Chris Pontius scored his ninth goal of the season, and David Walker punched in another, as UCSB extended the nation’s longest soccer scoring streak to 31 games Wednesday night.
So why wasn’t Gaucho Coach Tim Vom Steeg happy?
His defense sprung a couple leaks that let Cal State Northridge back in the game, and the two Big West Conference rivals fought to a 2-2 tie at Harder Stadium.
“Gosh, what is wrong with my back line?” Vom Steeg asked.
Maybe he should call a chiropractor, because the Gauchos need to fix things in a hurry if they hope to defend their league championship. UC Davis, unbeaten in its last nine games, rolls into Harder Stadium for a 7 p.m. showdown Saturday. The Aggies are 2-0-1 in the Big West and 10-1-1 overall. UCSB is 1-0-1 and 6-3-2. Both teams are ranked in the national polls UC Davis as high as No. 13 (College Soccer News) and UCSB at No. 15 (Soccer America).
“This is a hard league,” Vom Steeg said. The Gauchos have gone back-and-forth with Northridge over the years, and now Davis, Cal Poly, and UC Irvine are also title contenders.
The Gauchos showed some grit Wednesday after being forced to play a man down for the third time in four games. Freshman midfielder Danny Barrera was red-carded off the field in a bizarre sequence during the final seconds of regulation time.
When Northridge was awarded a free kick about 30 yards out from the goal, Barrera camped himself over the ball, giving UCSB time to organize its defense. The delay caused Barrera to receive a yellow card. Milan Radovic then took the kick for the Matadors, and a leaping Barrera blocked it. Deciding that Barrera was within 10 yards of the spot it was close Referee Jesse Johnson waved another yellow and then a red at the Gaucho freshman.
Barrera will be forced to sit out the UC Davis match, and UCSB’s other outstanding freshman midfielder, Bryan Dominguez, will be less than 100 percent. Dominguez sat out Wednesday’s match to rest a sprained ankle.
Even through outnumbered, the Gauchos did more attacking than Northridge in the 20 minutes of overtime. Pontius had a ball played to his feet in front of an open net, but he slipped on the damp turf before he could take a shot.
“It was the dew,” said Pontius, who spent most of the night trying to fight off Northridge defenders. “They always play us tough,” the UCSB senior said.
Pontius set up the Gauchos’ first goal in ninth minute of the match. He centered a ball to Nick Perera, who flicked it to Walker on the right wing. Walker stroked the ball easily inside the far post.
Northridge tied it 1-1 when Ben Cox beat two defenders and netted a rocket from the top of the box.
Pontius put the Gauchos ahead 2-1 in the 28th minute. Perera passed the ball to him out of a cluster of Matadors, and he slammed it home from close range.
Radovic tied it up again 17 minutes into the second half. The Northridge junior had an easy shot after UCSB goalkeeper Kristopher Minton went down in a scramble for the ball, and the Gauchos failed to clear it out of danger.
Since their 6-2 shellacking at the hands of top-ranked Wake Forest, the Gauchos have put together a pair of 2-1 wins on the road and a pair of 2-2 ties. In both victories, over Indiana and UC Irvine, they scored the winning goals while a man down.
Wednesday’s match began a three-game homestand for the Gaucho men. Saturday is “Kids to College Night” anyone under 13 receives free admission. The first 500 fans will receive UCSB travel mugs while the first 1,000 students and 1,000 fans will receive a Gaucho Stick. UC Riverside will visit Harder Stadium on Tuesday, October 14.
UCSB WOMEN’S SOCCER: The Gauchos (1-1, 8-5) return to their home field for the first time in a month Friday night. They will host Cal State Northridge at 7 p.m. Tickets for UCSB’s matches are available on-line, by calling 893-UCSB, or at the Harder Stadium ticket booth one hour before the match.
WESTMONT SOCCER: Azusa Pacific brought two nationally ranked NAIA squads to Montecito this week, defeating the Westmont women 2-0 on Tuesday and the men 2-0 on Wednesday. Azusa’s men are defending national champions, and they had good reason to be motivated against the Warriors. Westmont handed the Cougars their only defeat of the 2007 season. In the Golden State Athletic Conference this year, Westmont’s men are 1-3 (4-5 overall) and the women are 2-2 (3-6-1).
SBCC SOCCER: The Vaquero men began a five-game road trip with 2-1 victory over defending Western State Conference champion Oxnard, but then they were upset 3-2 by Citrus on Tuesday. Mark Knight, the state scoring leader last year, scored both goals at Oxnard and has 11 for the season. The Vaqueros are 2-1 in the conference and 7-4 overall. SBCC’s women (2-0, 7-0-4) rolled past West L.A. 5-0 in their most recent match. They are ranked No. 4 in the state and have recorded five consecutive shutouts. They will face Oxnard on Friday (7:30 p.m.) at La Playa Stadium.
SBCC FOOTBALL: The foot of Riley St. Clair produced the Vaqueros’ first victory of the season last Friday. He pounded a 50-yard field goal with 1:35 remaining to give Santa Barbara a 10-7 edge over L.A. Southwest at La Playa Stadium. SBCC (1-1 American Pacific Conference, 1-4 overall) has a bye this week.