The Gauchos (9-0-2 overall) came from behind Saturday night to defeat University of San Francisco 2-1 to close out league in the same spot they have been for the last seven years: first place.
The Gauchos have won the California Community Club Soccer League now for an unprecedented seventh time in a row. Seven years is an eternity to spend at the top in sports, especially college soccer. To put it in perspective, the last time the Gauchos were not in first place in the CCCSL, LeBron James was still in high school, the national average for gas was $1.42 per gallon, the Boston Red Sox were still cursed and Brad Pitt was still married to Jennifer Aniston.
The Gauchos owe their incredible run to their amazing depth on the team. They have nine different players who have netted at least one goal, and their defense has only allowed four goals over a span of 11 games. And on top of that, they have the composure and toughness to make another run at the national title, as they have illustrated with their tough play all year.
USF scored the first goal of the match off a free kick four yards outside of the box. USF looked like the better team for the first half, mounting several offensive attacks on the Gaucho defense. After going into the half trailing, the Gauchos opened the second half strongly and looked more like the team that has been dominating all year.
“After the halftime speech I gave, they responded,” Head Coach Randy Eskilson said.
The Gauchos mounted several offensive attacks and kept coming very close to scoring. However, the USF keeper looked like too much to handle for UCSB. Sophomore midfielder Nano Chavez scored the equalizer off a free kick by senior midfielder Amir Kazemi for his second goal of the year. Then, less than two minutes later, junior forward Nick McEachin found the back of the net for the game-winning goal, his fourth goal of the year. After the sudden collapse, a couple of USF players lost their composure as they were awarded two red cards in the final minutes of the game, and one of the players even pushed the referee in frustration.
The Gauchos are now ranked first in the west heading into the regional tournament next weekend at SDSU. The Gauchos are confident after remaining unbeaten over the course of the year.
“We pretty much have dominated the whole western region,” Chavez said.
Dominated is exactly right: The Gauchos have a goal differential of +14. Our Division One team’s goal differential is +5. If UCSB continues to play at this level, it appears that no one will be able to defeat them.
“Our toughest competition is ourselves,” McEachin said. “We can beat anyone, as long as we show up to play.”
McEachin, a first-year member of the team, currently leads the explosive offense with four goals. Along with forwards Zach Smith and Corey Vermillion, as well as midfielder Rolando Mota, the Gauchos’ offense has been transformed from last year, and is a threat to score on any team.
The Gauchos will head to SDSU this weekend for the regional tournament, where they will be seeded first.