Since the opening kickoff of the men’s soccer season, every week the Big West Player of the Week has sported Gaucho blue.
Earlier this week UCSB senior goalkeeper Danny Kennedy was awarded the honor, the second time this year and the fourth time in his career he has been recognized as the Best in the West. This coming after keeping the Gauchos alive long enough to hold onto a 1-1 tie last Friday against the University of San Francisco while being a man down.
Kennedy had two crucial saves as the clock wound down and another clutch save in the first overtime period. He will have a new challenge tonight against Cal State Fullerton considering most of his defense – which has been phenomenal thus far – will be reduced to street clothes due to suspensions.
“That’s going to be a problem, especially against Fullerton because they haven’t won any games,” senior defender Tony Lochhead said. “They can beat anyone on their day.”
Lochhead is one of three defenders who have to miss the game. Lochhead and freshman defender Andy Iro both received automatic suspensions for landing their fifth yellow cards. Additionally, sophomore defender Greg Curry was handed a suspension for a hard slide tackle against the Dons on Friday resulting in a red card.
“This next game is going to be interesting because I have to sit out, [Iro] has to sit out, [Lochhead] has to sit out … its just a complete different back line,” Curry said. “I don’t know, we’ll see on Wednesday.”
Santa Barbara is coming off its first game in which it didn’t add to its total in the win column. Albeit, a tie is better than a loss, but they would undoubtedly still prefer to win. The Gauchos hope to rebound against Fullerton by going back to basics and sticking to their game plan.
“We trained [Sunday] morning and we had to get back to basics because we weren’t making any good passes,” senior forward Neil Jones said. “That’s not the way we’re going to win a national championship. We have to play good soccer and that’s not what we did on Friday night.”
While Fullerton has not yet won a game, its head coach Al Mistri hasn’t exactly underestimated the Gauchos, but maybe doesn’t give them the respect a #1 team deserves.
“We have our work cut out for us this week at [UCSB]; they are the kind of team that is most difficult to defeat. They combine a high level of technical skill with great size and physical ability,” Mistri said on the Fullerton website. “They are a good team, they are not that much better than the seven teams we have played.”