Last weekend was one of turn-arounds for the UCSB men’s soccer team. It broke a 252-minute scoreless streak but also let in two goals each game. The Gauchos had not allowed more than a single opposing goal since their match against San Jose State nearly a month ago. But nonetheless, the Gauchos began Big West Conference play 1-0-1. This weekend they will have to deal with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Northridge.
“Cal Poly is a dangerous team,” UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “Don’t let their record fool you. At this level, you find ways to lose and that is what they have done.”
Cal Poly has done it, and done it well, losing its last seven games after beginning the season with a win and a tie. The Mustangs dropped their last two games to Irvine and Fullerton, the very teams Santa Barbara began its season against. While UCSB beat Fullerton 3-2 and tied Irvine 2-2, Cal Poly lost each game by a single goal.
“Their record doesn’t reflect their quality as a team,” Vom Steeg said.
But one can’t help but wonder. After scoring four goals in their first game, the Mustangs scored only three goals in their next eight games. And their 1-7-1 record doesn’t seem intimidating. But Vom Steeg stressed that the Gauchos cannot take them lightly.
“We can’t go in assuming anything,” he said. “We have to be on top of our game.”
UCSB will be going into the game with confidence. Freshman goalkeeper Dan Kennedy leads the Big West with a .92 goals against average despite allowing four in the last two games.
But those games were more offensive-minded, as reflected by the play of junior forward Rob Friend. He goes into this weekend fresh off his Big West Player of the Week honors, which he shared with Irvine Anteater Jon Spenser. Friend is second in the Big West standings for total points with 13, coming off five goals and three assists. Friend tallied two of those goals and one assist in the come-from-behind victory over Fullerton last week.
Northridge provides more of a challenge, at least statistically. The 6-2-1 Matadors are coming off a 2-0 victory against UC Riverside, their only Big West game thus far.
Forward Yossi Raz leads Northridge and the Big West with seven goals and 15 points. He is their go-to offensive threat and will definitely be looking to adjust Kennedy’s goals against average this Sunday. Raz also boasts a mere 30 shots, a tribute to his accuracy. To stop him, the Gaucho defense will have to step up.
“When we commit more to offense, the defense will be vulnerable,” Vom Steeg said. “And we will be inconsistent.”
Santa Barbara will play Cal Poly at 6 p.m. on Friday at Harder Stadium. They will then leave home for the first time in a month to face Northridge, with kickoff at 7 p.m.