After two decisive wins in its opening weekend matches against Oakland and then No. 18 Ohio State in the Wolstein Classic, the No. 10 UCSB men’s soccer team is ready to kick off its home schedule with two games at Harder Stadium this weekend before heading back out on the road.
The Gauchos come into their first match against the University of San Diego on Friday with a spotless 2-0-0 record. Both wins Santa Barbara achieved last week against the Golden Grizzlies and the Buckeyes were of the one-goal variety with the latter game being won in overtime thanks to a clutch goal from junior midfielder Kevin Feucht.
UCSB’s two opponents this weekend, aforementioned USD and St. Mary’s (Calif.), trail in the team’s all-time record against each other at 12-6 and 6-4, respectively. San Diego currently comes into this matchup at 1-0-1 with its one win coming against Elon College.
The last time these two squads faced off was last year in a late September match which saw the home team Gauchos trounce their opponents 4-0. This year, however, the Toreros will look to put up more of a fight thanks to senior standouts Parker Price, Merlin Hoeckendorff and Michael Turner.
All three were named to the John Rennie Nike Invitational All-Tournament Team after solid performances including Turner and Hoeckendorff each scoring one goal. Turner, a midfielder, has been a consistent threat for San Diego starting in 50 games in the previous three years, scoring nine goals and assisting on 10 and being a key reason why the Toreros have won their conference championship three of the last four years.
While USD will look to avenge an embarrassing loss from the previous year, St. Mary’s will look to pick up its first win of the season. No type of revenge will be a factor in the Gaels and Gauchos matchup as both teams haven’t met since early in the 2002 season which saw UCSB winning 6-0.
Instead, St. Mary’s will look to forget about its two draws last weekend against then No. 23 Cal and then No. 1 Stanford. Both matches ended in 2-2 ties with the match against Stanford being a harder pill to swallow as the Gaels blew a 2-0 lead with less than 15 minutes to go in the contest. To make matters worse, the Gaels lost a Thursday matchup to Washington 2-1 with the deciding goal coming in the 87th minute.
Even though St. Mary’s is not currently ranked nationally, it is clear that after solid performances against two Top-25 teams, including the No. 1 team in the country, that it will be no easy foe to take on.
The Gaels are led by senior defender Rafael Sanchez and sophomore midfielder Stephen Dougherty who both lead the team with three points, one goal and one assist.
If St. Mary’s hopes to pull off the upset, it will need to fix its second half defense as it has been outscored 4-2. All four goals have also been scored past the 70-minute mark meaning stamina is a factor for this team.
While no game on the schedule is ever easy, it is made easier knowing you have a star player like senior forward Nick DePuy. Although the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List player has yet to net a goal this season, he has assisted in one of the three scores UCSB has nailed this season.
Helping DePuy will be All-Tournament Team members from last week’s Wolstein Classic: senior midfielder Josue España, sophomore defender Sam Strong and Feucht. España scored two goals in the Gauchos exhibition match two weeks ago and continued that hot streak into the regular season scoring his first goal last week.
Feucht had the aforementioned game-winning goal against Ohio State in overtime and Strong has been a key defender as well as a big reason Santa Barbara has only allowed one goal this season. Of course, goalkeeper Titouan Le Roux has also been great and a big part as to why only one goal has gotten past them.
Another thing the Gauchos have going for them is, of course, the home factor. It’s no secret UCSB is a powerhouse soccer school and the crowd usually plays a big part in that. Since 2009, Santa Barbara has posted a 56-18-7 home record.
The Gauchos face off against the Toreros at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 2 at Harder Stadium. UCSB will then face St. Mary’s at 7:05 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 4 at Harder Stadium. Both matches are following the women’s matches who has a perfect record as well this season. Both games will be streamed live on UCSBGauchos.com