There is no love lost between the UCSB and Cal Poly men’s soccer programs… none at all.
This rendition of the central coast’s best rivalry featured seven yellow cards, 32 fouls and a whole lot of bad blood. It also delivered what the teams’ three prior meetings could not: a decision without double overtime. Fortunately for the near-6,000 Gaucho fans in attendance for the Wednesday night match, the game’s lone goal came from the foot of UCSB sophomore midfielder Luis Silva and gave Santa Barbara a 1-0 win.
“We wanted to keep on scoring,” Silva said, and the shot count proved his point. The Gauchos actually out-shot the Mustangs 22-8, including a 9-5 advantage on frame for the home team. “Unluckily we couldn’t, but my shot went in and it was enough to get the game.”
Silva’s goal came in the 30th minute and held for the next 60, but it was actually the Mustangs who nearly scored first. In what was Cal Poly’s best opportunity of the night, David Zamora split the UCSB defense and found himself in the box with just the keeper to beat. He elected to try to chip Gaucho goalie Sam Hayden from 15 yards out, and put a solid effort towards the frame. The ball, on the downward end of its trajectory, just clanged into the underside of the post and slammed into the goal line. Hayden was quick to grab it off the bounce and avoid a put-back, but the Gauchos knew they caught a break.
“That would have completely changed the game,” sophomore midfielder Danny Barrera said. “We would have turned it up to a whole ‘nother level.”
The Gauchos may not have had to play from behind, but they did seem to turn up the heat more than a little bit. Following the crossbar clanker, Santa Barbara took eight of the next nine shots, including one effort from Barrera that had to be cleared off the end line by a Mustang defender.
“We had a lot of chances, but sometimes it just doesn’t go your way,” Barrera said. “We definitely need to be more clinical and tuck [those shots] away.”
It was not long, however, until the Gauchos did just that, as Silva handled a short pass from Michael Tetteh and moved toward the right edge of the 18-yard semicircle. The midfielder took a windup and launched his shot cross-body at the left side of the goal, past the hands of a diving Patrick McLain and into the net.
“We actually talked about passing it around in their box, and the holes will open up for us to get a clear shot,” Barrera said. “That was a great example.”
With a 1-0 lead, the Gauchos continued to pressure the Mustangs but never overcommitted to the attack. This allowed the defense to stay in front of Cal Poly’s attackers and never give up open looks.
“Our mentality is win the first ball, win the second ball,” Silva said. The midfielder, despite scoring the game’s only goal, plays more of a defensive roll for UCSB and was a big part in the team’s third-straight shutout. “And we go in strong into every single ball.”
Those strong challenges turned into yellow cards in the second half, as the referee was unafraid to reach to his book and penalize players stepping out of line. He could not stop the fouls or the ensuing scuffles, however, as several times the squads resorted to shoving. To say there was some animosity between the two squads would be an understatement.
“We kind of have this thing: ‘eye on the prize,’ and they’re just a team we have to go through to get where we want to be,” Barrera said, before conceding. “But definitely this was our biggest game — they’re our biggest rival.”
Despite five Mustang shots on goal in the second frame, Hayden was hardly tested in the whole contest. Credit certainly goes to the defense (along with a couple solid Hayden punch-outs) for notching their third consecutive shutout, over solid competition.
With the win, the Gauchos improve to 8-2-1 (2-0 Big West) while the Mustangs drop to 4-7-0, and 2-1 in conference. Next up for UCSB is a Saturday road match under the lights at UC Riverside. And as excited as the Gauchos are to beat their rivals, they are not planning to dwell on it long.
“We’ll just leave it in the past,” Silva said. “We have our next game, and we’ll take it one game at a time.”
Whether or not the team can celebrate, this win is certainly one the fans can hang their hats on. Cal Poly is always fun to beat.