The UCSB men’s soccer team may be entering the most important weekend of the season.
The Gauchos enter the weekend at 3-1-1, their one loss coming from tonight’s foe, Northridge, a 3-2 overtime heartbreaker in which freshman goalkeeper Dan Kennedy was forced to leave the game early after being shown a red card for a tough foul in the box.
“[Kennedy] should be back for Northridge,” UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “They’ve got a pair of tough players and we’ll need him on his toes.”
Senior midfielder Arshak Abyanli and freshman midfielder Yossi Raz are that pair. Both have seven goals this year and both lead the Big West in that category. Abyanli leads the Big West in total points, having also tallied three assists this season. He has played in only 11 games.
“We’re real excited about them [Abyanli and Raz] two,” Northridge Head Coach Terry Davila said. “They play so impressively … I’m excited to see how they mature.”
The rest of the Big West does not share Davila’s enthusiasm. But if there is an answer for Northridge’s two-headed attack it is Kennedy. The freshman, who has a 0.92 goals against average, leads the Big West with Irvine keeper C.J. Cooper.
UCSB will also enjoy the return of senior midfielder and team co-captain Steven Sosa who was also suspended after the Northridge match.
Both Kennedy and Sosa missed the game against Riverside, a game in which the Gauchos trounced their foes 4-0. In fact, Riverside has not won a single game this year, in league or in out-of-conference play. The Highlanders will be entering Harder Stadium on Sunday with 12 losses and only a single tie.
But senior defender Reuben Bates said Santa Barbara will still approach the game with caution.
“We try and start every game playing seriously, not playing down to our competition.”
Last weekend’s match against Riverside was nothing to worry about. UCSB did not get a goal from its leading scorer, junior forward Rob Friend, but still managed to get two each half. UCSB outshot the Highlanders by a staggering 26-4 margin, with 18 of those coming in the second period.
But a team with woes like Riverside can be dangerous. It can come out with tenacity and try and earn that first win. Still, the Gauchos can’t be too worried. With a mere six goals in 13 games, the Highlanders’ offense isn’t sputtering, its never even turned over the engine.
UCSB will play Northridge tonight in Harder Stadium at 8. The Riverside match will take place Sunday at 4 p.m.