UCSB forward Finn Ballard McBride avoids a slide tackle Saturday night at Harder Stadium, where the UCSB Gauchos went on to defeat the Cal Poly Mustangs 2-0. | Credit: Erick Madrid

The latest edition of the Blue-Green rivalry prompted a scene two years in the making as 8,000 fans descended on Harder Stadium for the largest on-campus crowd at UCSB since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finn Ballard McBride gave the fans plenty to celebrate with two second-half goals that sparked a 2-0 UCSB victory over visiting Cal Poly. 

“There’s no way to really prepare yourself. We have 20 new players in the program, so when you add 20 new players, you can show video and talk about it, but until you’re on the field and the people just keep coming and filling in and the students are great and everybody is loud, you do have to remember that it’s a soccer game,” said UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg. “In terms of preparation, all you can do is put them out there and try to play the players who have the experience a little bit more.”

The UCSB student body came out in full force Saturday night at Harder Stadium, where the UCSB Gauchos went on to beat the Cal Poly Mustangs 2-0. | Credit: Erick Madrid

A stagnant first half offensively prompted Vom Steeg to make tactical adjustments at the break, and they paid dividends in the second half as Jorge Aldana sent a cross to the far post that found the head of McBride and into the back of the net in the 65th minute.

“We’ve been working on back-post crosses all week, and I knew that one of my teammates was going to be at the end of it,” Aldana said. “Finn did an excellent job and put it in the back of the net.”

In the 70th minute, the Gauchos turned defense to offense as Sam Fletcher dispossessed a Cal Poly attacker and sent the ball ahead to Ameyawu Muntari, who squeezed a through ball to McBride for a one-on-one opportunity with the Cal Poly goalkeeper. McBride calmly finished, increasing the UCSB lead to 2-0.

“We’ve got a good group of guys on the team and lots of leaders,” McBride said. “We sat down [at halftime] and had a little chat to discuss what was working and wasn’t working and what we should do moving forward to enable us to create chances and eventually win the game.”

The Gauchos (4-3-2) will officially start Big West Conference play at Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday.

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