Gauchos need 4 goals to beat Riverside

RIVERSIDE – The UCSB men’s soccer team came from behind twice on Sunday evening to capture a 4-3 victory at UC Riverside in a Big West Conference match. The win was the Gauchos’ third of the week, fifth straight and first on the road this season.

UCSB improves to 8-3-2 overall and to 4-1 in conference games. Riverside falls to 3-9-1 and 0-5 in league. The victory puts the Gauchos in first place in the Big West standings with 12 points, though second-place UC Irvine (3-0-1) has a game in hand.

The Gauchos got off to a shaky start when a penalty kick was awarded to the Highlanders following a yellow card on UCSB goalkeeper Sam Hayden. Alex Racca scored on the penalty kick just 48 seconds into the match to give Riverside a very early advantage.

“We talked about this being a difficult game (after playing on Tuesday and Friday),” said head coach Tim Vom Steeg. “We wanted to settle into the game an not give up anything early. Even though we talked about it and discussed it, we still gave up a goal in the first minute.”

UCSB trailed until the 25th minute when Machael David and David Opoku assisted Michael Tetteh’s equalizer on a give-and-go outside the box.

Just seven minutes later, defender Chris Hunter scored his first career goal with UCSB from 25 yards out on a restart to give the Gauchos their first lead of the game.

UCSB’s lead disappeared early in the second half when Racca’s header towards the goal was corralled by Ruben Valencia who then hooked a shot past Hayden’s outstretched arms just 7:56 into the second half. Joel Garcia then gave the Highlanders their second lead of the evening less than seven minutes later when Cesar Diaz found him with a long pass through the Gaucho defense. Garcia beat his man to the ball and scored from 17 yards out on the left side of the box.

With 21:12 remaining, UC Riverside was called for a foul in the box, setting up a penalty kick for Luis Silva. The junior found the back of the net, tying the game for the third time.

The Gauchos were finally able to close the door on Riverside with 15:25 to go when David Opokufound Danny Barrera in the box. Barrera’s shot glanced off the left post and into the goal for the game-winner.

“A year ago, three years ago, even earlier this season, we would have lost this game,” said Vom Steeg. “The team showed a lot of heart and a lot of character. The players stepped up and for the first time this year, offensively we really had it going on and our goals were very good.”

Tetteh led all players with four shots and two on-goal, while Michael Nonni registered three shots. The Gauchos out-shot the Highlanders 19-11 in the win. In goal, Hayden registered two saves.

UCSB will continue Big West action on the road on Wednesday when they travel to UC Davis for a 7:15 pm match. The Gauchos will return home on Saturday, Oct. 23 to take-on Cal State Northridge at 7 pm at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium.