Sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands.
This is what UCSB freshman defender Alan Keely did Saturday evening at Santa Barbara’s Harder Stadium with less than two minutes remaining and the score knotted at 1-1. Keely began his mission just past the top of the Gaucho box and went coast to coast, dribbling right through virtually the entire Cal State Fullerton team, only to spot up senior forward Rob Friend, who executed the game-winning goal for a 2-1 victory.
“Alan took the ball right down the field, and since I wasn’t getting many chances I was actually expecting a rebound,” Friend said concerning his timely 11th goal of his final year in Gaucho blue and gold. “I did everything I could to get it into the back of the net.”
What made Keely’s remarkable take even more impressive was the fact that #24 Santa Barbara played with one man down due to a red card issued to reserve midfielder Brandon Meeks.
Just minutes before the red card had been issued to Meeks, the Titans (3-6-1, 0-1 in the Big West) astounded the 383 spectators and an asleep Gaucho defense. Five Titans swarmed the box in desperation and CSUF forward Hector Orellana one-timed a pass from Brent Whitfield into the back of the net to tie the score 1-1.
“It didn’t have to be this close; we missed a couple of breakaways,” UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “Our defense played well and it was unfortunate that they didn’t get the shutout.”
UCSB drew blood in the first half at the 35th minute when junior midfielder Neil Jones bent a pass over a Titan defender to sophomore forward Drew McAthy, who was streaking diagonally against the grain of the goal to his right. McAthy directed the ball to the opposite side of the goal for his eighth goal of the season.
To a man, the game seemed like somewhat more of a wrestling match than a soccer contest. UCSB tallied 24 fouls while Fullerton committed 10 of its own.
Titan goalkeeper Sam Reynolds played solidly behind the net, impeding nine of the Gauchos’ 16 shots. UCSB goalkeeper Danny Kennedy performed solidly again, saving four of the Titans’ seven shots.
“We have a few letdowns every now and then, but great job to our defense; they let us do what we had to do,” Friend said.
The win improves the Gauchos’ record to 9-1-0 overall and 1-0-0 in Big West play. They also still claim a national ranking in three of the four major collegiate soccer polls. Moreover, Santa Barbara has now won ten games in a row at home and will look to increase the streak to 11 this Wednesday when it hosts University of California, Riverside in a 7 p.m. contest at Harder Stadium.