A foul call, penalty kick and game winning goal within the final 30 seconds provided a dramatic finish for the most recent chapter of the UCSB-Cal Poly rivalry series this past Friday night as the Gauchos were upset by the Mustangs 2-1.
“It’s something where you have to be able to finish the game when you’re up 1-0 on the road,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “But we know that league is a tough place to win, especially on the road.”
With the loss, UCSB drops to 9-4-1 overall and 2-3 in Big West play. Cal Poly improves to 6-5-2 and 3-2 in league games.
The Gauchos have been successful in overtime games so far this season — 3-0-1 on OT matches — yet they were just seconds short of a possible victory in extra minutes. At the 26-second mark, a Gaucho foul call gave the Mustangs a chance to take the lead for the first time in the game.
The call came against sophomore defender Peter Shmetz after a Cal Poly player seemed to be tripped by his outstretched leg during an attacking sequence down the sideline. Shmetz’s blame was questioned by Gaucho supporters and staff.
“Peter didn’t do much — he was standing there,” Vom Steeg said. “It’s a call you don’t like to see in games with 30 seconds left in a game, because you know you’re in sight of the game.”
Cal Poly’s Patrick Sigler was able to put the ball past junior goalkeeper André Grandt on the penalty kick to give the Mustangs a 2-1 lead and seal the victory.
Physical play was an underlying feature of the entire rivalry match. A total of seven cards were drawn throughout the game, including two yellow cards against Cal Poly. UCSB received three yellow cards and two red cards, the last coming against senior defender Tim Pontius.
It was the third straight loss UCSB has suffered at Spanos Stadium on the Cal Poly campus. The game also set the mark for the eighth-highest attendance at an NCAA men’s soccer game with just over 11,000.
UCSB took the lead in just the 12th minute of the first half when junior forward Sam Garza scored his third goal in three games on a breakaway play that led to a successful shot to the upper left post.
“I just headed him the ball at midfield and he split [Cal Poly’s] center backs,” Sarle said. “He had a great finish.”
More than half of the game had passed before Cal Poly was able to even the score to 1-10. During the 79th minute, a Mustang corner kick resulted in a ricochet pass toward the box and a header by senior right back Cameron Walters to tie the game.
Cal Poly led UCSB in shots taken with a 16-7 advantage, including 10 in the second half. It was the lowest number of shots that the Gauchos have been held to all season.
“Even though we only had seven shots, we had a couple good looks,” Sarle said. “They pressured us a lot in the second half and we couldn’t get things going.”
UCSB is set to play Cal Poly at home during the final match of the regular season on Friday, November 4th. The Gauchos will return to the playing field this week to prepare for next Saturday’s game against visiting UC Riverside.