With a bad taste in their mouths still lingering after last week’s overtime loss to Cal State Fullerton, the members of the UCSB men’s soccer team (4-3-2 overall, 1-1 Big West) will have an early opportunity to exact revenge tonight at Harder Stadium.
“We have to put the ball in the back of the net, we have to bury them,” freshman forward David Opoku said. “We just have to kill them. More than three goals. Anything less than three goals will be a disgrace to us. Last game was really embarrassing.”
After dominating the possession time as well as the box score in that match, with 22 shots to just 10 for Fullerton, UCSB dropped a heartbreaker in the first overtime period, 1-0, on a sudden death goal that slipped past senior goalkeeper Sam Hayden.
“I think we’re a little excited about the fact that we get to play a team we just lost to a week ago,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “Usually you have to wait a while to have a rematch, so I think the team and the coaching staff is excited for that opportunity.”
In addition to a losing conference match and falling out of the top 25 in most national rankings, the Gauchos also lost Hayden and sophomore forward Sam Garza to red cards. It is a rare occurrence for a rematch to come this close to the original game, and the team is relishing the opportunity.
The difference this time will be that the Gauchos are playing in front of their home crowd, which has consistently been among the biggest in the nation. UCSB is now 2-1-1 at home after Saturday’s win in extra time over UC Davis, its fifth overtime match in nine overall.
“Obviously [the home crowd] tends to give us a lot more energy, as opposed to the 300 people that showed up at Fullerton,” senior defender Michael Boxall said. “Hopefully it inspires us to put more balls away and be able to finish off the match early.”
Scoring early has been a key for the team this season and something that Vom Steeg emphasizes heavily. Going into the match, he will look to make some minor adjustments to ensure his squad gets on the board early and often.
“The tendency for us to is to stay with the same package, since we did play well last time,” Vom Steeg said. “But I really feel like we have to change things enough to where we’re still scoring goals. The goal would be for us to get on the board early in the first half, so we’re to put more players up front and see if we can do that.”
With just .79 goals against on average, good for 29th nationally, the UCSB defense has been stellar so far this season. With Hayden still serving his suspension, freshman goalkeeper Eric Reyes will be in his place in the net. Reyes notched two saves and one goal against in his first match against Davis, and the pressure will be on him to continue holding down the goal as the offense tries to score.
But for a team that puts up an average of 14.2 shots per game and still sits in fourth place in the Big West, the spotlight will be on the offense.
“I feel that we’ve been really unlucky so far, playing well and then not winning in the end,” Boxall said. “And that one day it’s going to come right and we’re going to put away a team early, and hopefully that day is tomorrow.”
Kickoff at Harder Stadium will be at 7 p.m.
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