With the absence of key goal scorer Salvador Aguilar, the UCSB men’s soccer team has been receiving the majority of its offensive output from a familiar face donning the Gaucho uniform proudly over the last few years.
Junior forward Finn Ballard McBride netted two goals, including a beauty in the 21st minute, to pace the Gauchos in their 4-0 win against Cal State Northridge Saturday night at Harder Stadium, boosting his and his team’s confidence following the first week of Big West play.
“The main goal this week was to be a little bit more direct,” Ballard McBride told Noozhawk after the game. “Try running behind more, play more balls in behind the opposition and defense, and I think that worked quite effectively. I think we had more opportunities, more crosses going forward and then eventuated into four goals.”
With the win, Santa Barbara improved to 7-2-2 overall and a 2-0 start to Big West play while Cal State Northridge fell to 4-3-3 overall and 1-1.
Saturday also marked UCSB’s first win against CSUN in the regular season since 2018. The Matadors bested the Gauchos 2-0 last year in the regular season finale.
“I have never beaten CSUN since I been here,” Ballard McBride said.
“Tim Vom Steeg, he was really drilling into us the last few days to be really aggressive, be on the front foot from the start and really go at them. So we had an attacking mindset and mentality and that was reflected in the score sheet.”
UCSB got on the scoreboard early, but it was a CSUN player that gave the home team a 1-0 lead.
In the fourth minute, the Gauchos tried to serve the ball into the middle of the box, but it was a tad bit far.
Sophomore forward Rene Pacheco was able to chase the ball down and put a shot on frame that deflected off a CSUN defender’s right foot and sneaked past the goalkeeper on the bottom right to give the Gauchos the early 1-0 advantage.
As a team, UCSB was effective offensively, putting up 13 shots and creating multiple opportunities.
“We looked at the video of CSUN against Missouri State, and they got seven goals,” UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “And they got seven goals because they were absolutely relentlessly on the attack with numbers and lots of service.
“And we started out great. We also hit more balls over the top tonight, so we just started on our front foot, which is better for us.”
CSUN’s Enrique Pineda nearly tied the contest up in the 41st minute, as he got behind the defense and caught up to a deep service into the box. His shot was just over the bar, however.
Then, one minute later, Ballard McBride gave the Gauchos a bit of insurance.
Sitting outside on the left sideline, Ballard McBride made a quick turn toward the box, then made another defender miss once he was there, and shot it from deep inside to give his team a 2-0 lead just before the break.
“We’ve been kind of waiting for Finn to come alive, and he was alive tonight. That goal was world class right there — that was unbelievable, what he did on the sideline,” Vom Steeg said.
The Gauchos third goal came in the 54th minute, as Pacheco shot the ball from 20 yards out and curved it right into the top right corner of the goal.
Ballard McBride would score the final goal of the contest just 20 minutes later. After a CSUN defender tried to knock away a perfect corner kick from the Gauchos, the junior was in the right place at the right time, sticking his right foot out to slot it just past the keeper.
Following the two-goal performance, Ballard McBride now has five for the season, including three in just the last two games alone, tying him with Aguilar, who is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.
“This has been really good,” Ballard McBride said. “I had kind of a slow start to the season. I didn’t have many goals to start, but this is good for the confidence and to get me rolling.
“I have really been putting everything I can into being as well prepared for the games as possible, and these last two games that’s come to fruition a little bit.”
Defensively, UCSB’s Leroy Zeller was also a force, coming up with four saves en route to his third clean sheet of the season.
The junior’s most impressive stop came when CSUN’s Dylan Gonzalez stripped Henry Davies in the 55th minute, leaving him one-on-one with Zeller.
Calmly, Zeller stepped up to Gonzalez and stuck his right foot out, blocking the shot and giving time for the Gauchos defense to recover.
“The breakaway stop was huge. The bottom line is he has done very, very well for us,” Vom Steeg said.
UCSB’s next contest is Wednesday at Cal State Bakersfield with a 7 p.m. start time.