The UCSB men’s soccer team is eager to take the field once again, this time behind the energetic crowd at Harder Stadium against Cal Poly in the second meeting of the annual Blue-Green clash. Fresh off a comeback victory against UC Davis this Wednesday and having already beaten the Mustangs once this season, the gauchos are in a great position for the weekend to come.
The Gauchos host their bitter, green rival boasting a solid 9-5-2 overall record and an unbeaten 5-0-2 Big West record, good enough for first place in the entire conference with 14 total points. Cal Poly comes into town with a deflating 3-9-2 overall record and a 1-5-1 conference record placing them dead last in the entire Big West with four points.
For the second straight week, these two teams will meet on Saturday night in front of an exuberant home crowd. After falling behind 1-0 early in the match just five days ago, Santa Barbara stormed back with goals from red-hot juniors Ahinga Selemani and Kevin Feucht to win the game 2-1.
The victory put the all-time record between these two squads at an even further distance as the Gauchos now lead the series all-time 46-18-8 and 23-7-6 during the Tim Vom Steeg era. The win was also a huge confidence boost as last year UCSB was winless in the two-match series going 0-1-1.
Last season’s match at Harder Stadium was certainly an instant classic. The game attracted 14,919 spectators, the second-largest campus crowd in NCAA history, and ended in a stunning 2-2 tie after Cal Poly scored the equalizer with only four seconds left, overcoming what seemed to be an insurmountable 2-0 lead held by the home team for most of the match.
With that being the lasting moment the remaining Gauchos had of the match against the Mustangs last year, it’s safe to say they are ready to come out and defeat them in front of what could be the largest crowd in NCAA history by the end of the night.
Also on the line, Santa Barbara’s chance to sweep Cal Poly for the first time since 2006. That year also marked UCSB’s first and only national championship in program history.
Hoping to deflate the home team and give them their first loss of the conference season will be senior forward Justin Dhillon who ranks third in the conference in goals scored with seven. The winger has scored 70 percent of the team’s total goals all season. His 17 total points also rank him first on his team, third in the Big West.
Despite his great offense play, no other Mustang really comes to mind. Despite not scoring in last week’s match, the senior assisted in the only goal scored by Cal Poly in that game as freshman midfielder Christian Enriquez scored the first goal of his young career.
One player to watch out for is Kody Wakasa. The senior defender made the shot of his life last season for his team scoring the game winning golden goal against the Gauchos in a 3-2 win at Cal Poly. This season Wakasa has registered one goal and has played exceptional in the back end, which has done a solid job despite what the overall record might entail.
In fact, goalkeeper Eric Kam has been great for most of the season. The junior has the second-best goals allowed against average in the Big West with 1.21, while his save percentage of .706 ranks fourth in the conference with UCSB’s freshman goalie Tituoan Le Roux.
The Gauchos have been on fire as of late, especially the trio of DePuy, Selemani and Feucht. All three players are in the top-five goal scorers in the Big West.
Feucht’s 10 goals rank first in the conference while also ranking seventh best in the entire nation. The midfielder scored the equalizer to help send the game into overtime against UC Davis on Wednesday.
Because of the Feucht’s goal, DePuy was able to score the 16th game winner of his career in front of the Aggies home stadium. Despite not having the season he had last year when he scored 15 goals and led the entire nation, the striker has still made a significant impact. In his career, the senior has scored four goals in seven appearances against the Mustangs.
Last, but certainly not least on the list, is Selemani. Although not extending his goal streak to five matches after failing to score against UC Davis, the junior had the key assist to Feucht’s equalizer. In two of his three career appearances against Cal Poly, the junior has scored a goal and his six goals this season rank second best on the team, tied with DePuy.
On the back end, the Gauchos have been solid thanks to the play of freshman Le Roux. The goalkeeper ranks third in the conference with 60 saves and has not allowed more than one goal in his last six matches; he is a respectable player, having done all this without missing a single minute in 16 starts this season.
While, on paper, Santa Barbara clearly looks like the more dominant team, Cal Poly certainly has the tenacity to make this an interesting match. If last Saturday’s match was any indicator, the Gauchos might have their hands full this weekend if they are not careful.
As recognized by most fans of college soccer, the Blue-Green clash is the best soccer rivalry in college soccer to date, and with that title comes the responsibility to give fans the greatest game they could possibly witness. Something tells me this match, like all the others that have been played, will not disappoint.
The Gauchos face off against the Mustangs in the annual Blue-Green rivalry on Saturday, Oct. 22, at 8 p.m. at Harder Stadium. The game will also be televised on Fox Sports Prime Ticket.
Jorge Mercado is the current Editor in Chief and was a Sports Editor before that since freshman year. He prefers to be called Merk as that was his nickname given to him by the gods. Sometimes, his evil twin Mork appears. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.