The UCSB men’s club soccer team tied the UC Davis Aggies in the final seconds of Saturday’s game to keep their league title hopes alive. The Gauchos (3-0-2) strove to continue their unbeaten streak, but instead Davis took the lead in the 48th minute and refused to relinquish it until the final seconds of the game. The Aggies scored their goal a minute after a questionable red card left Santa Barbara one man down. Senior forward Zach Smith received his first card of the year when he came too close to the goalie in the forty-seventh minute.
“I didn’t touch [the goalie] at all,” Smith said. “That was one of the worst calls I’ve ever experienced.”
Coach Randy Eskilson also disagreed with the call, but was satisfied with the game’s final decision.
“Both teams played well,” said Eskilson. “The red card changed how the game was played, but I was extremely proud with the way we came back and fought.”
With Smith absent from the lineup, the ten Gauchos on the field had to really step up their game. They had several close shot attempts, including three shots on goal in the 84th, 85th and 87th minutes, but struggled to find the equalizer. As the game headed into second-half stoppage time, the UCSB loss seemed inevitable. However, due to a critical mistake inside the box by the Aggie defense, Santa Barbara was granted a penalty kick. With mere seconds left, the game — and possibly the league title — was on the line. Junior forward Nick McEachin volunteered to take the penalty kick against the impressive Davis goalkeeper. After the referee’s whistle blew, McEachin stepped up and fired the shot. The keeper went one way, but McEachin sent the ball the other way and found the back of the net to tie the game with his first goal of the season.
“No one stepped up and I’m glad I could,” said McEachin. “I live for these moments.”
The Gauchos came into the game expecting to beat Davis, but thanks to the red card and stellar second half play from Davis, they were forced to rely on a clutch finish from McEachin to settle for the tie. Because national favorite UCSB is still unbeaten, it can still make a strong case for the national #1 ranking heading into the postseason. Still, the frustration of tying a beatable team left the Gauchos wanting more, which McEachin said should translate into more aggressive play in their next match against Central Coast rival, Cal Poly.
“Come out here Friday and see what happens, ” said McEachin. “We’re going to take it out on the next team.”
While UCSB remains the national favorite, Saturday’s stumble means that it will need to make a strong showing on Friday to keep momentum going as it continues its bid to repeat as national champion. Kickoff for Friday’s match is slated for 7 p.m. at Rob Field.