If you could read the mind of last year’s NSCAA National Coach of the Year and UCSB men’s soccer Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg, you would probably hear one word above all the rest: defense.
Vom Steeg and the rest of the #10 Gauchos (4-2-1 overall, 1-0 in the Big West) will take this mindset on the road tonight when they play Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo in front of a usually large audience. They travel with hopes that their focus will result in a scoreless night for the Mustangs (4-4 overall) in their Big West opener.
“[Cal Poly] is always a tough place to play,” Vom Steeg said. “Our goal is to go up there and get a shutout.”
Junior goalkeeper Kyle Reynish will likely be tested tonight with the Mustangs still hot from a good weekend that saw them win two games in a row to even up their record.
“We have our work cut out for us,” Vom Steeg said. “Cal Poly is coming off of a good weekend and they are hot right now.”
The Gauchos will be working against one of the strongest home-field advantages in the Big West. Not only will thousands of fans be pouring into the stadium to see these two conference rivals face off, but they will also be sitting directly behind the benches.
“It’s always a well-attended game, and if you’ve ever been to the stadium, you know that the stands literally hang over your bench. It’s hard to coach up there,” Vom Steeg said. “We know that the best way to take care of a crowd situation is to put the ball in the back of the net.”
With senior forward Jonathan Davis’ status doubtful for tonight’s game, since his off-field issues are still being sorted out, goal production will have to come from one of Santa Barbara’s other offensive weapons, like senior forward Ivan Becerra, who has stepped up to become the team’s leading scorer in Davis’ absence.
“[Davis is] obviously a very important member of this team,” Vom Steeg said. “We just know that at some point someone will score for us, whether it’s [Becerra] or whoever. I’ve always tried to focus on the 11 guys out there, whoever they are playing, together with communication and tight defense.”
The Mustangs are ready and waiting for their Big West rivals to take the quick trip up Highway 101 to San Luis Obispo for tonight’s game at 7, and Santa Barbara is looking to bounce back from their loss at Loyola Marymount Sunday and prove that they are still one of the top teams in the nation.