Last time the UCSB men’s soccer team played at home, the result was a disastrous 6-2 beating at the hands of Wake Forest. This time, the Gauchos hope things will be different.
Since the game against the Demon Deacons, Santa Barbara has been on the road for two weeks. Over that span UCSB has played two ranked opponents — UC Irvine and Indiana — as well as perennial powerhouse UCLA. The Gauchos earned wins against the Anteaters and the Hoosiers, and came from behind to tie the Bruins, bringing their total record to 6-3-1 and solidifying their status as one of the top programs in the country.
“[We are] a team that we’ve seen in practice, and in spurts in games, play at a level that people can’t stay with,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said of the squad. The coach focused on maintaining that level day in and day out if his squad is going to live up to its potential.
Cal State Northridge, on the other hand, has seen better days. The Matadors (5-4-1 overall, 1-0 in the Big West) will try to best a talented Gaucho squad with a heavily depleted roster. Already missing the services of dangerous strikers Devin Deldo and Rafael Garcia, the CSUN attack took a couple more hits when midfielder Jeremy Hohn and forward Camilo Rojas were issued red cards in the Matadors’ game against UC Riverside. Each must serve an immediate one-game suspension, and will thus be out for Wednesday’s contest. Two other Northridge goal-scorers, Moy Gomez and Cameron Sims, are questionable due to injury. However, even this beaten up CSUN squad has the potential to give the Gauchos fits.
“It seems that most teams come out and play their best game against us,” senior forward Nick Perera said. “And Northridge is a team you never want to write off, especially when they play us.”
These teams do have more than a bit of history together. Since the Big West reinstated soccer in 2001, no team has won the championship except these two. And while the Gauchos have a high-octane attack, CSUN keeper Kevin Guppy has proven difficult to score on in the past.
UCSB’s main focus this season has been living up to potential and maintaining consistency, and it will be interesting to see what the Gauchos achieve in this trying Big West conference. While every game in the league is challenging, Vom Steeg and his Santa Barbara squad maintain an optimistic outlook.
“Collectively we just have to keep working on our defending. When we put that together with our offense we’ll be very, very good.”
UCSB has to hope that that time will come soon, as the regular season is more than halfway over and the Gauchos have only registered one shutout thus far.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Harder Stadium Wednesday.