The #10 UCSB men’s soccer team faced two non-conference opponents this weekend, defeating Alabama A&M 3-1 and falling to Loyola Marymount 2-1.
UCSB (4-2-1 overall, 1-0 in the Big West) took advantage of a Bulldog mistake to start the scoring Friday night. After a poor clear by the A&M defense, sophomore midfielder Tyler Rosenlund lofted a pass from just inside the midfield circle. Senior midfielder Brian Byrne flew by the defense to gain control of the ball and ripped a shot from a near-impossible angle on the left side for the first goal.
“We had a goal scoring attitude from the beginning,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “We were getting the ball wider and putting shots on frame.”
Byrne became the playmaker in the 53rd minute, helping set up the eventual game-winning goal. On a two-on-one, Byrne was able to draw the only defender to him on the left side. His cross was deflected, but the ball landed at senior forward Ivan Becerra’s feet just inside the penalty box. Becerra fired it in the right side past the diving A&M keeper for a 2-0 lead.
“Tonight was my night to step up and my teammates were looking for me,” Becerra said. “We were more spread out and able to find room to attack.”
In the 57th minute, Rosenlund showcased one of his many moves, a beautiful heel pass that gave sophomore Myles Davis the ball all alone on the left side. Only one Bulldog defender was able to recover, and Davis slipped a pass past him to Becerra, wide open in front of the goal to give the Gauchos a three-goal lead.
“Ivan has been hot,” senior midfielder Nate Boyden said. “We were definitely looking for him and tonight was his night to step up. Our offense did a great job of challenging their 5’9″ keeper.”
A&M was able to get on the board late in the second half on a free kick that found its way through the Gaucho wall and into the net.
“Our defense is progressing, but we still want shutouts,” Boyden said. “We have become a stronger unit in the back, but we still had a breakdown. We want people to come to Harder Stadium and see us shut our opponents down.”
The Gauchos traveled to Los Angeles to face Loyola Marymount (2-2-2) Sunday. UCSB got on the board early thanks again to the foot of Byrne, but the defense struggled and gave up two goals in the first half.
“We started [senior defender Pat] Scott, who hasn’t played for a week with an injury,” Vom Steeg said. “He wasn’t quite ready and our defense showed it. We came out flat after Friday night’s win.”
The game came down to the wire as freshman Chris Pontius headed what appeared to be the game-tying goal in as the clock expired. But the referee ruled that the buzzer had sounded before the ball crossed the goal line.
“According to the tape the ball crossed the goal line as time expired,” Vom Steeg said. “We have always struggled to score against these guys. The real story was our inability finish after we had many scoring opportunities in both halves.”
UCSB next travels to San Luis Obispo to face the Mustangs in their second Big West match this Wednesday.