The UC Santa Barbara (5-5-1, 0-1-1 Big West) and UC Irvine (4-3-3, 1-0-1 Big West) Men’s Soccer teams played out a chippy, energetic draw at Harder Stadium on Saturday night, with neither team able to find the back of the net in the 90 minutes.
More specifically, each team’s defense was switched on for the entire match, doing everything they could to deny the other’s offense from scoring.
“We’re missing several very good attacking players and we’re coming off a game where we don’t know how many goals we’re going to get going forward, so at least we can concentrate on the defending, and I thought we defended well,” Vom Steeg said. “(UC Irvine) has got players that can pose some problems, matchup wise, and I thought we battled with how we defended.
“In the end, yes, we certainly wanted to win tonight, but I’m certainly pleased with our effort overall and our commitment.”
The Gauchos were certainly committed in that they did not back out of their tackles in the opening phases, and neither did the Anteaters, making for a chippy start to the first half.
The teams traded fouls as they battled to assert control of the match and each squad’s back line worked to shut down any shooting opportunities.
Neither UC Irvine nor UC Santa Barbara got a quality scoring opportunity in the first half, with the only save of the first 45 coming on a relatively tame Nicolas Williumsen shot that was essentially right at the Anteater goalkeeper.
The other seven combined shots in the half were either blocked or off-target.
Coming out of the break, UC Irvine managed to grab (and more importantly, maintain) the momentum, forcing the Gauchos to defend with everything they had as the Anteaters controlled the possession.
A long-range shot forced UC Santa Barbara keeper Leroy Zeller into a diving save in the 56th minute, and Zeller made another big play in the 65th.
Pablo Figueroa attempted to clear a cross at the back post, but with an Anteater draped all over him, all Figueroa’s kick did was send the ball back into the penalty area.
Or, it would have, if not for Zeller, who had rushed toward the play. The ball deflected off the big German out for a corner, which the Gauchos dealt with.
As the minutes ticked into the 70s, UC Santa Barbara started to re-assert themselves in the match and control the game.
Eddie Villeda’s curling shot toward the back post required saving in the 72nd minute, and the Gauchos saw a few more attempts blocked by the UCI defensive line.
The battle continued into the 80th minute and beyond, but by that time the frantic and physical nature of the match had clearly taken its toll on both teams.
Neither side generated a real, good scoring opportunity before the final whistle.
A road trip to Davis is up next for UC Santa Barbara, as the Gauchos will head north and take on UC Davis on Wednesday, October 4 at 7 p.m.
The match will be live on ESPN+ with live stats available on ucsbgauchos.com.