Pain and anger. Anger and pain.
The UCSB men’s soccer team left Cal’s Edwards Stadium with both feelings Sunday after suffering a heartbreaking and controversial 2-1 overtime defeat against the Bears in a NCAA Tournament second-round match.
The pain comes from the cold, hard fact that the loss ended the Gauchos’ goal of reaching the College Cup in their home stadium.
UCSB’s anger stems from a couple of dubious calls by referee Mike Kampmeinert that ended up affecting the outcome of the game.
The first stunning decision was a red card issued in the 25th minute to Gaucho midfielder Luis Silva, who was shoved and punched by Cal’s Servando Carrasco after the two contested for a 50-50 ball in the middle of the field. Carrasco was reprimanded with a yellow card. He played the rest of the game and scored the game-tying goal.
UCSB, meanwhile, was left to play shorthanded for the remaining 65 minutes of regulation and the overtime.
The second game-changing decision by Kampmeinert was a hand-ball violation called against the Gauchos’ Chris Hunter on a ball that was driven into the penalty area from 45 yards out with 1:40 left in regulation. The ball hit Hunter and ricocheted off other players near the top of the box. As Cal players raised their hands, the referee pointed to the spot for a penalty kick.
Carrasco stepped up and beat UCSB goalkeeper Sam Hayden to his right to tie the score at 1-1 and send the game into overtime.
“I cannot think of a more disappointing time in which our players played so well, so hard and gave it all they had,” said UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg. “We had a 1:40 to kill the clock and there it is, a PK. It’s really unbelievable.”
A Cal counterattack led to the game-winning goal in the first 10-minute overtime. With the public address announcer counting down the final seconds, Anthony Avalos chased down a through pass to the left of the goal. Hayden raced off his line trying to beat Avalos to the ball but the Cal player got to it first and knocked it back to Hector Jimenez, who redirected the ball to an onrushing Davis Paul. Paul shot into the open net with one second left to end UCSB’s dream and put the Bears (13-2-3) into a third-round home game against Brown, an upset winner over Connecticut on penalty kicks.
Enraged UCSB players stormed after Kampmeinert after the goal was scored. Vom Steeg ran over and pulled the players away from the referee. Three players, Michael Tetteh, Machael David and Danny Barrera were issued red cards.
Vom Steeg said he told the referee it would a good idea if he left the field.
“I looked right at him when I was on the field and said, ‘If you run now, you’ll be OK. Just please go … leave, because you just ended our season on this.’
“I think it’s really hard to understand the emotion we put into this season unless you’re with us everyday,” he added. “We’ve talked about (playing in the College Cup at home) and we’ve trained for it.
“The idea of playing in Santa Barbara in front 15-16,000 people drove this group; it drove the coaching staff. And we weren’t going to let anything stand in our way, and today there was something we couldn’t help.”
The Gauchos (14-5-3) went at Cal’s vaunted defense from the start and created some good chances in the first 20 minutes.
Things started going haywire when Silva was ejected and Carrasco was allowed to stay in the game.
Vom Steeg couldn’t believe the call.
“There’s only a couple things you have to get right and that’s one of them,” he said of Kampmeinert’s decision
“What he said to me was he thought he saw Luis’ cleats go in on (Carrasco),” Vom Steeg said of the referee’s explanation. “Luis, as we all know, is not even a player who goes in on a tackle.”
When asked about the play, Carrasco said Silva came in with his studs up. “That’s unfortunate, you know. He got a red card. There’s nothing more I can say about that.”
When questioned about his actions after the play, Carrasco replied, “I was mad. It’s all part of the game.”
Said Vom Steeg, “One thing about sports, when you punch somebody you don’t stick around. We were really shocked that the red card was going to Luis and the yellow card was going to No. 10.”
Vom Steeg, the coaching staff and Gaucho players let the referee know their displeasure of the call
“He should have red-carded half of our guys. He should have red-carded me,” Vom Steeg admitted. “Right there there’s a problem. No referee would take that crap.”
The Gauchos channeled their anger and frustration into some good soccer.
“Sometimes when you go a man down you play a little better, because you have to work that much harder when you’re a man down,” Cal coach Kevin Grimes said. “It wasn’t surprising they played better man down.”
The Gauchos finally broke through in the 82nd minute after another Midas-touch substitution by Vom Steeg. Tetteh, who had just reentered, took a throw-in from Josue Madueno on the right wing and fired a hard shot from 22 yards that beat Cal goalkeeper David Bingham to the far post.
It was only the 14th goal given up by Bingham this season.
“The guy hit a great job,” Cal’s All-Pac-10 defender A.J. Soares said. “That’s just football right there. It can happen anytime.”
Now it was a matter of the Gauchos hanging on against a barrage of balls being launched into UCSB’s penalty area.
To combat the attack, 6-4 Rob Hoyle came in to help clear Cal’s bombs into the box
It didn’t matter, though, as the Bears got the big break on Kampmeinert’s hand-ball call.
The Gauchos debated the decision but to no avail.
“Chris walks over and says, ‘It hit me right in the chest,’ ” said Vom Steeg, who also claimed Hunter was at the top of the box when the ball struck him.
“You’re just trying to dump it in and hope for the best, and we were fortunate,” said Cal’s Paul of the play.
Vom Steeg said it was difficult to try to explain to his players about what happened on the field Sunday.
“I have a team that’s devastated. There’s nothing I can say but you learn in life that sometimes life is not fair. For my seniors, I feel really bad.”
He added, “All I said to them in the locker room was we talk all season about controlling what you can control, and my guys played their hearts out with a man down.”