It’s always been a struggle for the UCSB men’s soccer team when it plays Loyola Marymount. Sunday’s season opener was no different.
The No. 4-ranked Gauchos, who had lost 8 of the last 10 meetings against the Lions, jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute. But a UCSB foul deep in the LMU end gave the Lions a free kick in the 89th minute and they capitalized to even the score.
While it lost the lead, UCSB didn’t lose its composure. Less than 40 seconds after giving up the goal, freshman Ema Boateng served a beautiful crossing ball that Nic Ryan headed past LMU goalkeeper Billy Thompson for a 2-1 victory in Los Angeles.
The goal was especially sweet for Ryan because he was earlier denied on a diving save by Thompson. It was his third game-winning strike of his career.
UCSB came out flying and stunned LMU with an early goal. Frenchman Achille Campion finished a low cross from Dom Sarle for his first goal as a Gaucho. Sarle received the ball on a long pass from defender Daniel Welsh, who also was credited with an assist.
The Gauchos controlled most of the possession against a young LMU squad. The Lions at times got overly aggressive to win the ball. Welsh was on the receiving end of a nasty challenge and had to be helped off the field. He would later return. Four LMU players were issued yellow cards and another was given to the bench.
UCSB had opportunities to put the Lions away, but Thompson came up big against Ryan in the 76th minute and Javier Castro in the 82nd.
Austin Mansker made his debut in goal for the Gauchos and he played well. His best save was a diving stop against LMU’s Connor Gill in the 84th minute.
Mansker was beaten on a free kick from Craig Nitti. The Gauchos were trying to clear the ball when Castro was whistled for a foul at the top left corner of the penalty area.
UCSB quickly regrouped and the left-footed Boateng, the 2012 Gatorade National Soccer Player of the Year from Cate School, showed just how valuable he’s going to be for the Gauchos on the left side. His pin-point cross drew out Thompson, leaving Ryan open to score the game-winner on a header.
The Gauchos stay on the road next week when they head to Spokane, Wash. for the Gonzaga Nike Classic. They will play Oregon State on Friday, Aug. 31 and Gonzaga on Sunday, Sept. 7.