When you’re a member of one of the top 10 teams in the nation, you’re a marked man on everybody’s agenda.
Red-hot Irvine invaded Harder Stadium last night and handed the Gauchos their second straight Big West loss, stumping Santa Barbara 1-0. Before Saturday’s loss, UCSB had not lost a Big West contest in two years.
“You kind of get a winning formula, then you get away from it and it’s like you’re missing something,” UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “The disheartening thing was when our three main guys had chances, we didn’t finish.”
Irvine kept eight or nine defenders back consistently for most of the night, banking on a counterattack that came to everyone’s surprise in the 79th minute.
“It’s a game of momentum, and when you have it, the sky is the limit,” Irvine Head Coach George Kuntz said. “We just came into play a game tonight and I told the guys, ‘good things will come if we just play our game.'”
Junior forward Sebastian Galmari stole possession of the ball from UCSB midfielder Corey Wood and raced down the left-hand side of the field, creating a one-on-one with Gaucho goalkeeper Danny Kennedy, who stayed home only to watch Galmari’s shot slip by him to his left and into the net. Galmari then proceeded to do his best Brandi Chastain impersonation and ripped off his shirt, and with it, the hearts out of the Gaucho faithful.
“It was my defense and midfield that did the hard work; I just did my part and put it in,” Galmari said. “This is giant for us.”
Irvine kept an errantly shooting Gaucho team from finding the back of the net all night. UCSB forward Drew McAthy struggled to get anything going for himself, and his team continued to flake on scoring opportunities.
The staple of the Santa Barbara offense failed to capitalize three times from point blank range, and when McAthy doesn’t produce, the Gauchos don’t produce.
Another problem for Santa Barbara was its decreased shot count. UCSB could only manage 11 shots against the Anteaters, a mark significantly down from their norm.
Before the static was broken, both teams squabbled back and forth while the referee attempted to maintain some form of control of a tempered game. Thirty-seven fouls were called between both teams, five of which led to Gaucho yellow cards.
The loss has the Gauchos searching for answers, but wasn’t entirely detrimental to their standing in the Big West. Northridge followed in UCSB’s footsteps last night, falling to Fullerton, who knocked off Santa Barbara on Saturday.
UCSB still maintains a two-point pad in the conference standings with the Northridge loss, but the parody in the Big West is creeping up on the Gauchos as every team is within at least five points of the two-time defending Big West Champions.
“We need to make some adjustments, but everything is right in front of us,” Vom Steeg said.
Adjustments might be taking place as soon as tomorrow. UCSB hosts San Francisco at 5 p.m. at Harder Stadium on Friday in a nonconference affair. The contest may be the gut-check match that the vulnerable Gauchos need to get back on track.