All of a sudden, the Big West standings just don’t look right.
For the first time all season, the #15 UCSB men’s soccer team is not the front runner, nor is it alone in second. Cal State Northridge took sole possession of first place with a 2-1 win at home against UCSB on Wednesday, and Irvine caught up with the Gauchos later that day with a tie against Cal Poly.
Tomorrow night, the Gauchos will host Riverside with one mission: to save their season.
“With three games left, we have two games left at home, including a game against Irvine, so this thing is far from done,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “Our problem is finding a way to win our next game.”
The Gauchos have recently discovered that there is no such thing as a free lunch in the Big West. Riverside is currently dwelling in the cellar of the league, but the game will undoubtedly be the biggest of the season for the Gauchos.
It won’t be any easier tomorrow without senior defender Tony Lochhead in the mix. The Gauchos’ top marker will be forced to sit after receiving his fifth Big West yellow card, along with teammate and fellow New Zealander Neil Jones.
“It shouldn’t really make a difference to us,” senior David McGill said. “We’ve got plenty of solid guys off the bench who will be able to do a fine job.”
Just two weeks ago, Santa Barbara appeared to be cruising to its third consecutive Big West title, but since then, UCSB has since lost three straight conference games games – the longest such streak since 2000. In their first four conference matches, the Gauchos tallied 10 goals and gave up just four. In their last three, UCSB has managed only two goals, while allowing seven.
The Gaucho defense and junior goalkeeper Danny Kennedy have been markedly off their game during the recent stretch. In their first eight games, the Gauchos pitched five shutouts. Since their last shutout, a 3-0 win over Sacramento State on Sept. 28, UCSB has not held a team scoreless for 90 minutes once.
Granted, injuries have caused turbulence throughout the Gaucho lineup since then, but if the Gauchos plan to retain their title, they must simply stop making mistakes in the back.