After suffering its first loss of the season last Friday at UCLA, the UCSB men’s soccer team will return to action tonight at home against University of San Diego, and again on Sunday against Sacramento State.
Last week’s loss ended with a score of 3-2 after UCLA’s offense scored three goals in just a twenty-minute span to gain the lead and secure the victory.
“We made some mistakes against UCLA,” senior midfielder Luis Silva said. “We’re gonna try to improve this weekend.”
Friday’s game against USD will be the first meeting between the two teams since a 1-0 Gaucho victory in 2009. USD is currently 3-2-1 on the season, and is unranked in national polls.
The Torero offense has been the key to the team’s success so far this season, as the squad has scored an average of three goals per game, compared to its opponent’s 1.33.
Battling USD’s front line will be the Gaucho defense, which through the first six games has held opponents to just five scored goals, including three shut outs on the season and a recent streak of four unbeaten games. Junior goalkeeper Andre Grandt has started all six games for the Gauchos thus far this season and has compiled a save percentage of .714.
“The defense communicates very well with me,” Grandt said. “This makes the job easier. [Senior midfielder James] Kiffe is pretty important for the defense, he covers our center backs and he’ll be a help for both games this weekend.”
Grandt, a transfer student from Tyler Junior College in Texas, helped his junior college team win consecutive national championships in 2009 and 2010. Grandt was an NSCAA first team All-American in 2010, and will be playing on Friday in his first Division-I home game while school is in session.
“I was pretty excited about the 4,000 people that showed up when we played Westmont,” Grandt said. “The bigger crowd Friday will be a huge advantage for us.”
Sunday’s matchup against Sacramento State may offer more excitement on the offensive side of the field. Two Sac State players, Junior defender Matt Linenberger and sophomore forward Isaac Ikyurav, have each scored six goals apiece over the course of the team’s six games this year.
“It’ll be a very defensive game,” Silva said. “We have to try to not let their forwards score and put some away ourselves.”
Next year, Sac State will be moving from the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation into the Big West conference, joining UCSB in the league for the first time. The Hornets won the MPSF league championship last season, and will be competing against Big West foe UC Davis this weekend as well.
“It’s going to be good to see how they play, and how they’ll be playing in conference for the next few years,” Silva said.
The last time UCSB had a Friday and Sunday schedule during one weekend, the Gauchos finished with a 2-0 victory against West Virginia and a 0-0 draw against Villanova.
“These next games are really important to us,” Silva said. “These are really good teams that we’re gonna play.”
Two conference games follow this weekend’s match ups, with one of the biggest games coming against reigning NCAA champion Akron on October 5 at Harder Stadium.
“Our focus now is on the Friday game against San Diego,” Grandt said.
Tonight’s game against USD will feature a pregame giveaway of free Gaucho Loco T-shirts to UCSB students. Sunday’s game against Sac State is set for 5pm kickoff. Today’s match against San Diego will begin at 7 p.m.