UCSB took advantage of a foul 22 yards away from the goal and scored on the resulting free kick for a 1-0 victory over Westmont in the annual Bryant and Sons Cup men’s soccer game on Saturday night at Harder Stadium.
Frenchman Thibault Candia drew the foul and then curled a beautifully placed free kick to the far side of the goal box. Defender and fellow countryman Faouzi Taieb raced in, timed his jump perfectly and headed the ball past Westmont goalkeeper Lalo Delgado to the far netting at the 10th minute.
The Gauchos created other scoring chances throughout the first half but were foiled by misconnections on a final pass, a missed shot or good defense by Westmont’s backline.
The best chance to expand the lead came in the 38th minute on a three-man attack with Ignacio Tellechea, Candia and Carter Clemmensen. Candia crossed to Clemmensen at the far post but the sophomore booted it over the cross bar.
“Carter had a really good opportunity at the back post on that cross,” UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “That goes in it maybe slows down Westmont little bit.”
Vom Steeg noted the Gauchos were playing a game after only three days of practice, which might contributed to the lack scoring.
“I did like the way we were moving the ball to a large degree,” he said. “We were playing against a compact defense most of the time. They were back, they were behind the ball and they’re playing hard. I thought we were doing some good things but the end product wasn’t there.
“It felt a little like last year, where we had a lot of the game and some good stuff, and in the end we won the game because we had a good enough defense. But it’d end up being not 3-0 but 1-0. And that’s what it felt like.”
Taieb said his goal was product of what the team practices daily.
“We just applied what the coach told us to do,” he said. “At the end of the day, it looks pretty easy because we work on it almost every day. Thibault did what he was supposed to do in training and I did what I was supposed to do.”
Owen Bates provided an offensive spark for Westmont five minutes into the second half when broke free on the right side of the penalty. The San Marcos alum got off a shot but it sailed over the bar.
As the Warriors continued to battle, the action got chippy on the field and a scuffle broke out in the 56th minute.
There were 10 yellow cards issued in the game, including a pair to a UCSB player, who was ejected in the 85th minute.
Westmont coach Dave Wolf was pleased with his team’s fight.
“From a competitive standpoint, the guys showed up,” he said. “Our form tonight was better than how I felt coming into tonight. So, I felt like we were able to push it a step further – that was encouraging.”
Westmont came tantalizingly close to equalizing in the 69th minute after some sloppy play in the back by the Gauchos. Sam Tuscano intercepted the ball and was one on one with goalie Alan Carrillo, who replaced Ben Roach in the second half. Carrillo did a nice job forcing Carrillo wide and preventing a shot.
“I think the keeper did a good job of forcing the issue and he took the dribbler wide,” Westmont coach Dave Wolf said. “That being said, the ball Sam pulled back was perfect. It was just none of the scrappy little Warriors could get to it. If we maybe would have had a little more legs, maybe somebody gets there at the top of the box or the penalty spot to take that chance.
“It was one of those plays where everybody did well. I don’t think you can fault anybody. Everybody on that play executed well, them a little better than us.”
Sahid Conteh finally controlled the ball for UCSB and started a counterattack. Rodney Michael got the ball on the right wing and sent it in to Clemmensen at the near post. The ball deflected off Clemmensen’s leg and bounced off the post. Tellechea tried to knock in the rebound but his shot was blocked by Westmont defenders.
Westmont got a solid defensive game from senior center back Tim Heiduk and last-minute replacement Josh Phillips, who filled in for Zack Godeck.
Wolf lauded the play of Heiduk. “I knew tonight the motivation level would be high and I thought he delivered a captain’s performance for sure. That was good to see,” said the coach.
Of Phillips, who played along side Heiduk, Wolf said: “I thought he did an admirable job under the circumstances. Mason Ginni, a first-year player, came in the second half and continued to do well.”