The Gauchos continue their climb up the polls after once again going the distance with a nationally ranked team following a 2-2 tie in double overtime versus No. 25 San Diego. With this most recent result occurring on the road, the No. 18 UCSB Gauchos remain with zero losses on their away record and most importantly continue their undefeated streak of seven matches.
Entering Tuesday night’s game, the Toreros were staring at the chance to make it three consecutive wins before the Gauchos spoiled the party. The match began and ended as another heated affair as sophomore defender Ryan Johnson earned UCSB its first of four yellow cards on the night in the 23rd minute of play. Nearing the end of the first half, the Gauchos were the first to strike after junior forward Ameyawu Muntari found the back of the net off an assist by senior midfielder Thibault Candia. Seconds before the whistle, Candia then closed out the first half as the game’s second player to be painted yellow.
It didn’t take San Diego very long into the second half to respond as their junior midfielder, Ross Meldrum, brought the score to one-all at the 48th minute. The night’s third goal then came minutes later as the home side took the lead in the 53rd thanks to senior midfielder Freddy Polzer. Following this, the Gauchos picked up the intensity and brought it back to two apiece off a score from junior forward Rodney Michael in the 63rd minute; senior forward Will Baynham was the provider on this play after being awarded a yellow card minutes prior. Michael’s goal ended up being the decider as neither team could manage a third goal and the result was shared 2-2 after going to double overtime.
After also tying against No. 1 Stanford just the weekend before, UCSB fans were right in their hope of a potential national ranking as the Gauchos are now considered a top-25 team in the country according to Top Drawer Soccer. UCSB also received votes in the NCAA United Soccer Coaches’ poll for Division 1 men’s soccer. It doesn’t stop here, however, as the next goal is for UCSB to be ranked within the top 25 programs in the nation in all official rankings — with the next obstacle in their way being a certain Blue-Green rival, Cal Poly.
With all the momentum in their favor as they find themselves in the midst of an undefeated streak of seven straight, UCSB enter this one at an overall record of 6-2-2 on the season — a win percentage of .700. Although the home-side favorites, the Gauchos know that this rivalry is never an easy task and will surely show their best form to the fans at Harder Stadium on Saturday night.
As for Cal Poly, the Mustangs maintain an overall record of 4-3-1, a win percentage of .563. Even with the visitors’ recent string of favorable results, Cal Poly are still without a win when playing on the road.
The Gauchos hold the historical advantage in this one as UCSB leads in the all-time series with a record of 47-20-10 over Cal Poly. Last season, both teams split even as the Mustangs won their home game by a score of 1-0 and the Gauchos were victorious in the more recent match with a 2-0 result at Harder Stadium.
With a goal in back to back games, Rodney Michael will be one to watch as he now holds two goals and two assists to his name. Candia and Baynham both remain at the top of productivity as the pair have a team-leading four goals and four assists each.
Emmanuel Perez is the danger man for Cal Poly, as the junior midfielder boasts a team-leading seven goals for the Mustangs — along with two assists.
His partner in the midfield is the Mustang captain, Diego Alonso, who just recently returned from injury and has already made a huge impact on the team’s playstyle. The Berkeley native already leads the team in assists with three in just six games and has re-energized a Cal Poly offense that was sputtering at the beginning of the season. Alonso scored the game-winner against the Gauchos in their first matchup last season, almost exactly a year ago to this date, so the depleted UCSB backline will have to keep an eye on him at all times on Saturday night.
The key to this game will be, and has always been, which team can dominate the physical facet of the match. These two teams rarely produce beautiful games when they meet up, but they are always memorable. Players on both teams harp on the fact that strategy goes out the window during rivalry games, and while the home crowd certainly pumps up the Gauchos it will have the same effect on the Mustangs as well.
It’s time to claim bragging rights in the biggest college rivalry in soccer — at least until these teams meet again on month from now.
The Blue-Green Rivalry kicks off this Saturday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. as UCSB hosts Cal Poly at Harder Stadium.