The UCSB men’s soccer team suffered its first loss of the season on Friday, dropping its match against Portland University by a score of 0-1.
While the Gauchos dominated possession throughout the game– even launching 12 shots against the Pilots– the team struggled to find that elusive goal to get a result.
On the flip side, despite only launching two shots on goal the entire game, Portland’s efficiency in the final third propelled them to their second win on the season. Behind an energized crowd and a raucous student section, the Pilots would only need one shot to secure the victory. After a sloppy giveaway by UCSB in their own half in the 56th minute, star forward Benji Michel slotted a shot past the outstretched hand of Ben Roach to make sure the Pilots remained unbeaten.
Santa Barbara started off the first half positively, controlling the game in the midfield and preventing Portland from getting any good looks on goal. Sophomore holding midfielder Sahid Conteh acted as the glue for the Gauchos, making two key tackles in the box to prevent the Pilots from firing on Freshman goalie Ben Roach.
On offense, Conteh also acted as a catalyst, often times launching the ball wide to Junior Forward Noah Billingsley, whose pace created problems all night for the Pilots defense. In the 28th minute, that duo thought they had given the Gauchos the lead when Conteh’s probing pass found a sprinting Billingsley, who then calmly put the ball in the back of the net. However, the side ref ruled the goal back for offsides– foreshadowing a long night for the Gauchos that would feature bountiful opportunities but a lack of an end product.
Santa Barbara also nearly found the back of the net in the 53rd minute, when Junior Axel Mendez fired a low shot that Portland keeper Kienan Weekes parried to the right. In total, Weekes was forced to make five saves, while Roach only had to make one save the entire night.
It was merely three minutes later that Portland would take the lead with the ultimately decisive goal by Michel, who up to that point had caused trouble for the Gaucho defense all night. Michel’s combination of pace and strength proved to be formidable for the typically strong Santa Barbara backline, and Michel truly proved to be the only offensive threat for the Pilots on the night.
That was all they would need; however, after sprinting past the last man, Michel calmly sent the ball to the right of the diving Roach, who had no chance. Despite a flurry of long balls sent into the box towards the end of the game, UCSB was unable to beat Weekes on the night. While star Sophomore Rodney Michael predictably caused chaos on the right wing, his crosses lacked the finesse that they typically possess. Portland’s back line also did a good job of ensuring that forwards Carter Clemmenson and Thibault Candia had no room to operate; any time either touched the ball, they were immediately closed down.
The Gauchos must now bounce back quickly from their first loss of the season, as they take on No.22 Seattle on Sunday. Once again in a hostile environment, Santa Barbara will need to clean up its offensive woes if they hope to maintain a winning record on the season.
Brandon Victor currently serves as the assistant sports editor. He has covered men’s tennis, men’s soccer and women’s basketball in his two years at the Daily Nexus.