Tuesday was not a typical evening at Harder Stadium. The opposition was a group of the best 16-year-olds Mexico had to offer. The home team played its reserves for almost the entire game. The visitors’ fans were as loud and numerous as the Gaucho Locos. The clock counted up.
In fact, only two characteristics remained of a typical UCSB soccer game. First, there was a huge crowd – 8,425 people to be precise. Second, and perhaps more distinctive of a Santa Barbara home game, the Gauchos came away with a win.
UCSB came from behind to oust the Mexican National U-17 Team 2-1 in dramatic fashion in an exhibition match, notching a game-winning goal in the final moments of double overtime.
“The game was a really great success,” senior forward David Walker said. Walker, who, like most of UCSB’s regular starters, spent the game on the bench, said, “I thought it was a great atmosphere. … and I think it was important for morale. It was a bunch of young players out there for the most part; it was big for them to win because they really proved themselves.”
The Gaucho subs did that and more, hanging tough with exceptionally quick and skillful opposition and eventually scoring the game-winner.
“They were very good,” junior defender Michael Boxall said of the young Mexican squad. Boxall, who also spent the game on the bench (to the chagrin of his competitive instinct) went on to call Mexico “one of the better teams we’ll come across this season,” despite the substantial age gap.
The scoring almost began in the 10th minute, when Mexico was awarded an early penalty kick. Faced with his first challenge of the evening, Gaucho sophomore Trond Helge Takset rose to the challenge. The keeper dove left and palmed the ball away from the net, keeping the score tied at 0-0.
The scoreless tally would not hold, however, and in the 38th minute Mexico evened on a free kick. The ball bounced around in the box and UCSB could not clear, so forward Daniel Guzman took advantage and put the ball past Takset for the first score.
The game remained 1-0 at half but would not stay that way for much longer. Early in the second half, Santa Barbara sophomore Peter McGlynn tied things up with a beautiful long-distance shot. His effort launched high into the air, before rapidly dropping over the keeper’s hands and just under the crossbar.
Sprinting past the Gaucho Locos as tortillas rained from the sky, McGlynn seemingly turned the momentum back in UCSB’s favor. For the remainder of the game, Santa Barbara looked like the better squad, but the outcome was far from decided.
It was not until the 110th minute of play that the third and final goal was scored. Long after regulation ended, long after the first overtime and following numerous chances by both squads, a pair of UCSB sophomore midfielders finally put the game away. Danny Barrera found the feet of Joe Eubanks on a corner kick, and Eubanks just pushed the ball into the back of the net to give Santa Barbara a hard-fought victory.
The exhibition victory does not improve UCSB’s official record or attendance figures, but as it stands, the Gauchos are 5-1-1 going into a weekend slate of San Diego State and UC Irvine. The Irvine game is at home, and will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.