The #2 UCSB men’s soccer team returns home tonight looking to use the first rain of the season to wash away memories of the loss that ended its 12-game unbeaten streak Saturday.
The Gauchos (11-1-1 overall, 4-1-0 in the Big West) bring their newly sullied record home tonight, hosting Irvine at 7. The Anteaters (5-8-0, 1-3-0) are coming off of a 2-1 win over Fullerton, which allowed them to hang onto a tie for fourth place in the Big West.
UCSB hopes that history doesn’t repeat itself tonight. The Gauchos’ only conference home loss in the past three years came at the hands of Irvine in the teams’ last meeting at Harder Stadium in 2003.
The once almost impenetrable UCSB defense has looked shaky, allowing six goals in the past five games after giving up just one through the first eight matches of the season. Suspensions and injuries have been a nuisance to Santa Barbara, and in those five games, only once has the original starting back line played together for the entire game. Once again, that starting defense will be disjointed tonight, with freshman defender Andy Iro ineligible to play due to a red card against Northridge.
“I don’t think, as a team, we are playing as hard as we were at the beginning of the year. Whether you call that physical or not physical, basically, right now we don’t have the same defensive intensity that we had in the beginning,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “At some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, we’ll be able to get everyone back, like we had at the beginning of the year, where you’ve got all parts of your defense back and everyone’s on the same page.”
Countering the pieced-together Gaucho defense will be this week’s Big West Co-Player of the Week, Irvine senior goalkeeper Cameron Rossi. With 18 saves in two games last week, Rossi moved into the top 10 in the Big West Conference career saves record book with 211.
The UCSB offense will be looking to pick up where it left off before the Northridge loss. In the past five games the Gaucho attack has put 14 in the back of the net. Senior forward Drew McAthy was held scoreless in consecutive games last week for the first time this season. The Huntington Beach native leads the team with 24 points on 10 goals and four assists. Sophomore forward Tino Nu