Fresh off of a rough showing at the Akron Tournament, the No. 13 UCSB men’s soccer team will welcome the Bruins to Harder Stadium in what’s surely going to be one of the most entertaining non-conference matches of the year.
The Gauchos went 0-2 in their recent visit to Ohio, causing their overall record to drop to 4-2-0, while UCLA’s two wins last week improved their standing to an impressive 3-1-1 and a bump to a No.7 national ranking.
Against Akron, UCSB possessed the ball for most of the match but was unable to find the net despite some close misses. Versus Butler, the defense struggled to contain Bulldog striker David Goldsmith, who scored two goals and assisted one in leading his team to the 4-2 victory over Santa Barbara, earning himself the National Player of the Week award.
Despite allowing six goals in the last two matches, freshman goalkeeper Titouan Le Roux has still managed to impress and continues to establish himself as the first-choice shot-stopper since Justin Vom Steeg’s departure to Germany. The France native made a combined 12 saves in Santa Barbara’s recent losses, including a career-high seven against Butler, a blocked penalty at Akron and some flashy highlight reel stops.
But with UCLA’s arrival to its’ northern neighbor, a major rivalry is rekindled, and the Gauchos’ recent success at home could give them an edge in the Saturday night headliner. The Bruins dominate the all-time record in the matchup at 33-5-4, but UCSB has won the biggest off all 42 meetings including the 2006 National Championship game.
UCSB also defeated UCLA on the road in a historic 4-2 win just last season. After going down a goal early, striker Nick Depuy scored two, midfielder Josue España one and winger Ahinga Selemani one, to give the Gauchos their first-ever win at Drake Stadium.
All three players returned this season and have been key starters in the team’s early season performances. Depuy and Selemani have each scored twice and España leads Santa Barbara with three assists to go with a game-winning goal scored against Oakland.
The trio has been instrumental in the early season prowess on attack, and even in the two losses at Akron, the Gauchos did find chances on the counter often pivoting around España.
The Bruins are heading into Santa Barbara firing on all cylinders, bouncing back from their lone loss of the season at home to Duke. UCLA has knocked off then-No. 1 Akron 6-1 before dispatching CSU Northridge 4-0.
Junior number nine Abu Danladi scored three goals in the two matches with just 43 minutes of match time and will be hopeful of his chances to earn his spot in the starting XI on Saturday.
Sophomore midfielder Jackson Yueill has been pulling the strings for UCLA so far, with a team-high 5 assists, good enough for the third-highest total in the nation.
The Gauchos will have to tighten up their defense to stop the marauding Bruin attack, but UCSB has looked strong as usual on their home turf, outscoring their opponents 6-2 in the first two games at Harder this year. The UCLA match will also be the first game of the season that will draw the massive crowds that make Santa Barbara such a feared place to play.
The two giants of Southern California will meet on Saturday, September 17 at 7:05 p.m. at Harder Stadium where both will be playing on the front foot in such a high stakes, high-publicity match. A video stream for the game will be available on the men’s soccer schedule page on ucsbgauchos.com.