The 2002 UCSB men’s soccer team boasts an offense that is arguably the best in the nation.

The Gauchos had the makings of great offense a year ago, but needed one more player to ignite the offense. Junior midfielder Memo Arzate, leading the Big West with 14 assists, has been that spark.

“Memo has been the missing link to make our offense as productive as it is this year,” UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “The team chemistry has been very good and he is the key ingredient.”

Arzate grew up watching his two older brothers play soccer, and has since grown into one of Santa Barbara’s more feared offensive weapons. Arzate transferred to UCSB from Compton College, where he was named First Team All-South Coast Conference and conference MVP both seasons.

“I know the first impression of [Compton] is bad, but it’s a part of Long Beach. I had a good time there,” Arzate said.

Arzate has been nothing short of sensational in his first year with the Gauchos. He is averaging nearly an assist per game and is fourth in points in the Big West. Arzate has given Santa Barbara the attacking midfielder that they needed.

” I watched a game last year when they played at Irvine,” Arzate said. “[Senior forward] Rob [Friend] was the first player I noticed, and he wasn’t playing where he could be dangerous. I talked to [Assistant Coach] Leo Chappel and told him I could get Rob the ball where he could score. He was doing too much work.”

With Arzate on the team, the Gauchos have already outscored last year’s team by 14 goals, and the season still has four games to go. But with all this scoring, Arzate remains content being the facilitator of this offensive onslaught.

“The coaches tell me to be a little more selfish, but with three forwards doing their job, I’m not complaining,” Arzate said.

UCSB hopes for more success from Arzate tonight against Cal State Northridge at 7 at Harder Stadium. The Gauchos and Matadors played to a scoreless tie two weeks ago at Northridge.

“We were a little frustrated,” senior midfielder Dan Young said. “We dominated them last time, we just couldn’t get the ball in.”

CSUN heads into the match one game back of Santa Barbara for the conference lead, and remains the only Big West team the Gauchos have not beaten this year. Led by a strong defense that is ranked amongst the top 10 teams in the nation, the Matadors have won four straight. Senior goalkeeper Joe Barton is eight in the nation with a 0.60 goals against average and has posted a conference leading five shutouts this year.

Not to be overlooked is an offense that ranks second to Santa Barbara in nearly every offensive category. A pair of forwards, sophomore Jesse Servin and junior Charles Mitchell, lead the Matadors with six goals each. Mitchell earned Big West Player of the Week honors for two game-winning goals against Cal State Fullerton and Riverside.

” We need to get more momentum, try to get balls dropped into the box,” Vom Steeg said. “They made it difficult for us to score last time, they don’t give up a lot of goals, but we look forward to the challenge.”

A win would put the Gauchos two games up in the conference with three games to go. In conference games this year, Santa Barbara has outscored the opponent 17-3, with Northridge the only team it has yet to score against.

“Their talent concerns me,” Northridge Head Coach Terry Davila said. “They have a great coaching staff and they have recruited well. It’s an honor to play Santa Barbara.”