The UCSB men’s soccer team was in need of a signature victory and with No. 23 ranked UCLA visiting Harder Stadium the Gauchos seized the moment to capture a 3-1 win.
UCSB was coming off a 1-0 double overtime loss to No. 17 St. Mary’ s on the road, but bounced back behind two goals from Rodney Michael and an imposing defense that suffocated the Bruins despite playing a man down for the final 52 minutes of the match.
“I thought that we were a different team tonight,” said UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg. “I felt like there was a big challenge put forward about the fact that we had not been able to beat a quality opponent this year. That’s not taking away from our other wins necessarily, but we’d kind of done the things we were supposed to do until now.”
The night did not begin as the Gauchos had hoped as UCLA struck first in the 6th minute when Frankie Amaya found the back of the net with a left-footed shot from the top of the box off an assist from Blayne Martinez.
The early goal provoked an audible gasp from the crowd of 5,235 that descended upon Harder Stadium.
“To be fair the goal that they got that was like cut it over to your left foot 22 yards out an put it in the corner,” Vom Steeg said. “That’s kind of a ridiculous goal.”
It didn’t take long for UCSB to respond. In the 16th minute Michael gathered a pass from Axel Mendez, took two touches and finished across goal to even the match at 1-1.
About a minute later UCSB found goal again off a corner kick. Candia Thibault served the ball into the box and it deflected off the head of a UCLA defender and into goal.
The UCSB scoring outburst conclude in the 22nd minute when Faouzi Taieb got his head to a corner kick and Michael tapped it in for his second goal of the match increasing the UCSB lead to 3-1.
“Even before the game we knew that we had to win this game if we wanted a chance to make the playoffs without winning the Big West,” Michael said. “After they got the goal I think that motivated us even more to go out there and work harder.”
From the very beginning of the match UCSB played with great energy and effort, which translated into a very physical style of play.
The Gauchos were issued seven yellow cards and Sahid Conteh was sent off after his second yellow card in the 38th minute forcing the Gauchos to play a man down for the remainder of the game.
“The big key for us is and every team has to take advantage of the fact that we are OK giving up set pieces,” Vom Steeg said. “I don’t want to give up set pieces from 25 yards and in, but I would welcome anybody to try and line up from midfield and dump a ball in on us.”
Playing with only ten men UCSB took a defensive posture in the second half with great effectiveness. Freshman goalkeeper Ben Roach was a key component of UCSB’s stellar defensive effort in the second half. He finished with four saves.
The Gauchos hope to avoid a let down when they host Gonzaga Tuesday beginning at 7 p.m.