The start of Big West play has not worked in the Gauchos’ favor thus far. They lost both games last weekend by a combined score of 8-2, but they look to turn things around on the road against CSUN. This will be the first game of a two-match mini road trip that will take them to Hawaii next Thursday.
UCSB comes into Thursday’s matchup at 4-6-3 overall, 0-2 in conference play and currently sits in a three-way tie for the last place in the Big West. CSUN comes into the meeting on a two-game losing streak and is 4-4-4, 0-1 for sixth place in the Big West.
This game could prove to be crucial for the Gauchos as they look to move up the standings.
The Matadors haven’t been playing their best soccer lately as they struggle to stay over .500, so it will be a welcome change for UCSB from playing teams like UCI, who defeated UCSB 4-1 over the past weekend and is one of two teams undefeated in Big West play and leave little to no room for error.
The big key for the Gauchos is going to be taking advantage of scoring opportunities, especially in the box. They’ve been able to get shots off in their last two games, outshooting UCR (14-8) and only shooting one less than UCI (8-9). However, their shots on goal percentage of .113 are in the bottom half of the league.
Against a team like Northridge, who won’t push the pace or really make them pay for their mistakes, hopefully, the Gauchos can feel more settled and comfortable making mistakes which usually leads to more goals being scored.
One player to look out for on the offensive end for UCSB is freshman midfielder, Christine Maurer.
She scored the sole goal in the team’s last game and has four goals and one assist in six games started, which is exceptional production from a midfielder.
Her individual efforts will hopefully permeate the rest of the team as they come into the game with a .091 shot percentage in conference play. The lack of goals hasn’t come from a lack of opportunities, but rather not enough follow-through on the part of UCSB’s attackers.
Defensively, this game will be a good opportunity to build chemistry and work on moving the ball upfield. CSUN actually has a lower overall shot percentage than the Gauchos at .068 and scores less than one goal per game 0.83, so strengthening internal aspects such as ball movement and communication will be a bigger challenge for UCSB to focus on.
While it is early in the season, this game will be pivotal for gearing up toward the end of the year.
With such a competitive schedule, it’s important for the Gauchos to stock up wins against lower opponents since they are going to see such solid competition from up top.
Although CSUN doesn’t pose as much of a threat offensively as UCSB’s last two opponents, the Matadors still do have weapons, and it will be up to the Gauchos to put on a stifling defensive performance and start the trudge up the rankings.
UCSB and CSUN will play Thursday, Oct. 5, at 4 p.m. The match will take place at Matador Soccer Field.
A version of this story appeared on p. 7 of the Oct. 5, 2017, edition of the Daily Nexus.