Sac State men’s soccer falls to Saint Mary’s College after controversial call

72nd-minute foul led to game-deciding penalty kick for the Gaels


Dylan McNeill

The Hornets fail to convert a goal scoring opportunity as sophomore defender Genaro Alfaro watches his pass get interrupted against Saint Mary’s College on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. The Hornets lost 1-0 for the third time this season.

Dylan McNeill

Sac State’s men’s soccer team dropped Sunday’s home match versus Saint Mary’s College in a 1-0 loss.

The lone goal of the game came on a controversial foul call in the 72nd minute. 

Hornets junior goalkeeper Ryan Curtis was called for the foul when he went for a ball that was crossed across the box and made contact with the Gaels attacker. Saint Mary’s sent senior midfielder Sebastian Schacht to take the shot. 

“I didn’t see a foul against us; I thought it was a questionable call,” said head coach Michael Linenberger. “It’s super rare at any level of soccer to see a referee call a penalty kick on a goalkeeper when they’re going up for the ball in a pile of players, but I’ve got to look at the video.” 

On the penalty kick, Curtis guessed right and Schacht shot right too, but the shot found the top right portion of the goal giving Saint Mary’s the game-winning score.

Outside of that, offense was at a minimum on Sunday, with just 14 total shots in the game and only six of those being on goal. Four for Saint Mary’s and two for Sac State, one each from sophomore forwards Titus Washington and Michael Gonzalez.

Sac State goalkeeper Ryan Curtis totaled three saves on Sunday after his seven-save shutout in a victory against University of the Pacific on Thursday. 

“We didn’t give them [Saint Mary’s] too many chances,” Linenberger said. “I think defensively the last few games we’ve been pretty good. I’ve been pretty happy with that.” 

Over the past three games the Hornets have conceded just two goals, both of which came in 1-0 losses for Sac State. 

“When I’m defending I just take it personal,” said senior defender Tyler Moss. “No one gets by me, and I don’t let any second balls or chances happen.”

Although the defense remained stout, the Hornets are now   2-6 on the season and 0-3 at home. In the month of September, the Hornets have scored just six goals in six matches as they continue to struggle offensively.

Only three Hornets registered shots in Sunday’s game, Washington, Gonzalez and junior midfielder Oscar Govea who had two shot attempts. The Hornets offense lacked cohesion as a group and crisp, clean passes were hard to come by for Sac State. 

Govea credited a lack of in-game rhythm compared to the majority of their competition as a reason for the Hornets’ slow start this year.

“Since COVID happened, usually soccer is in the fall, but it was in the spring so all these teams went from having competitive league matches in spring, took a month off and then came in again,” said Oscar Govea on the teams’ early season struggles. “A lot of these teams are already in rhythm, for us, we’ve got to get into rhythm this season,”

All conferences except the Big Sky and Ivy League had their soccer league in the spring as Govea noted, something which the Hornets didn’t get the advantage of.

“Just being sharper, even in the attacking third, being sharper, taking more shots, chances,” Moss said. “We had a lot of chances, but not a lot of them were on target or challenged the goalkeeper.”

The Hornets brought the physicality Sunday, and it resulted in 19 fouls along with three yellow cards on Sac State alone. Saint Mary’s added 13 fouls and two yellow cards of their own.

“Today we didn’t create a ton of chances, but we created two or three really good looks and we weren’t good enough in front of the goal,” Linenberger said. “We should’ve scored at least one goal today, maybe a couple with the chances we had, so right now we’re just really inconsistent.”

The Hornets men’s soccer team returns to action this Friday night on the road against Western Michigan at 4 p.m. in the last match before conference play.