UCSB won the soccer game, but it took a hit in the tortilla tossing department Wednesday night.
Luis Silva scored in the 30th minute and the No. 7-ranked Gauchos made the goal stand up for a 1-0 victory over Cal Poly in a Big West match before 5,842 at Harder Stadium.
UCSB (8-2-1, 2-0) dominated the first half and created ample chances to blow the game open. But except for Silva’s 19-yard blast off a Michael Tetteh assist, the Gauchos couldn’t put anything else away.
That probably made the Big West Conference happy because fewer goals at Harder Stadium would mean fewer tortillas being thrown on the field by Gaucho fans.
UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg said after the game that conference officials had addressed the tortilla issue with referees after watching the Gauchos’ 3-0 win over Indiana on national television last Friday from Harder Stadium. When the tortillas came flying out of the stands early in the first half Wednesday night, head referee Jesse Johnson stopped play and asked stadium public address announcer Mark “Cubby” Jacobs to warn fans that the consequences of continued tortilla tossing on the field would be ejection from the stadium, a suspension of play and the game possibly being called off.
Fans held on to their tortillas until Silva’s goal.
Afterwards, the referee delayed the restart of the game until players picked up the flour and corn discs from the field and threw them to the sideline. Tetteh said some Cal Poly players were complaining about the fans throwing tortillas.
“I personally think it’s great,” he said. “They weren’t hitting anybody. It’s part of tradition. It’s what we do. It’s kind of sad they were complaining.”
Both teams came out flying at the start. In the fourth minute, Michael Nonni set up David Walker for a point-blank shot that was stopped beautifully by Mustangs goalkeeper Patrick McLain. Five minutes later David Zamora of the Mustangs broke through the Gaucho defense and hit a chip shot that bounced off the cross bar. Machael David had a good look at goal for UCSB, but his blast from 20 yards was just high.
A few minutes later, Cal Poly’s Junior Burgos put a corner kick right on the head of teammate Josh Didion, but his header went over the bar. From that point on in the first half, UCSB controlled possession and peppered the Cal Poly goal.
“In the first half, we were moving the ball around really well and creating chances,” said Tetteh. “Then in the second half we stopped moving the ball and started chasing a lot.”
A dazzling play by Tetteh set up the goal. He mesmerized his defender with some incredible footwork before laying the ball off to Silva, who took one touch and then ripped a right-footed shot past McLain in the 30th minute.
“I had the ball and I two defenders coming at me, so I made my move and when I raised my head I saw Silva open and I just passed it to him,” said Tetteh.
Silva almost scored again 10 minutes later on a nifty exchange with Waid Ibrahim, but his shot went wide at the near post. UCSB outshot Cal Poly 14-3 in the first half, but the Mustangs were still in the game.
“We made it war,” Vom Steeg said. “We had plenty of good looks in first half but we just didn’t finish. In terms of stats and shots and the way we dominated that first half, it should have been, could have been done at halftime. That’s the way it goes.”
Cal Poly (4-7-0, 2-1) stepped up its attack in the second half and pressured the Gaucho backline and goalkeeper Sam Hayden. The Mustangs had the ball on the goal-line and were hacking away at it in the 50th minute before Hayden pounced on it. Fifteen minutes later, Junior Burgos made a run through the box and got knocked down, but no foul was called.
The non-call and some other decisions by the referee perturbed Cal Poly coach Paul Holocher.
“We had some issues today,” he said. “We thought some calls didn’t go our way — the referee warning guys three, four, five times. It’s pretty disappointing they didn’t stick to their word and give guys cards they needed to give.”
There were seven yellow cards issued in the match, with four going to Gauchos.
“Sometimes things don’t go your way, but when it’s that physical and guys are given warning after warning, you got to question that,” Holocher said.
Hayden kept the Mustangs from getting the tying goal, and he took some lumps in the process.
“I love physical games,” he said. “I love to go out and hit people. If I don’t get hit, I’m kind of disappointed, because it just makes it too easy.”
Hayden finished with five saves and came up clean on several free kicks driven into the area by Burgos.