This is what it’s all about. The Friday night lights will be bright when the UCSB men’s soccer team clashes with #7 UCLA at Harder Stadium in a rematch of last year’s third-round NCAA tournament playoff game.
[media-credit id=16616 align=”alignleft” width=”234″][/media-credit]The Bruins are familiar foes to Santa Barbara. UCLA (4-1-1) knocked UCSB out of the NCAA tournament last year with a 2-1 victory at home. Additionally, the Gauchos ousted the Bruins to win the College Cup in 2006.
“There is definitely a rivalry there,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “We have been two of the more prolific West Coast programs recently and this is a great opportunity to boost our resume.”
Santa Barbara (2-2-2) is coming off its first two wins of the season after shutting out both Harvard and Buffalo in the Lobo Classic in New Mexico last weekend. UCSB dominated #6 Harvard in the 2-0 victory, leading the Crimson in shots, 10-8.
“Our team chemistry is getting better every practice and it definitely came together for us last weekend beating a very good Harvard team,” junior midfielder Danny Barrera said.
A day later, the Gauchos shut out Buffalo 4-0. As they have done in every game this season, UCSB once again outshot its opponent, 14-6.
“We did get off to a slow start this season and had some tough breaks, but it’s nice to be playing well heading into the UCLA game,” Vom Steeg said.
For his efforts in goal, senior goalkeeper Sam Hayden was named the Lobo Classic Defensive MVP. Hayden — who posted two consecutive shutouts with five saves in each match — was also named to the College Soccer News National Team of the Week and picked as the Big West Defensive Player of the Week.
Barrera was named Offensive MVP and freshman forward David Opoku, sophomore midfielder Machael David and sophomore forward Sam Garza all earned All-Tournament Honors.
Opoku was also named the Big West Offensive Player of the Week after leading UCSB with five points over the two tournament games. The freshman scored the first goal of his career in the 87th minute against Harvard, and then followed up that performance with his second career goal against Buffalo.
“We needed the confidence boost from these last two wins,” Opoku said. “We are ready and really pumped heading forward.”
The matchup is not an easy one. Although they have lost eight seniors from last year’s squad, UCLA is still a very formidable team, and are already 3-0 in overtime games this year. Thus far, the Bruins have been led by a pair of freshmen. Midfielder Kelyn Rowe leads the team with three goals to go along with two assists, and forward Victor Chavez leads the team with three assists to go along with two goals.
The Gauchos will need to take advantage of their experience and veteran leadership to maintain a consistent effort throughout the match if they are to take down the Bruins.
“We need to stick to our game plan and play consistent throughout the entire 90 minutes, especially defensively,” Vom Steeg said. “Especially with the student crowd behind us, I am really confident we are going to show up and play well.”
The match is set for 7 p.m. at Harder Stadium.