Without the comforts of home, the UCSB men’s soccer team struggled on the road once again, losing its third straight road contest 1-0 to UC Riverside.
Eerily reminiscent of the match against UCLA last week, the Gauchos (7-6 overall, 3-2 in the Big West) allowed a goal in the second minute and had to play from behind against a Highlander (4-8-1, 1-3-1 Big West) team that dropped nearly every man back into defense after the goal. Santa Barbara has been outscored 7-0 in its last three road matches.
“It’s very disappointing that unless the game is at Harder Stadium, at seven at night, we can’t score goals,” UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “We didn’t get it done at Davis and didn’t at Northridge. We’ve tried a lot of different things to make it right but it comes down to our inability to put the ball in the back of the net on the road.”
Freshman forward Nathan Paterson volleyed a cross from freshman forward Michael Galland into the net for his team-leading fourth goal of the year at the 1:15 mark. UCSB had plenty of opportunities to tie the match and outshot Riverside 20-9, but failed to find the back of the net yet again.
With the departure of Neil Jones and Drew McAthy two years ago and Ivan Becerra last year, the Gauchos are without a striker that can step up and deliver the game-winning goal on the road. After netting five goals in the season opener against Akron, UCSB has scored just 11 times in 12 games.
“It doesn’t matter who you play against; if you can’t score chances are you’re going to lose the game,” Vom Steeg said. “That’s what has kept us from going forward. We’ve played a lot of poor games down here, but we’ve had someone score goals for us. Today was a carbon copy of the UC Davis game where we fail to get on the board early and have to attack against nine or 10 guys.”
The loss takes UCSB out of first place heading into Saturday’s match at Cal Poly. The Gauchos took down the Mustangs (5-5-3, 1-2-1 Big West) 2-0 in early September on goals by sophomore midfielder Chris Pontius and freshman forward Bongomin Otii.
“Because of stadium renovation they moved the field out of the stadium,” Vom Steeg said. “We’ve had success in the stadium, but moving outside the stadium to an outside field makes it harder. The way they play defense anyone will struggle there.”
Santa Barbara does not have much more room for error if it is to regain the Big West crown that Cal State Northridge stole last season. This was the first time the Highlanders defeated the Gauchos at the Division I level and UCSB is now 2-4 on the road.
“Today I don’t think we were ready to play,” Vom Steeg said. “But it’s a game we needed to win. We have not been able to have enough leadership on the field to make it to where all the guys are playing.”