Energized Gauchos run all over Duke

Danny Barrera is usually the one who delivers the passes for goals for the UCSB men’s soccer team.

On Friday night, Barrera was on the receiving end of a nice set-up and he cashed it in.

Barrera made a run into the box from the left flank to meet Michael Nonni’s delicate crossing pass on a bounce and headed it into the far right corner of the goal to help UCSB beat 19th-ranked Duke 2-0 before 11,242 at Harder Stadium and a national television audience.

UCSB's Sam Hayden goes up high to pull in a dangerous set piece by Duke. (Vince Agapito Photos)

UCSB became the first school in NCAA soccer history to draw two crowds of more than 10,000 fans in a season. They had a record 15,896 for the UCLA game on Sept. 24.

Sam Garza provided the second goal against the Blue Devils on a great individual effort in the 80th minute, as the Gauchos won their fourth straight match and improved to 7-3-2 on the season. Duke was shut out for the second straight match and fell to 5-3-4.

“I thought our energy won the game tonight and our goals came out of that,” said a satisfied UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg.

With Duke playing in a defensive formation, the Gauchos owned the majority of the possession.

“I really didn’t expect them to come out that defensive,” Nonni said of the Blue Devils. “They looked a little fatigue, maybe because of the travel. But we ran them into the ground and it showed in the second half when it was wide open.”

On the first goal, the Gauchos had Barrera running up the left wing, Nonni on the right and David Opoku up the middle.

“We just had enough people in the box to get that goal,” said Vom Steeg.

Barrera crossed the ball to Opoku inside the 6-yard box and the 6-2 freshman forward headed wide of the back post. Nonni, however, was there to pick up the loose ball and spotted Barrera making his move toward the box.

Said Nonni: “I saw him because he was behind his man and I made eye contact with him right as he cut across the six and I put it right there. It was a great finish by Danny.”

Barrera said he did exactly what Nonni did on his crossing ball to Opoku.

Duke's Jonathan Aguirre attempts to tackle the ball away from UCSB's Danny Barrera who, later in the period, would score UCSB's first goal.

“Nonni was there to clean it up, and when you’re in that situation you just put it back in the mix,” Barrera explained. “I just came in and trailed the play. Just like he did for my ball, I did for his ball. I was just closer (to the goal).”

The goal was Barrera’s second of the season. He shares the team lead in assists with four.

“Whatever helps our team,” he said of his contributions. “It’s nice to get on the end of it sometimes.”

The goal, coming in the 56th minute, forced Duke to come out of its shell and try to run with the Gauchos.

With UCSB playing well in the midfield and the back line, goalkeeper Sam Hayden didn’t have to do much work in his return to the lineup after serving a red-card suspension.

The Gauchos, meanwhile kept running at the Blue Devils.

“We just kept running at them and running at them and we broke them down. It was our best collective effort from start to end,” said Vom Steeg.

Duke coach John Kerr said he used a more defensive ploy so his team wouldn’t get run off the field in its first trip to Santa Barbara.

“We didn’t want to give Santa Barbara much space because they’re so fast, quick and talented, and we didn’t want to expose ourselves too much,” Kerr said. “We wanted to compact the space and make it difficult, and we frustrated them for long periods of time. The plan worked except for giving up that goal kind of put the onus on us to open ourselves up and get exposed.”

Garza blazed up the right side in the 70th minute and, while holding off central defender Sebastian Ibeagha, unleashed a shot that rolled just wide of the far post.

UCSB's Danny Barrera (15) heads the ball into the upper right-hand corner of the goal over Duke's goalie.

Ten minutes later, Garza was on the attack again. This time he beat defender Matthew Thomas on the dribble and slipped the ball past a charging Duke goalkeeper James Belahaw for his team-leading sixth goal.

“MD (Machael David) played an amazing ball to me and I took a touch and started running at the player,” Garza said. “I started cramping up just before I was running at him but I knew I had to push through. It was a good goal and it was a good for the team as well.”

Vom Steeg created Nonni’s earlier work on the right side for paving the way for Garza.

“What we say and what we do is even if you don’t score the goal, we need the energy — we need you to bring that, we need you to run at No. 5 all night long,” Vom Steeg said. “The goal by Garza came from that side against a tired player after Nonni has done all the work.”

At the defensive end, Chris Hunter and Michael Boxall were active all night and controlled the Gaucho penalty area. The Blue Devils were held to six shots and only two on goal. UCSB had nine shots and four on goal.

“From the back all the way to our front line, the energy and work was very good tonight,” said Vom Steeg.

NOTES: The Gauchos got a scare Thursday night when attacking midfielder Luis Silva showed up for the team’s walk-through with a sprained ankle suffered in a bike accident. Three minutes into the practice Machael David pulled up with a groin injury. Vom Steeg called off the practice after that. After some agonizing moments Friday morning, both players suited up and played in the game. David started and Silva came on as a substitute.

The Gauchos don’t have much rest time before they play again. They go on the road Sunday for a Big West match at UC Riverside. Kickoff is 6 p.m.

The first half of Friday’s game could not be heard on radio station AM 1290 because the phone lines in the Harder Stadium press box were inadvertently cut during the remodeling work on the facility. Play-by-play announcer Gerry Fall did the second half using a cell phone.

The Gauchos have now drawn crowds of more than 6,000 fans four times this season, a NCAA record. Friday’s attendance of 11,242 passed the Dec. 4, 2004 mark of 11,214 as the second largest crowd at Harder Stadium. The ’04 crowd was for the NCAA quarterfinal game against Virginia Commonwealth. The largest crowd is the 15,896 for the UCLA match on Sept. 24, also a NCAA soccer record for an on-campus stadium. Here are the top 10 soccer attendance marks this season:

  1. UCSB-UCLA, 15,896
  2. UCSB-Duke, 11,242
  3. Cal Poly-UCLA, 8,717
  4. Maryland-Duke, 7,260
  5. Ohio State-Akron, 7,255
  6. UCSB-UC Davis, 6,449
  7. South Carolina-Clemson, 6,157
  8. UCSB-Cal Poly,6,057
  9. Akron-Tulsa, 4,744
  10. Duke-North Carolina, 4,675

Once again, the elated Gaucho fans spill onto the field after UCSB's 2-0 victory over Duke. (Vince Agapito photo)