The UCSB men’s soccer team kicked off its Spring season this weekend in losing fashion.

The Gauchos fell to Canada’s under-23 squad – the same team that will face off against the United States in the 2010 Olympics – 3-2 at Harder Stadium Friday night. Former Santa Barbara star Tyler Rosenlund played at UCSB for the first time since 2006. In his last game as a Gaucho at Harder Stadium, Rosenlund tallied a hat trick against Northwestern in the quarterfinals in the NCAA Tournament, helping UCSB reach its second College Cup in three years en route to being crowned NCAA champions.

“I had a good time coming back and playing here, but we didn’t play very well,” Rosenlund said. “We’ve only been playing together for about a week, but I think things will get better for us. The atmosphere was great here, just like it always it.”

The Canadians were not intimidated by Harder’s crowd, jumping out to a 2-0 lead early in the first half, but junior midfielder Chris Pontius went to work starting in the second frame. The Yorba Linda native, playing on the left wing in the midfield, tallied both of UCSB’s goals, including a left-footed rocket into the side of the net to put the Gauchos on the board. Pontius followed his first goal with a 20-yard chip over goalkeeper David Monsalve – who was out of position in the middle of the penalty box – late in the second half to cut Santa Barbara’s deficit to one at 3-2.

“We weren’t scoring goals and [Pontius] said he was tired and wanted to move up,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “He scored two goals mostly because he is able to get shots off.”

After putting together one of the best beginnings to a Gaucho career in the history of the program, sophomore forward Bongomin Otii was inserted into the starting lineup as a striker for Santa Barbara. While Otii was unable to find the back of the net, the Denver, Colorado native was one of the more active players on the field, alternately posting up on Canada’s backline and making plenty of runs for his teammates.

The Gaucho roster was without all six seniors from last year’s squad, along with two underclassmen who joined Major League Soccer’s professional ranks, as well as several other players whose destination for next year has yet to be decided. Filling the void were three players from the UCSB club team in Rolando Beltran, Joe Ferreira and Francisco Ibarra.

“Considering the fact that we had 10 roster players I was very pleased with our performance,” Vom Steeg said. “Several guys displayed a lot of their talent tonight.”