's game with seventh-ranked Santa Rosa, City College of San Francisco was known for its powerful running game, led by sophomore running back Jahray Hayes (88 yards per game, 12 touchdowns). In a 70-0 dismantling of the Bear Cubs, the Rams flipped the script and racked up 397 passing, 388 of which came from sophomore quarterback Tony Rodriguez, who tossed six touchdown passes. CCSF (6-1) moved up one spot to sixth in the state rankings, as American River (7-0) remained No. 1 and the College of San Mateo (6-1) No. 2. On Saturday, the Rams head to No. 6 Diablo Valley (6-1). CSM faces unranked Foothill.
Urbanyi on a roll: Academy of Art junior midfielder Kristof Urbanyi punctuated a 5-0 thrashing of Chaminade last week with two goals and an assist. Urbanyi leads the Urban Knights with four goals and three assists on the season. A native of Budapest, Hungary, Urbanyi has ties to the Bay Area. His father, Istvan, played for Major League Soccer's San Jose Clash, the Earthquakes' precursor, from 1997-98.