Harder Stadium will be rocking on more than a few occasions this season for UCSB men’s soccer games, and one more was just added to the list.
On Tuesday, September 22nd, Mexico’s U-17 National Team will be in town to take on the Gauchos in an exhibition match that has the potential to draw a crowd as big as 10,000. The Mexican squad won the U-17 World Championship in 2005 and will be competing in the 2009 tournament in Nigeria later in October.
The match was announced Wednesday at The Brewhouse in the first “Gaucho Huddle” of the year. the monthly events provide UCSB supporters along with the media a chance to hear from Gaucho coaches and players.
Soccer coach Tim Vom Steeg announced the match, which is affiliated with the university’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. The Mexican squad features numerous up-and-comers who already play for top Mexican club teams such as Chivas de Guadalajara, Atlas and Pumas UNAM.
Considering the event will take place smack dab in the middle of the UCSB season, Vom Steeg said he will use the game to incorporate some of his younger players. Twenty-three of the 32 Gauchos on the team’s roster are still teenagers.
“I think they’ll be a very, very competitive team,” said Vom Steeg, who admitted that the Mexican team might have more fan support than the Gauchos at the event considering Santa Barbara’s large Latino community.
“Our goal would be a 50/50 split at the stadium for the match,” he said with a smile. “I’ll probably even have a couple of my guys who’ll be wearing those green jerseys underneath.”
UCSB is currently 3-0 after a recent road trip which included a 2-0 win at West Virginia and a 4-3 overtime decision at Pitt. The match at WVU saw an attendance record set for the Mountaineers.
Speaking of attendance, men’s soccer season ticket sales rose from 100 last season to a whopping 1,200 this year.
“We’ll put that up against any team in the country,” said Vom Steeg.
A huge match looms on Friday, as Rutgers comes into town for a 7 p.m. tilt which will be televised nationally on the Fox Sports Soccer Channel.
The other coach to speak at Wednesday’s event was Selena Ho, who recently came on as an assistant to Lindsay Gottlieb and the women’s basketball team. Ho, who played at the University of Pacific in the 1990s, previously coached with UC Irvine and the Universoty of Oregon. Her main focus will be to work with UCSB’s guards in implementing a new offense that Gottlieb has introduced.
“I think we went 0-17 against UCSB while I was playing,” she said. “Like they say, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”
The Gaucho Huddles are held monthly and are open to the public for a price of $10.