Last week, the UCSB men’s soccer team took a step backward. Tuesday, it looks to start moving again in the right direction.
After tying Northridge and losing to UC Davis at home, the Gauchos have one more game at Harder Stadium before hitting the road again. Santa Barbara will face off against UC Riverside in what they hope will be a rebound game.
“I don’t want to say must-win,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “But we’re at the point of the season now where we’ve got to pick up these games.”
The Gauchos (6-4-2, 1-1-1 Big West) appear to be the clear favorite in this match on paper, but the Highlanders (3-8-1, 0-3-0 Big West) are not as overmatched as it may appear.
“Riverside is a very good team, but always one goal short right now,” Vom Steeg said. “That doesn’t mean that any given night they can’t turn it around. We’re not in a position to overlook anybody.”
In order to prevent that UCR turnaround from happening, the Gauchos first need to get over their painful 2-0 loss to Davis on Saturday. The loss was the first at home against a conference opponent since 2004 -before any of the current players were on the team.
“It hurt really bad, first of all,” senior forward Nick Perera said. “But I do think there’s a silver lining, if I see the intensity of a team that lost for the first time in four years at home and comes out strong. I’ll actually be happy we lost if we take it the right way.”
The Gauchos are led by senior striker Chris Pontius, who has a team-high nine goals. However, UCSB has struggled to find consistent scoring from other players, as nobody else on the team has more than three goals.
Santa Barbara also needs to start playing better defense. The Gauchos have given up at least one goal in 11 of their 12 games this season, and have allowed two or more seven times.
“We definitely have to defend better,” Vom Steeg said. “And we have to continue to find other options besides just Pontius. That being said, I thought we had two good days of practice.”
UCSB will have freshman midfielder Danny Barrera back against UCR, which should help their attack. Barerra leads the team with five assists, but had to sit out against Davis due to a red card from the Northridge game. However, the referees giveth and the referees taketh away.
While having Barrera back will be a boon, the Gauchos will be without the services of freshman midfielder Michael Tetteh[ on Tuesday. Tetteh accrued his fifth yellow card of the season Saturday and will have to serve a one-game suspension.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday night at Harder Stadium.