Penalty Dooms Gauchos
The “Blue-Green Rivalry” came up red for UCSB in the aftermath of Cal Poly’s 2-1 victory over the Gaucho soccer team Friday night. The Mustangs upset the Gauchos for the second consecutive year at Alex G. Spanos Stadium in San Luis Obispo on a penalty-kick goal by Patrick Sigler in the final minute.
While thousands of Cal Poly fans in the crowd of 11,075 stormed the field in celebration, UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg stalked away. He had received a red card for vehemently disputing the referee’s decision to award Cal Poly the decisive penalty kick. Gaucho defender Tim Pontius, who tossed the ball from a distance toward a linesman at the conclusion of the match, also was assessed a red card. Both Vom Steeg and Pontius will have to sit out UCSB’s home match against UC Riverside next Saturday, October 22.
The Gauchos, coming off a 6-0 victory over Cal State Fullerton, took a 1-0 lead over the Mustangs in the 12th minute of the first half. Dom Sarle flicked a header at midfield to Sam Garza, who split two defenders and went one-on-one with goalkeeper Patrick McLain. Garza shot the ball inside the far post for his fifth goal of the season.
The score held up until the 79th minute of the game. Gaucho goalkeeper Andre Grandt uncharacteristically fumbled a ball over the end line, giving Cal Poly a corner kick. Cameron Walters found a hole in UCSB’s defense and headed Kyle Montgomery’s kick into the net for a 1-1 tie.
Garza almost put the Gauchos back in the lead with a scorching shot that McLain deflected with a one-handed save. Given a reprieve, the Mustangs mounted several attacks in the final minutes. With 39 seconds remaining, Montgomery took the ball into the left side of the penalty box and was met by UCSB defender Peter Schmetz. Referee Yader Reyes saw a foul and pointed to the penalty spot. Sigler netted the penalty kick on the left side while Grandt dove the other way.
Vom Steeg maintained that Schmetz “got the ball” and a penalty never should have been called. “[Reyes] decided he wanted to be a hero,” the Gaucho coach said.
But aside from Garza’s burst, UCSB did not muster much of a threat in the second half. Cal Poly outshot the Gauchos 10-2 in the last 45 minutes. “We got tired and were back on our heels a little bit,” Vom Steeg said.
It was the third time this season that an inspired Big West opponent has taken down the Gauchos, who were riding high after their recent victory over defending NCAA champion Akron. They are 9-4-1 overall and 2-3 in the conference. Cal Poly is 6-5-2 and 3-2.
Friday’s crowd filled the stadium to its capacity and is tied for the seventh largest regular-season attendance in NCAA soccer history. Eight of the 22 largest crowds have attended the UCSB-Cal Poly rivalry. The two teams will meet again at Harder Stadium on November 4.