The #15 UCSB men’s soccer team hopes to take its fourth in a row over Cal Poly Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Harder Stadium. The Gauchos (11-2-1, 3-0-1 in the Big West) defeated the Mustangs 3-1 last Friday, and head into this weekend’s game undefeated in Big West play.
“Santa Barbara has an exceptional team this year,” Cal Poly coach Wolfgang Gartner said. “We have been on the downside for the last couple years.”
The Mustangs (3-11, 1-4) have struggled throughout the year, with their leading goal scorer, sophomore forward Andre Nestle, tallying three goals. An inept offense coupled with goalkeeping woes that have forced the team to use three different players behind the net, have plagued Cal Poly.
“We are not clever enough to create opportunities on offense and goalkeeping has been an inconsistent factor all year,” Gartner said.
The Mustangs have managed a conference low of 0.79 goals per game, while allowing 2.16 goals per game, also last in the conference. The team has settled in on sophomore goalkeeper Luke Albertalli, however Gartner indicated that could change at any time.
“Albertalli did a good job against Santa Barbara [last Friday],” Gartner said.
Cal Poly’s offense has created more opportunities lately, as evidenced by the comeback win at Irvine two weeks ago. The Mustangs play a different brand of soccer than most teams, and when they are able to dictate how the game is played, they can create problems for the opposing team.
“They are always dangerous,” UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “They don’t possess the ball and they get into a kicking game. We don’t want to play kick ball with Cal Poly; they are much better at it than we are.”
For the first 40 minutes last week, Cal Poly seemed to be doing just that against Santa Barbara. But the Mustangs soon watched the Gauchos score in the closing five minutes of the first half and the first five minutes of the second half to put the game out of reach.
“We made some adjustments before the half. We brought in [junior midfielder]Darren Doi to settle the ball down and possess the ball a little more,” Vom Steeg said.
Even with a 2-0 Gaucho lead, the game featured tense moments. Sophomore keeper Danny Kennedy’s save on a penalty kick helped seal the win.
“We got a little loose at the end,” junior forward Gene Deering said. “The save deflated them for the next ten minutes; any time you get stopped on a penalty kick, it takes the wind out of your sails.”
The Gauchos enter this weekend’s game against the Mustangs boasting the conference’s leading scorer in senior forward Rob Friend and the Big West’s leader in assists, junior midfielder Memo Arzate. UCSB also has three of the conference’s top five leading scorers in Friend, Deering and sophomore forward Drew McAthy. Santa Barbara is fifth in the nation and first in the Big West in goals per game, with over a goal per game difference between UCSB and second best in the Big West Cal State Northridge.
The Gauchos go into the game healthy, as opposed to an injury-depleted Cal Poly. The Mustangs lost sophomore defender Brad Hallock to a broken collarbone last week.
Despite the Gauchos’ seemingly overwhelming advantage over the Mustangs, Cal Poly is still hoping to pull off the upset.
” I remember a time when we were highly rated and went into San Diego State and got spanked 5-0,” Gartner said. “In soccer, anything can happen.”