The UCSB men’s soccer team prevailed Friday night after 75 minutes of scoreless soccer, beating #13 UCLA 2-0 in front of a record crowd of 15,896 at Harder Stadium. With the victory, the Gauchos (3-2-2) were able to avenge their loss to UCLA (4-2-1) in the third round of the NCAA playoffs last year.
[media-credit id=16616 align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]“The atmosphere was unbelievable,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “I can’t say enough about the student support and how our players fed off the crowd.”
UCSB outshot the Bruins 12-8 on the night, something they have done in every match this season. The Gaucho defense remained impressive, shutting out its opponent for the third straight match.
Senior goalkeeper Sam Hayden — the reigning Big West Defensive Player of the Week — tied a career high with six saves for the Gauchos. The win was Hayden’s 20th of his career, which now puts him in the tenth spot on the Big West all-time career wins list.
“We knew we could do it and we came out today and we played hard and it paid off,” sophomore midfielder Machael David said.
UCSB attempted four shots in the first period, two of which were saved by UCLA junior goalkeeper Brian Rowe.
In the 31st minute, UCSB was unable to execute on two free kick opportunities. On the first, junior midfielder Danny Barrera sent a ball into the box, which resulted in a corner kick. Off the corner, the ball found its way to the far post through the hands of Rowe, but UCSB could not capitalize on the attack.
“We were creating some good chances, and I thought that eventually we would deliver on one of our opportunities,” Vom Steeg said.
Coming out of the locker room in the second half, UCLA played aggressively and looked to push the tempo. An early save by Hayden kept the Bruins scoreless, as the Gaucho defense remained dominant, allowing no additional shots on goal for the entire half.
“This is definitely a big jumpstart for us,” Barrera said. “We will be a very dangerous team going forward and into league play.”
In what was a scoreless match for much of the game, the tie was eventually broken in the 75th minute when freshman forward David Opoku found the back of the net off a deflected ball from a corner kick by Barrera. Opoku — the reigning Big West Player of the Week — has now scored a goal in three consecutive games.
In the final minute of the match, the Gauchos were able to add an insurance goal when Barrera scored on a breakaway pass delivered by junior midfielder Luis Silva. Barrera received the pass and found himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Rowe on the left side. After a slight hesitation move, Barrera was able to power a shot past Rowe.
“Especially against a rival like UCLA, it was great to score that final goal and finish off the match like that,” Barrera said.
UCSB started off the year ranked as a consensus top-10 national team in the country, but after a slow 0-2-2 start, the Gauchos dropped out of the top 30. This game, along with the win over #6 Harvard (which is now ranked 21st in the nation) provided a chance to show they belong. UCLA dropped from the seventh-best team in the country after losing to UCSB.
“We have always felt like we are right there with those top teams, and tonight we got a chance to prove it on our home field,” Vom Steeg said.
The Gauchos open Big West Play at Cal State Fullerton on Sept. 29 at 7 p.m.