Harder Stadium has been good to the UCSB men’s soccer team so far this season as the Gauchos remain unbeaten at home following a 1-0 victory over UC Davis on Wednesday night.
The pivotal match against UC Davis was the first of three home matches for the Gauchos to close the regular season. UCSB boasts a 7-0 record at Harder Stadium and with a logjam in the middle of the Big West Standings the Gauchos can use every point they can get.
“Obviously there’s a bit of urgency to what we’re doing here,” said UCSB assistant coach Greg Wilson, who was serving as active head coach due to the one-game suspension of head coach Tim Vom Steeg as a result of two yellow cards against UC Irvine. “I don’t think the goals are going to come if you’re trying to force it, but there was a sense of urgency in the locker room and in the mentality of the group and their approach tonight is what really made the difference.”
An early goal by Thibault Candia in the 26th minute set the tone of the match and allowed UCSB to play loose in a high leverage situation.
On the play Candia narrowly kept the ball in bounds and flicked it off the heel of UC Davis defender Justin Wright and into goal from an improbable angle. It was Candia’s first goal of the season.
“First I tried to cross the ball for Rodney at the back post. The defender blocked me and after that I tried to get the corner and the ball deflected of his feet and into goal,” Candia said. “It was very lucky, but I’ll take it.”
The Gauchos’ goal was fortunate, but their dominance on the pitch was not. UCSB controlled possession throughout and outshot the Aggies 12 to three over the course of the match.
UC Davis struggled mightily to string together passes in the midfield and only put one shot on frame during the entire match.
“Whenever you can dictate play more and be on the ball more they are going to have less opportunities and less chances to break the other way,” Wilson said. “ I think that was the key
Rodney Michael led the Gauchos with four shots and was dangerous throughout the match. Michael combined repeatedly with Noah Billingsley, who also put two shots on frame, to put pressure on the UC Davis defenders.
The Gauchos (8-6-1 overall, 2-2-1 Big West) will continue the current home stand against Cal State Northridge on Saturday, Oct. 20.