Gauchos look to end goal drought at Cal Poly

The Big West Tournament in men’s soccer isn’t for another couple of weeks, but the two matches UCSB plays this week could be considered a tournament preview.

The 19th-ranked Gauchos play at Cal Poly on Wednesday and travel to No. 7-ranked UC Irvine on Saturday.

UCSB leads the conference standings with 18 points (6-1-0) with UC Irvine right behind with 16 points (5-0-1). Cal Poly, battling to finish in the top four, has eight points (2-2-2), one point behind Cal State Fullerton and UC Davis.

Wednesday night’s match at Cal Poly is being televised live on the Fox Soccer Channel. Kickoff is 8 p.m.

Cal Poly has been a difficult place for the Gauchos to score goals the last couple of years. Their last two matches there have ended in 0-0 draws.

“We’ll have our hands full,” UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg. “I don’t worry about Irvine, it’s Cal Poly that’s the game for us because I feel: A, Cal Poly is a good soccer team and B, they played us tough here.”

Cal Poly goalkeeper Patrick McLain played out of his mind in the match at Harder Stadium, making 11 saves. It took a nifty combination play between Machael David and Luis Silva to beat McLain and the Mustangs. Silva scored the game-winner with 51 seconds left in regulation.

Cal Poly is expecting a capacity crowd for the rematch.

“We’ll have a sellout and that really changes the game,” Vom Steeg said. “ Our road to Big West and everything else is going to be harder. That’s just the way it is.”

The Gauchos are rolling right now. They’ve won seven in a row and the offense is clicking. Sam Garza scored the first Gaucho hat trick since 2007 in last Saturday’s 4-0 win over Cal State Northridge.

UCSB put the Matadors away early by scoring three goals in the first 13 minutes.

Vom Steeg said he’d like to see a repeat performance at Cal Poly.

“We need to take this offense on the field and bury some balls, get something early in the first half and take the crowd out of the game,” he said.