Men’s soccer wins against Cal Lutheran 2–1, breaking four-game losing streak

Occidental soccer players practice at the Jack Kemp Field at Occidental College in Los Angeles on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. Miles Koupal/The Occidental

Occidental men’s soccer suffered two losses Sept. 28 at home against Whittier College and Oct. 2 at Pomona-Pitzer. The men’s team then won against Cal Lutheran University Oct. 5, breaking a four-game losing streak and moving their conference record to 2–4. According to head coach Rod Lafaurie, the Tigers’ ability to string together 90 minutes of confident, team-centric play led Occidental to a win.

“We competed unselfishly in all aspects of the game and operated in faith, with belief, and this was the key,” Lafaurie said.

Lafaurie said although the team was unable to catch certain breaks in the Whittier loss, he is proud of their spirit and believes they will continue to bounce back. Like Lafaurie, captain Ben Simon (senior) said he was proud of the Tigers’ effort and praised Whittier for a game well played. Simon said Whittier’s coach did a good job of focusing on their system and how they would play their game.

“We’re scratching and clawing to get there and I think we can. That Saturday game, things just didn’t quite go our way, though the guys fought harder than I had seen them fight throughout the season,” Simon said. “They brought something else.”

Nicolas Eble (junior) scored the Tigers’ goal against Whittier in the second half, with an assist from Tye Hernandez (first year). According to Eble, the Tigers were able to successfully execute a set play and he was lucky to have been in the right place at the right time.

“Looking back at it, it was actually pretty interesting because I remember the referee made a call that we didn’t want … because we still had the ball,” Eble said. “We’ve only really scored off set pieces this year, which is quite surprising since I think we have a pretty technical team.”

Lafaurie said the team needed to improve offensively and defensively, particularly regarding the high number of goals allowed compared to their previous season.

“[We need to get back] to our defensive solidity,” Lafaurie said. “Then [we] just figure out a way how we can help simplify and make our offense more efficient so we can score more goals.”

Lafaurie said the team also needs to work as a collective, with players prioritizing the group’s needs over any individual desires. For example, Lafaurie said sometimes one’s role is not to play in a game, but to find other ways to support their teammates from the sidelines.

“Can you be a good cheerleader on the sideline for all intents and purposes? Can you direct guys on the field and help them?” Lafaurie said. “It’s normal [to ask to play] because we have such good players … and that’s a great thing. But they also have to find a way to say, ‘If I’m not playing right now, how can I still help the group?’”

Simon said the team’s senior leadership plays an important role in setting the standard for a successful team mentality, where the team’s overall success takes precedent.

“If we don’t take that accountability, then I don’t think it incentivizes any of the guys on our team to do that,” Simon said. “I think we’ve done a good job, but you can always do better and you can always improve.”

Eble said when the team is losing, one would not want to be the player who messes up or loses the ball, thus causing them to play too safe. According to Eble, the team needs to come together and encourage each other to get out of their comfort zone.

“[Playing safe is] one of those moments where I’m personally like, ‘You don’t have anything to lose anymore,'” Eble said.

Both Lafaurie and Simon remain confident the team will turn their season around by coming together and putting in the effort to improve every day. For Lafaurie — regardless of whether it is in a game, a practice or a lift — it is enough to know that the team is presenting the best versions of themselves.

“I feel like our best is good enough to win any game. I think we have enough talent, we have enough athleticism,” Lafaurie said. “We just have to perform.”

According to Eble, it is important for the team to continue enjoying playing collegiate soccer together, regardless of the season’s outcome. Underscoring the limited time they have together, Eble said he continues to enjoy every practice with his friends.

“Practice is still fun, you get to score goals, you get to see your friends, you get to laugh. Even if you get up at 6 a.m. in the morning, you’re still there with all of your friends that you’ve known since your freshman year,” Eble said. “So I guess my goal is to make people enjoy that little time that we have together.”