Nil, love, zero, held scoreless, shut out. However easy it is to put it on paper, it is quite a different matter to ask the UCSB men’s soccer team to perform such a task on the field.
Yet, perform it did Saturday night, coming out victorious in a 1-0 decision over #18 Stanford at Harder Stadium.
The Gauchos (15-2-1 overall, 6-2-0 in the Big West) recorded their fourth straight shutout behind the defense of senior goalkeeper Danny Kennedy and the foot of senior forward Drew McAthy.
McAthy scored his eighth game-winner of the season in the 55th minute. After receiving the ball at the top of the box, McAthy dished it off to junior forward Jonathan Davis on the left side. To complete the give-and-go, Davis slid the ball back across to McAthy, who then one-timed the ball under diving Stanford goalkeeper Robby Fulton at the near post.
“Tonight was a great win; we played very well – we were very picked up,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “I thought that at the beginning of the second half, the game really opened up for us. We had a lot of good chances going. [Davis] made a big difference on the attack.”
Returning from a two-week layoff due to injury, Davis jumped right back into the thick of things, creating numerous opportunities up front and assisting on the game-winner.
“It feels like forever, but it’s only been two weeks,” Davis said. “It’s great being back, and to get a game-winning assist, that’s big time.”
The Gaucho defense was up to the task of stopping the Cardinal as well. The back line kept Kennedy from having much work to do, holding Stanford to just two shots. Kennedy earned his 10th shutout of the season, controlling the box to stop any Cardinal scoring opportunities before they could start.
“This is four straight shutouts. I thought we were very good in the back, very picked up,” Vom Steeg said. “The key for us going forward is our defense. Obviously, this was a big win for us tonight.”
Vom Steeg took advantage of his team’s depth, bringing in seven players off the bench during the game. With all the fresh legs on the sideline, UCSB came on strong in the second half, taking eight shots against a tough Stanford defense.
“I think that’s why we score a lot of goals late,” McAthy said. “We have our depth and we’re always fresh, and other teams are unfit and cramping up at the end of games. So that definitely helps.”
With the win, the Gauchos furthered their chances of being a seeded team in the NCAA playoffs and playing the first three rounds of the tournament at home.
“This game, with Stanford being such a big school, enables us a seed for the tournament,” Davis said. “We wanted all of our tournament games to be home games, and this win enables that.”
UCSB will close out its regular-season home schedule and say goodbye to its seniors on Tuesday, after hosting Northridge at 7 p.m.