A reoccurring nightmare seems like the most appropriate way to term away games for the UCSB men’s soccer team. Dropping their latest match to UC Riverside on unfamiliar turf, the Gauchos have now suffered four 1-0 losses in a row while on the road.
A lack of offensive pressure, execution and a consequent reliance on their backline once again characterized the close-to habitual loss against a competitor that, in most respects, was all too beatable. While the Highlanders relish in their 2-1-0 Big West record, the Gauchos watch theirs drop to 1-2-0.
A dull and scoreless first half led the two competitors into a chippy second half. The teams ended the game fist-to-fist in a brawl instigated in the last eight seconds of the game.
Riverside’s powerhouse forward Daniel Aguirre broke the standstill in the 75th minute following a foul called in the box against UCSB. The sophomore caught freshman keeper Ben roach going the wrong way in a one-on-one penalty kick goal; this was Aguirre’s fifth of the season.
The first half played out much too familiarly for Santa Barbara. Set up in a 4-4-2 formation, the Gauchos failed to capitalize on the few scoring opportunities they created for themselves, sending in just one shot against the Highlanders. Their offense could not get a solid hold of the field, seldom making it into the 6-yard box, and rather losing possession almost immediately after moving the ball to the forward line.
Forward Ignacio Tellechea, unfortunately, saw this plenty of times over the opening 45 minutes as he controlled long balls and attempted to carry them up the field, only to find his teammates lagging far beneath him, unable to pressure the defense any further.
Several lapses in the backline during the first 45 also foreshadowed the looming loss. Santa Barbara’s defense consistently left too much space for their opponents to play through the middle and locate each other with ease. The Highlanders threatened the Gauchos with six shots by the end of the half, two of them calling for difficult saves from goalie Ben Roach.
Aguirre asserted himself from the get-go, carrying out strong attacks on the opposing backline. In the 20th minute, the sophomore found a gap in the Gaucho defense and launched a dangerously low and powerful shot that was then saved by Roach.
Fellow frontman Antonio Lakossou was responsible for the Highlanders’ next notable threat just five minutes later when his header off of UCR’s first corner kick fell just wide of the left post.
Frustrated and eager to put a number on the board, the teams took a more physical approach to their gameplay; 14 fouls, 6 yellow cards, and 2 red cards later—again, in just the second half— the match bordered on chaotic.
UCSB amped up their offense a bit, adding four more shots to their scorebook. The closest the Gauchos got to scoring came at the foot of Rodney Michael in the last five minutes of the game. Despite being double-teamed by the competitor’s backline, the sophomore stud blasted a shot straight into keeper Edwin Gutierrez’s chest.
Santa Barbara did not offer any more offensive threats after this. Having faced one another four times in the past two years, the bad blood finally revealed itself in a fight that broke out between players less than five minutes later in front of the Riverside bench.
The Gauchos hardly have time to dwell on the loss, however. While it has a relatively secure spot in the Big West Tournament, Santa Barbara cannot afford to lose its upcoming games if it wants a chance at hosting the tournament matchups at Harder Stadium later on. The turnaround begins with UC Irvine on Saturday, Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. Irvine is currently undefeated and, more significantly, coming off a huge win against #25 UC Davis from this past Wednesday.