Coming off their first loss of the season, the No. 7 UCSB men’s soccer team’s Akron Tournament will continue Monday against the hosts. Both teams were riding high after remaining undefeated through the first two weeks of the season, but now each side has experienced defeat to a ranked opponent in the last couple days.
The Zips (3-2-0), ranked no. 10 in the Coaches’ Poll, will be hoping to bounce back after getting blown out by UCLA last week 6-1. As for the Gauchos (4-1-0), Tim Vom Steeg’s men are aiming to head home from Ohio with at least one win under their belts after losing 4-2 against no. 19 Butler on Friday.
Santa Barbara is coming into the game with an offense that’s been linking up extremely well for the first few games of the season, but have shown some defensive weakness giving the ball up too easily in their own half. UCSB is averaging 2.20 goals per match thus far, giving up 1.4 goals a game.
Vom Steeg was vocal after the Gauchos’ Butler loss with his frustration regarding the amount of defensive errors the team made in that match, but did turn around and praise how his offense has been performing consistently every time they take the field.
Much of the offensive threat has come from the midfield, with junior Kevin Feucht leading the team in goals with three, and just behind him is freshman midfielder Daniel Amo with two. With so many of Santa Barbara’s goals so far this season coming from the center of the park, space has started to open up for the Gauchos’ dangerman Nick DePuy.
DePuy, who led the nation last year with 15 regular season goals, struggled to find his footing in the first two games of the new season, but has since found last year’s form, netting twice in the last three games including a game-winner against St. Mary’s. The senior striker has forcefully imposed his size and aerial threat on the last three defenses he’s faced, and will likely continue to do so for much of the season.
Midfielder Josue España—who, along with DePuy, is one of two seniors to start every game—leads the team in assists with three.
Akron, the winningest program in college soccer since 2007, is averaging just 1.0 goals per game, struggling to get things going in the attacking third. They’ve made up for their offensive struggles, with solid team defense, also averaging 1.4 goals against per game, but have only allowed a single goal in four games excluding the UCLA loss.
The opponent, a Zips side that was ranked No. 1 in the nation heading into the ’16/17 season should be the Gauchos’ toughest of the year so far, headlining what is a pretty tough middle section of their preseason schedule. UCSB will have played Butler, Akron, No. 8 UCLA, and perennial stalwart Cal within the span of two weeks, but a win at Akron’s home tournament would give Santa Barbara a massive boost of confidence heading into the next couple games.
The match will be played at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the University of Akron Tournament (FirstEnergy Stadium).