UCI romps, but Kuntz finds faults

IRVINE — Even the beautiful game can be skewed in the eye of the beholder, with few as discerning as the ones holding the clipboard.

So as the UC Irvine men's soccer team was piling on visiting Long Island University Brooklyn in a lopsided 2-0 victory to open the UCI Invitational Friday night, Anteaters Coach George Kuntz was compiling a list of areas in which his team needs to improve.

The need for improvement may be less obvious to the rest of the onlookers Friday, who saw the No. 13-ranked hosts produce a 24-3 advantage in shots to improve to 2-0.

Junior Gor Kirakosyan scored both UCI goals, in the 19th minute, then in the 51st. The Pasadena City College transfer who has now scored three of his team's four goals this season, received assists from junior Enrique Cardenas and sophomore Dennis Martinez, respectively, before leaving the game with a right leg injury a moment after his final goal.

Junior Christopher Santana and Cardenas had five shots for the winners, who controlled possession to collect their second straight shutout.

But Kuntz, whose team opened 7-0 on its way to a 16-6-1 record in 2011, and was 5-0 to start a 14-3-3 campaign in 2010, wasn't about to start patting anyone on the back.

"We have looked a lot better," Kuntz said. "In the preseason, this is one of our worst displays. We are a young team, but we [coaches] are expecting a lot more out of them. That's me, but they have played a lot better."

Specifically, Kuntz found fault with some of his players' work ethic, as well as the general collaborative flow on offense.

"Just our movement off the ball and our connecting passes," said Kuntz, who gave his players an earful at halftime.

"I have a whole list [of shortcomings]," Kuntz said. "In the first half, I had eight things. That's a whole month of training for us [to correct those problems]. Typical coach, right? The positives are, we are creating attacking chances, and even when we are not playing our best, we can stay in games. When things start coming together for us, I think we can be really good."

LIU goalkeeper Nathan Stockie would just as soon avoid a more precise UCI squad, after the senior netminder made 12 saves, some of which are sure to leave a mark. Stockie even relied on his teammates to make a pair of saves to deny UCI an even bigger victory margin.

No fewer than 10 Anteaters had a go at the Blackbirds' best defense, which continues to have its share of difficulties with the perennial Big West Conference title contenders.

UCI is now 4-0 in its four meetings with the Northeast Conference representative, which has been outscored, 9-0, in those contests.

UCI has now won 12 straight nonconference regular-season home games. It will put that streak on the line Sunday at 4:30 p.m. against the University of Detroit Mercy, which fell to UC Riverside, 2-1, in the afternoon tournament contest Friday.

"I think Detroit will be a step up," Kuntz said. "UC Riverside is a very good team and [the Titans] held their own with [the Highlanders]."

Kirakosyan, who did not return after being helped off the field and was limping badly on what Kuntz said was a "nice bruise," above his right ankle after the game, could return as soon as Sunday, his coach said.

Freshman keeper Michael Breslin had two saves for his second clean sheet in as many collegiate appearancest.

Senior Everett Pitts, sophomore Bryan Breslin, freshman Matthew Tilley, Martinez and junior Marco Franco helped solidify the UCI defense.

Cardenas, Santana and sophomore forward Cameron Iwasa all earned praise from Kuntz.

UC Irvine had an 11-1 shot advantage at halftime and at one point had fired 18 of the game's 19 shots.

Freshman Mats Bjurman, sophomore Trey Hayes, Martinez, sophomore Mitchell Alvarez and Tilley also had scoring chances for the winners.


Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5

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