Winning on the road is never easy. Except, of course, when it is. Despite playing without three regular starters, the #3 UCSB men’s soccer team cruised to a 3-0 victory in a high noon game at UC Davis.
“It’s the easiest win I’ve had up here in Davis since I’ve been coach,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “I thought it was a very good effort for us.”
Judging by the conditions that UCSB faced coming into the game, a dominating victory was certainly a bit of a surprise. The Gauchos have struggled at Davis in the past, and always have trouble with afternoon games. Freshman forward Michael Nonni was still sidelined with a knee injury he sustained in practice, and sophomore midfielder Luis Silva was serving a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation. Then, just one day before the trek up north, freshman defender Rob Hoyle also went down in practice. Even worse for UCSB, the rain in Davis had been so bad in days prior that, by Wednesday, the field had been deemed unfit to play on, thus postponing the game until Thursday. But once the opening whistle blew, none of the troubles facing Santa Barbara mattered.
Just two minutes into the game, Danny Barrera opened the scoring. Senior forward David Walker found Barrera with a cross, and the sophomore midfielder volleyed it into the side of the net for a goal. With the one-goal lead and riding a four goal shutout streak, the Gauchos were in no hurry to press the Aggie defense.
“Given the number of players that were out [of commission] for us, we definitely were cautious in terms of trying not to over-commit ourselves,” Vom Steeg explained.
The game changed substantially in the second half, when Davis defender Chris Beville was red-carded for a hard challenge just three minutes in, leaving his team short-manned for the remainder. With a one-goal and one-man advantage, the Gauchos were able to open up and focus on the attack. UCSB outshot the Aggies 9-3 in the second frame, with three shots hitting the framework.
Even with the increased pressure, it was not until the 76th minute that Santa Barbara broke through again. Barrera exploited a poor pass on defense from Davis and found himself one-on-one with the keeper. The sophomore kept his cool and calmly slotted the ball into the net for his second goal of the game and fifth of the season.
Finally, as time was winding down, the Gauchos added one more goal to cap things off. Barrera hit fellow sophomore midfielder Joe Eubanks with a nice pass, and Eubanks finished the job perfectly for his first goal as a Gaucho.
With the 3-0 win, Santa Barbara improves to 10-2-1 and 4-0 in conference. Moreover, the shutout streak is now at 464 minutes, spanning over five games (all wins).
Ahead for UCSB is a road match against Cal State Northridge this Sunday at 3 p.m. And while the Gauchos are playing well, Northridge should pose a legitimate challenge.
“Sunday will be a whole new challenge in another place where we historically don’t fare well,” Vom Steeg said.
To win, while still being fairly short-manned, the Gauchos will need to continue the solid defense that has earned them a top-five national ranking, and maintain an offense that has yet to be shut out this year. It sounds easy enough, but when a team is on the road it never is. Well, it rarely is anyway.