There were some nervy moments late Saturday night for the UC Santa Barbara Men’s Soccer team, but a three-goal cushion and some defensive heroics guided the Gauchos (4-3) to victory over the Kansas City Roos (2-3-2) at Harder Stadium, 3-2.
The goals came from Alexis Ledoux and Nemo Philipp, who assisted Ledoux and then scored twice, and the defensive heroics came from pretty much everyone wearing blue plus goalkeeper David Mitzner, who made three saves in his first-ever start for the Gauchos.
“(Kansas City is a) hard-working, committed team, they’re going to stay after it and they did,” UCSB head coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “In the middle, we got a little tired, but at the same time put up three goals.
“A win is a win, it’s important to win. It’s a bounce-back game for us, it’s a home win, so we’ll take it.”
The Gauchos started the game strong, putting the ball in the back of the net inside just two minutes through Salvador Aguilar, but the flag went up for offside.
UC Santa Barbara kept the pressure on and was dangerous on breakaways and counterattacks all night, especially with Mikkel Goeling stealing the ball from Kansas City defenders deep in the Roos’ territory.
The Dane earned himself a good look at goal after one of those thefts in the 16th minute, but his shot was blocked.
Despite UC Santa Barbara generating more shots, it was Kansas City who nearly scored first, with a perfect pass creating a one-on-one situation. The Roos’ forward chipped the ball over Mitzner, but Haruki Utsumi came sliding in to clear the ball off the line.
When the Gauchos did get on the board, it was thanks to another Kansas City turnover in their own territory. Philipp picked off a lazy pass, took two dribbles and laid it off to the on-rushing Ledoux, who blasted a low left-footed shot past the goalkeeper.
The Roos nearly tied the match before halftime, beating Mitzner with a flicked header, but again a Gaucho defender played hero and kept the ball out of the net, this time Caden Vom Steeg.
UC Santa Barbara began the second half with a bang, getting two goals in quick succession from Philipp, in the 52nd and 54th minutes.
His first came as the product of crisp passing between himself and Pablo Figueroa, finishing with a powerful left-footed strike from the top of the penalty area into the top left corner of the goal.
Two minutes later, Nicolas Willumsen flicked a long pass on to Mikkel Goeling, who took a couple of touches and then played it to Philipp in the middle. Again, it was a powerful left-footed drive from 18 yards out, this time low, under the goalkeeper.
However, things would get interesting — and chippy — just after the hour mark, as Kansas City scored to cut the lead to two.
In the 15 minutes after the Roos’ first goal, the teams combined to register twice as many fouls as shots, with a player from each side going into the book as well.
Whether the physical play helped or not, the Roos were well and truly back in the match in the 80th minute, as they found the net for a second time, setting up a tense final 10 minutes.
By the final five minutes, the Gauchos had dropped everybody back, doing their best to deny Kansas City any opportunities and ensure that any looks at goal the Roos did get were near impossible to convert.
The Santa Barbara line held, and the Gauchos registered their fourth win of the season.
UC Santa Barbara will play their final non-conference road match of the season on Tuesday, September 19, traveling to Riverside for a date with California Baptist.
The Lancers and Gauchos are set to get underway at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. The match will be live on ESPN+ and live stats will be available through ucsbgauchos.com.