After tonight’s game against the #10 UCSB men’s soccer team, Alabama A&M may be rethinking its decision to schedule a match against the Gauchos (3-1-1 overall, 1-0 in the Big West) between two matches in San Diego, Calif.
The Bulldogs (2-6 overall) come to Harder Stadium looking to cut Santa Barbara’s current three-game winning streak short.
Alabama A&M does not belong to any conference and makes its own schedule. When the chance to play nationally ranked UCSB arose for the Bulldogs’ Head Coach Salah Yousif, he took advantage of it, even though it meant sandwiching the game between two other games.
“When their coach had an opportunity to play us, he jumped on it,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “He didn’t care that he had to play three games in a row because if a team beats us, it puts their name out there on a national level.”
The Bulldogs are a unique team, featuring just five players who hail from the United States on its 22-man roster. The other 17 come mostly from Africa and bring a different style of play to the pitch than what the Gauchos are used to seeing along with a lot of individual talent.
“We probably won’t play a team like this any other time this year,” Vom Steeg said. “They’re a very dangerous team because all it would take for them to succeed is one player to do something special, and they have a lot of players on their team capable of that.”
The Bulldogs aren’t the only team with talented players. Senior forward and Big West Player of the Week Ivan Becerra scored two goals in last Sunday’s contest against Riverside to move into third place in scoring in the Big West with a total of five goals. The squad depends on his offense, along with the Big West’s number-two scorer, senior forward Jonathan Davis, although it’s something they are looking to change.
“We had to replace a lot of goals from last year. We’re trying to develop some other players,” Vom Steeg said. “It’s always good to not have to rely on one or two players; [Becerra] and [Davis] will get their goals, but we are trying to spread the ball around more.”
Vom Steeg is also looking to develop young players on the defensive end of the pitch. He has a lot of confidence in the abilities and the potential of junior goalkeeper Kyle Reynish.
“Kyle’s played well for us so far, but I feel he’s going to get better and better,” Vom Steeg said. “This is something like his sixth start in Division I soccer and he’s developing wonderfully. When all is said and done, I think he’ll be one of the best in the Big West, and among the top in the nation.”
The Gauchos look to continue their winning streak tonight at 7 before traveling to Loyola Marymount Sunday. Santa Barbara has had little luck against the Lions lately, dropping seven straight since 1995. Kickoff is scheduled for Sunday at 4 p.m. at Sullivan Field in Los Angeles.