Harder Stadium takes a trip back to the OK Corral tonight. The UCSB men’s soccer team hosts Northridge, looking to show its opponent how the Big West is won.
The #5 Gauchos (15-2-1 overall, 6-2-0 in the Big West) play to clinch their third Big West Conference championship in four years. The Matadors (9-4-2, 4-1-2 Big West) currently stand just four points behind UCSB in the conference standings. With a win or tie tonight, the Gauchos could put themselves out of reach in a secure first place with just one conference game remaining.
Northridge handed UCSB its first loss of the season in the two teams’ last meeting in October. Since then, the Matadors have gone undefeated in three games, topping off with a 3-0 win over Fullerton on Saturday.
Not to be outdone, the Gauchos have won four straight matches, all of which were shutouts. UCSB notched an important win over #18 Stanford Saturday. The game provided a playoff preview for Santa Barbara.
“Stanford is a good team that will have a shot at making the playoffs. They’re a playoff-caliber team, so it’s definitely good to get a win,” senior forward Drew McAthy said. “Every game from here on out is a playoff game to us, so it was good preparation.”
UCSB will again be without the services of starting freshman defender Andy Iro. The Liverpool, England native received another yellow card Saturday, forcing him to sit against the Matadors.
“Well, we’re kind of freaking out because [Iro] picked up his yellow. So we won’t have him against Northridge and that’s a big deal,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “You know it’s just one more thing we have to overcome.”
The much shorter Gaucho defense will have to contain Matador sophomore forward Willie Sims to have a chance at victory. Sims put two in the back of the net Saturday and leads Northridge with 32 points on 15 goals and two assists.
UCSB will be on the attack offensively against a weak Matador defense. McAthy leads the team with 13 goals and is just four points away from becoming the school’s career points record holder.
Fellow senior and forward Neil Jones is right behind McAthy with nine goals and seven assists. Jones put in the game winner in double overtime against Davis Thursday.
“Northridge’s worst thing is its back line. The defense is not exceptionally great so we’re going to have to run at those guys,” Vom Steeg said. “Other than that [Northridge] is going to be a tough team to beat.”
UCSB will send off its six seniors in their regular season home finale against the Matadors. Guns will be drawn just after sundown, with kickoff scheduled for 7 tonight.