After being upset on the road during the first Big West conference game of the year, the UCSB men’s soccer team has an opportunity for redemption when it faces UC Riverside at home this Saturday. The Gauchos lost their previous game against UCR 3-1 on the road to open the season.
“They have a pretty small field, it was a tight space there,” sophomore defender Peter Schmetz said. “It was pretty competitive; there were a lot of tackles and one-on-ones that increased the fouls.”
UCSB is currently 9-4-1 overall, while UCR is 7-5-2 on the year. Both teams are currently tied for fifth place overall in Big West.
UCSB’s last match against UCR ended in a 3-1 loss in front of a record crowd at the Highlanders’ home stadium. The Gauchos were only able to put away one of their 21 shot attempts throughout the game.
The match served as a physical prequel to Saturday’s rematch. Five yellow cards in total were issued — two to UCSB and three to UCR. The Highlanders also lead the league in fouls called, averaging just over 15 whistle blows per game.
“It’s just how we play,” junior midfielder Nic Ryan said. “We want to make sure that they know we’re there. We go out to every game with that mindset.”
The Highlanders are just 2-4-1 on the road, with wins over nonconference opponents Jacksonville and North Florida. UCSB is 6-1-1 at home, with its sole loss coming against Irvine in the second game of the season.
UCR goalkeeper Cody Suppe leads the league in saves (59) and saves per game (4.54), and ranks at the bottom of the league in goals allowed.
UCSB senior midfielder Luis Silva leads both the team and the conference in goals scored with nine total. Sophomore forward David Opoku trails Silva with seven goals on the season and junior forward Sam Garza has five.
The Gaucho offense, which opened Big West play with a dismal three goals in the first three games, has scored nine goals in the three matches following. UCSB’s 6-0 thrashing of visiting Fullerton is the most goals scored by any team in Big West play this year.
“A lot of our guys stay after practice or before practice working on finishing,” Ryan said. “That’s one of our key goals. If we finish in the beginning [of games] we’ll be good.”