The battle between the best of the Big West spilled into the second round of the NCAA men’s soccer tournament as #13 Cal State Northridge defeated #14 UCSB 3-2.
The Gauchos blew first-half leads of 1-0 and 2-1 and lost for just the second time after having a lead this season.
“I felt that if we possessed the ball that we’d win the game,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “But we didn’t defend.”
The UCSB offense drew first blood in the sixth minute. Senior midfielder Bryan Byrne grabbed a loose ball at the midfield line and dribbled all the way down near the touchline. Byrne tried to cross the ball to the back post, but it deflected off Matador senior midfielder Gianni Facio into the net.
Northridge answered right back minutes later. Following a foul on the Gauchos just outside their own penalty box, senior Big West Midfielder of the Year Daniel Paladini squeezed the free kick around the UCSB wall and inside the near post past diving junior keeper Kyle Reynish.
“We wanted to defend first and foremost,” senior midfielder Nate Boyden said. “It’s very frustrating to come out without a win.”
In the 12th minute, sophomore defender Andy Iro intercepted a poor clearance by the Northridge defense and found sophomore Andrew Proctor. Proctor fed senior Ivan Becerra a perfect thru ball, which he blasted into the left corner for his team-leading 12th goal of the year, giving the Gauchos their second lead of the game.
Later in the first half, Northridge junior midfielder Taylor Canel launched a shot from outside the penalty box that went wide to the right. Northridge senior forward Will Beard got to the ball before it went out and beat Reynish to knot the game at two.
The game winner came in the 39th minute, off the foot of Northridge freshman defender Brian Siu. After a corner kick, Santa Barbara’s defense headed the ball out of the box, right to Siu, who rocketed a shot from more than 30 yards out that found the back of the net.
“We’re always worried about them in transition and that’s how they got two of their goals,” Boyden said.
UCSB was unable to stop the Matadors from shooting outside the penalty box. Northridge finished with 19 shots, while the Gauchos recorded 13 – seven of which came in the second half.
“We tried to push so much in the second half and it was hard to get back [on defense],” senior midfielder Chris Hughes said.
The match turned physical late in the game, with the referee issuing eight yellow cards – out of a game-total of nine yellow cards – in the second half. UCSB finished with only five shots on goal. The three goals allowed were the most by Santa Barbara in any game this season.
“This is a tighter field than we’re used to and we were playing a team that plays well at home,” Vom Steeg said.
It was the last game in a Gaucho uniform for seniors Boyden, Hughes, Byrne, Becerra, defender Pat Scott and forward Jonathan Davis.