The defending national champion UCSB men’s club soccer team suffered their first loss since November 15th, 2007 at the hands of the USC Trojans this past weekend and now their playoff status remains unclear. The Gauchos (10-1-2 overall) lost in the semifinals of the western regional tournament, a tournament they were supposed to win and needed to win to receive an automatic qualification to the national tournament. The Gauchos winning streak could only last so long and for the first time this year, they didn’t seem invincible.
The tournament started off like every other for the Gauchos. UCSB came out against SDSU, the tournament host, and dismantled it on its home field. The Gauchos won 3-0 off goals from forward Corey Vermillion, defender Jordan Kato and midfielder Ryan Franco. Next, the Gauchos played the USC Trojans, a team they defeated earlier this year. Due to a combination of an overconfident UCSB team and a controversial call, the Gauchos suffered their first loss.
“The turning point in the game was the ridiculous call,” senior defender Johnny Walker said.
The call in question was on a Gaucho throw-in. The referee said the UCSB player had moved too far up from where the ball exited the field, and overturned the throw-in to give it to USC. A strong-armed Trojan then proceeded to throw it into the box, finding the head of another Trojan for their first goal. The Trojans would take out then put a nail in the Gauchos coffin, countering a heavy Gauchos offensive attack to put USC up 2-0. The score held to give the Gauchos their first loss of the year. The match marked the first time the Gauchos had not scored in a game this year, the first time they allowed in multiple goals in one game this year and they first time they lost to USC in over five years.
“[USC] gave us a game,” said injured keeper Joel Katz. “They played their hearts out”
The future of the Gauchos season now rests on whether or not they receive an at large bid into the national tournament. Given their national title last year as well as a mostly dominant season this year, they should be a favorite to receive one.
“It would be absurd, ridiculous for us not to be included,” Walker said
Walker, as well as the other co-captain Matt Berson, has written a letter to the tournament director expressing his concerns for inclusion into the Tournament. The team expects to have a response by Wednesday and remain optimistic. Katz said the humbling loss could boost the Gauchos near the end of the season and help them get back to their winning ways where it matters the most: the national tournament.
“This could be the best thing to happen to us,” the injured Katz said.
The last time the Gauchos did not win was against a tie against UC Davis. Santa Barbara then responded with a 3-0 victory over Cal Poly the next game. If given the opportunity, UCSB can likely make another run at the title. But for now, they have to sit and wait to see if they will get the chance.