ATHERTON, Calif. – The Menlo College Oaks have a history of being a physical team that can win shootouts or play grueling contests that eventually wear down the opposition. The latter was the type of game we saw on Saturday afternoon, with the Men's Soccer team playing host to Arizona Christian in a pivotal GSAC match. While neither team was able to generate many chances, the goalkeepers enjoyed much success en route to a scoreless draw after two overtimes. The Oaks are now 6-5-2 and 2-3-1 in GSAC games while Arizona Christian is 7-5-1 and also 2-3-1 in conference affairs.
The game began just as you would expect from a game that remained scoreless for the duration of the first half: everything was even statistically. Over twenty minutes into the match, both teams had taken two shots, put one on goal, committed four fouls, and one save. Eric Hegmann had the first official shot on goal for Menlo, and it was promptly caught by Brian Booker, the keeper for the Firestorm. Jose Fimbres was the only player on the pitch to record multiple shots in the opening stanza, but none were on frame. The biggest plays weren't even recorded on the stat sheet, as they were nifty ball-handling moves. Trey Taniguchi used a shifty step-back move to evade a defender and create momentum up-field, but the Oaks could not turn that into a goal. It was a period that only a goalkeeper could enjoy, and Julio Naranjo certainly did during the first half where both teams were held scoreless.
Things opened up a bit more aggressively in the second half, with each team advancing the ball sharply down field but ultimately producing few legitimate looks. The Oaks had the best chance of the game just six minutes into the second half. Evan Snodgrass sprinted with the ball towards the corner and then grounded a cross into the box. Booker dove to try and stop the horizontal play but he missed, and in from behind came Stephen Levy sliding to try and deposit it in the net. He missed as well, and the game stayed scoreless. Diego Robles let go a ripper for Arizona Christian with 31 minutes left, but it went wide of the post to the right, but it had plenty of steam to beat Naranjo had it been on frame. One minute later, following a yellow card, Fimbres took a free kick from the top of the box and angled it towards the top post, but it was answered by a leap and a punch from Booker to shoot it away. Efrain Bonilla had a chance on a free kick from the top of the box but his attempt went wide. Damian Sanchez made his way into the Arizona Christian box and was squaring up to shoot with about 17 minutes left, but Alex Avila came in to wrestle the ball free and force Sanchez into a yellow card, ending the threat. Ryan Branigan and Ike Arinze nearly ended the game right as the horn sounded, as both men were streaking up field with only seconds remaining, but a missed pass ended the threat and ensured overtime would begin.
For a game that featured only five shots on goal during regulation, it came as no surprise that overtime was played just as tightly as the first ninety minutes. The ball spent a lot of time in each team's offensive zones but no chances were produced, and thus a second overtime began. It didn't change the outcome of the match, as both teams remained deadlocked in the scoreless affair despite a lot of pushing and shoving, and fouls being called on both sides.
The Oaks hit the road next weekend but only for one game, and fortunately they stay in NorCal. They will take on William Jessup on Saturday the 14th, with kickoff set for 1:30 PM.