A 58th minute goal created by junior left winger Ameyawu Muntari and freshman midfielder Finn Ballard McBride, and finished by sophomore striker Carter Clemmensen, secured the second victory of the 2019 campaign for the UC Santa Barbara men’s soccer team at Gonzaga’s Luger Field on Thursday night.
The Gauchos (2-2-0) played out an even first 45 minutes with the Bulldogs (0-5-0), outshooting the hosts 5-1 but only managing a single shot on target, Clemmensen’s shot from 20 yards out that rolled to goalkeeper Johan Garibay.
Things heated up after halftime, when Mark McEntosh threatened the Gaucho goal with a shot just 36 seconds in, but sophomore goalkeeper Ben Roach was ready to make the save.
In the 49th minute, Clemmensen came charging through the right side of the box, taking a shot that Garibay spilled into the path of Muntari, who hit the side netting with his chance.
Just seconds later, the Gauchos survived a flurry of Bulldog chances. Attacker Joe Corner had a one-on-one chance with Roach, but his curled effort hit the right post. Gonzaga retrieved the ball, and it was Corner again who had another chance that could have been an own goal against the Gauchos if not for the left post. The ball caromed off the post and the body of Roach into the six yard box, where midfielder Frankie Ljucovic attempted to head the ball towards goal, but instead ended up hitting the crossbar.
In the 58th minute, the Gauchos finally went ahead after senior attacking midfielder Thibault Candia lofted a ball onto the right wing for Muntari to cross on the bounce into the box. The ball bounced off a Gonzaga defender into the air, where it was contested between Ballard McBride and the Bulldog goalkeeper Garibay. It eventually bounced to the Clemmensen, who tucked it away with his right foot for his first goal since the first week of the 2018 regular season.
“Right now it’s important for us to get anybody going. The best finishers on our team are Carter [Clemmensen] and [Ameyawu] Muntari so it didn’t surprise us too much when Carter took care of his chance,” said head coach Tim Vom Steeg.
Gonzaga’s best chance came in the 67th minute, when a UCSB foul led to a free kick opportunity atop the box. Ljucovic unleashed a shot that looked destined for the top right corner, if not for Roach’s intervention in which he palmed it over the crossbar for what was the Gaucho shot-stopper’s finest save of the night.
The win was the Gauchos’ first on the road this season. Last year’s team managed just one win and one draw in its seven road games.
“As we all know, we haven’t done well on the road in recent times. It made a huge difference in this game having our team captains in Hunter [Ashworth] and Noah [Billingsley] back for this game. Any win at this stage is important, any win after losing at home is important, so it was massive to have them play a role in this match,” added Vom Steeg.
Now, the focus shifts to the Gauchos’ date with Oregon State, who were in the receiving votes column in this week’s United Soccer Coaches poll, on Sunday night.
“By all accounts, they’re a good team this year. This is a team that we think will compete for a championship in the Pac-12 and maybe one that’s even better than Cal,” said Vom Steeg. “Tonight maybe gives us some confidence and a boost in general, but we’ll still have to defend very well on Sunday. We’re still waiting for some of our guys to get going up front. We have to continue creating chances and begin making something of them.”