For the first time since 2000, the UCSB men’s soccer team has lost its first two games in league play. The Gauchos fell 2-0 to then-No. 9 UC Irvine this past Saturday, dropping their record to 6-3-1 overall and 0-2 in Big West play. With the win, Irvine moves to 9-2 overall, 1-1 in Big West.
“Both games in league came down to the same thing,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “We did all the work to put us in a position to win the game but we didn’t … We missed some opportunities.”
After taking an average of 23 shot attempts over the previous two games, the UCSB offense was held to just 12 on Saturday. UCI took 11 shots during the game.
Both teams were scoreless throughout the first 66 minutes, though each side had its chances to take the lead. Junior forward Sam Garza and sophomore forward Dom Sarle each had a shot attempt saved within the first 15 minutes. A header by senior defender Tim Pontius sailed right of the post with minutes remaining in the first half.
Coming out of the halftime break, it was junior forward Michael Nonni who provided the opportunity for UCSB’s first goal of the game, only to be stopped by the UCI goalkeeper inside the box.
“The ball came in, there were a couple of deflections and I just wound up and shot it,” Nonni said. “It was unlucky for me but if I get a chance I have to bear down and finish it, just like anyone else on the team.”
The Anteater offense took advantage of its possession during the 67th minute with a high-arching shot into the upper-right V to take a 1-0 lead. A header in the 80th minute sealed the UCI win.
The UCSB offense was unable to produce the same high volume of shots as it has in past games, failing to connect on the opportunities throughout the match.
“Ultimately, someone will have the opportunity to do something with the ball,” Vom Steeg said. “But right now we’re not gonna win a whole lot of league games if we don’t get goals out of our forwards.”
Garza’s three shots led the UCSB offense, while junior goalkeeper André Grandt tallied two saves. The Gauchos now stand in last place in the Big West conference as the only team to have lost its first two games of the season.
UCSB returns to Harder Stadium when defending national champion University of Akron comes to campus this Wednesday evening at 7 p.m.