Slug FC struggled against UC Berkeley on Sunday, losing 3-0. The former national champions are looking to find their form after a loss the team captain called “disheartening.” Photo by Sal Ingram.

“We’re not even in shape to go to nationals now, much less beat the best team in our division!” Juan Urquieta shouted to his players in a post-game huddle after Slug FC’s 3-0 loss to UC Berkeley A 3 on Sunday.

When contacted later for comment, the UC Santa Cruz club soccer captain described the loss as “disheartening.”

“The key to win is just connecting,” Urquieta said. “We just didn’t do that.”

Club soccer at UCSC is a level below the official NCAA team. While students still represent their university on the playing field, they do not make as much of a time commitment in practice.

Slug FC prides itself on its victories. They are California State Champions, a title they’ve held since spring and that they are trying to hold onto. Urquieta said their many victories last year led to a complacent performance on the field.

“You think just because you’re champions, you can come to games unprepared,” Urquieta said in the post-game huddle. “I hope this shocked you as much as it did me.”

The game was not close from the start. Within the first 15 minutes, Berkeley A scored a goal, and another just before halftime. UC Berkeley A sophomore striker Emeka Ofodire scored two goals, including one in the second half to put away Slug FC.

“We just played our game,” Ofodire said. “Getting the goals was part of the plan of keeping up the pressure.”

Slug FC kept up defensive pressure the entire game. UC Berkeley A missed numerous chances to score in both halves, while Slug FC controlled play in their goalie box whenever Berkeley A sped past Slug FC’s midfielders.

Urquieta attributed the loss to inadequate conditioning for Slug FC. Berkeley A had the advantage in speed and stamina, holding the ball for most of the second half. Urquieta saw Berkeley A’s speed advantage as frustrating. In the post-game huddle, Urquieta addressed his team’s conditioning in a candid manner.

“We need to step it up,” Urquieta said to his teammates. “You need to be running at least three miles every day.”

Slug FC had trouble scoring throughout the game. While the midfielders and forwards created many opportunities in the first half, they couldn not find the net. Attacking wingers were left isolated, with help too far apart to keep up pressure on offense. Slug FC midfielders passed long to keep attacks moving forward.

Urquieta said the team’s formation does not work with making long passing.

“We forced too many balls over the top of defenders,” Urquieta said. “If our midfield core can’t find each other, the team falls apart.”

Despite the loss, senior defensive winger Danny Maloney has high expectations for Slug FC.

“Our season doesn’t really start until spring,” Maloney said. “It’s weird not being at our full potential yet.”

UC Berkeley A leads the West Coast Soccer Association Pacific Division, one of four divisions in the club soccer league, with nine points this season. They have scored seven goals overall, while letting in only two in their three games this season. No team in the division is within six points of their lead.

Slug FC let in five goals in their two games last week, including two to UC Merced in preseason play on Oct. 2. Slug FC is tied for fourth with no points in division play.

Maloney said a lack of leadership contributes to Slug FC’s problems.

“We have a lot of young guys playing this year,” Maloney said. “While we only lost three guys [to graduation], we have a need to regain our chemistry.”

While the loss is considered to be key in Slug FC’s quest to regain its playoff spot in the West Coast Soccer Association state playoffs, Urquieta feels the team can play much better, hoping for redemption in next week’s game at the University of San Francisco.

“This week is going to be no-balls fitness,” Urquieta said. “We really need to be faster next week.”