With a full week of practice and rest in their wake, the UCSB men’s soccer team is primed for tonight’s match against Fresno State.
The Gauchos are coming off a 120-minute scoreless tie with Pac-10 power UCLA, a game which the team played nearly half of short-handed due to senior defender Reuben Bates getting red-carded. Because of that red card, Bates is automatically suspended for the game versus Fresno.
“It’s going to hurt not having Reuben with us against Fresno,” UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “But I’m confident in our defense. They stepped it up [against UCLA] and I feel they can do the same against Fresno.”
Bates was shown a red card last game against the Bruins for a dangerous slide tackle.
But Santa Barbara began that game without junior midfielder Dan Young, who was red-carded for starting an on-field scuffle against San Jose State. Young will be back in the lineup tonight.
“Dan is a hard-working player,” Bates said of his teammate. “He has speed and when he enters the game he makes an immediate impact.”
Although Young has been missing for more than a full game, he had the Gauchos’ most recent goal, an up-close header that gave UCSB an early lead against San Jose State. Since his goal the Gauchos have had over 20 shots.
But UCSB has not scored for nearly 175 minutes. And this week will not be any easier. Santa Barbara will be going against Fresno goalkeeper Jeremy Proud who has four shutouts in eight games.
However, UCSB isn’t worried about that, as freshman goalkeeper Dan Kennedy boasts similar statistics. He has tallied four shutouts in only seven games, including the 120-minute endurance test against UCLA, a game filled with uncanny saves.
The Gauchos are hoping for a similar performance from their defense. Last game, UCSB shut down red-hot junior forward Tim Pierce, who had scored four goals in his last five games. This match, the team faces a comparable task. Fresno State senior midfielder Noah Delgado has scored six goals in only eight games while accumulating a mind-blowing 46 total shots.
“We feel prepared,” sophomore midfielder Matt Kubota said. “We feel prepared for each and every game.”
Without Bates, the Gauchos expect sophomore defender Neil Jones to step up, as he did in the short-handed tie with UCLA. But Bates will return for Sunday’s match with Denver.
The Pioneers have an impressive 5-2-2 record and will be Santa Barbara’s last non-Big West game until mid-November. Denver is led by junior forward Nic Hartman, who has started all nine games for the Pioneers as well as coming up with two heroic goals in his last two games, the second of which broke a 1-1 tie in the 113th minute to give Denver their fifth win.
The Gauchos play Fresno State at 8 p.m. tonight and tackle Denver Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.