Harder Stadium was booming Thursday night as the UCSB men’s soccer team hosted Cal State Fullerton for its conference season opener. There were goals aplenty for both sides but the Gauchos took home the advantage in their attacking third of the pitch by netting in a total of five goals to the Titans’ two goals.
With the victory, Santa Barbara improves to 3-4-2 overall and are now 1-0 in conference play while CSUF falls to 0-1 in the Big West and 5-4-1 overall.
The first two-thirds of the match seemed to be completely dominated by Fullerton’s good fortune as both their goals came off of broken plays.
But the match was all but lost for UCSB; for once the home side tied the score count at 2-2 in the 57th minute, the floodgates were opened and the night immediately turned into a goal fest of spectacular quality.
Thanks to head coach Tim Vom Steeg’s rotation of the squad and the Gaucho offense finally clicking, UCSB earned their first win to start off the new season’s campaign and gave the fans a night to remember.
With this win the Gauchos avenged their previous season considering Cal State Fullerton knocked them out of the Big West Conference playoffs during the Semifinal leg. A 1-0 record is how every team wishes to start their new year, but the Gauchos will surely try to remain undefeated as they immediately game plan for a newly 0-1 UC Riverside team.
Early on into Thursday’s match, both sides look fairly even as offenses went back and forth at each other’s keepers.
It wasn’t until the 15th minute of play when UCSB conceded the first of the match to Fullerton’s top goal scorer, midfielder Ross McPhie. The goal came off a 1 on 1 from the sideline where the Fullerton winger crossed the ball on the floor. The pass skidded perfectly to McPhie and rebounded off his deflection and into the goal.
For the next half hour or so all seemed to be going in Fullerton’s favor. Then, in the 40th minute, UCSB forward Derek Kryzda was subbed in and made an immediate impact by netting in the equalizer for the ‘Chos. After another sideline attack and impressive nutmeg, Kryzda was on the receiving end of a beautifully set pass and connected from the left of the goalkeeper’s box.
It was halftime now and most fans were still breathless from the immense cheering before the half. Following the 2nd kickoff, momentum still seemed to favor Fullerton. Then, off a cross from about 30 yards out, the ball somehow managed to find itself in the back of Santa Barbara’s net due to the players and keeper’s distraction from a positional battle.
Hopes plummeted once more, but for hardly any time as UCSB found a response about a half minute later. The Gaucho offense surged forward as Fullerton’s back field seemed lackadaisical following their team’s score. After a quick play from the wing the Gauchos also found a lucky ricochet for themselves and evened the score once again.
From here on out the match was very one sided as UCSB began to net in what appeared to be every chance they got. Each shot on goal was also finished magisterially as forward Ignacio Tellechea curled one in from the corner area, defender Adrian Adames chipped in a save from around the 18 yard line, and midfielder Michael Rodney nestled in the final goal of the night on the keeper’s strong side.
With a final score of 5-2, the Gauchos truly showed their colors and found an offensive formation that can work in the future. Now they’ll try to extend their record to 2-0 and hopefully establish a home streak that opponents can fear.
UCSB will face off against UC Riverside this Saturday, September 30th, in Harder Stadium at approximately 7 p.m.