UCSB subs need to be super again on Sunday against Cal

Waid Ibrahim’s storybook goal in the second overtime to keep UCSB playing in the NCAA men’s soccer tournament was another example of just how much confidence coach Tim Vom Steeg has in his bench players.

Ibrahim, who wears a pacemaker because of heart defect, played in only four matches and hadn’t been on the field since Oct. 2. But Vom Steeg called on him in a scoreless match against Denver and he delivered, putting the Gauchos (14-4-3) into a second-round match at sixth-seeded Cal on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

Whether it’s been a Midas touch or a stroke of genius, Vom Steeg’s substitutions have come through big time for the Gauchos this season.

Before Ibrahim’s heroics, there was Nic Ryan coming off the bench to score the golden goal against Cal Poly in overtime in the Big West Tournament semifinal. He also had a game-winner earlier in the season at UC Davis.

There was Josue Madueno digging out the ball in the corner and feeding Ryan for the goal against Cal Poly and then scoring a game-clincher himself in the Big West Tournament final against Cal State Fullerton.

Early in the season, it was Joe Eubanks delivering the finishing touch off the bench to help beat Harvard and snap a four-game winless start to the season.

A good indicator of the contributions off the bench is the UCSB scoring chart. When Ibrahim scored against Denver, he became the 15th player on the team to score a goal, a team record.

After playing 105 minutes on Thursday, you can be sure Vom Steeg will be counting heavily on his substitutes against the Pac-10 champions.

“We go up to Cal with very little to lose,” Vom Steeg said. “We go up there with the idea we can play with anybody. Certainly, coaching-wise, we’ll look at our bench again, and the bench has been very good for us all season. We will need to look at our bench, look at our players, look at our personnel and find a way to stay active on that field.”

Cal (12-2-3) completed a worst-to-first season in the Pac-10 and earned the conference’s automatic NCAA berth. The Bears’ strength is defense. Led by senior center back A.J. Soares, the Pac-10 player of the year, and junior goalkeeper David Bingham, they allowed only 13 goals during the season. Bingham posted seven shutouts.

“I am fairly familiar with Cal,” said Vom Steeg, who has a playoff record of 1-2 against Kevin Grimes’ team. “The names, numbers and faces will change, but how they play will never change. They are very good in the back, very disciplined and they have a very good goalie.

“In the middle of that, you have to find a way to break somebody down.”

Offensively, seniors Hector Jimenez Servando Carrasco lead the Cal attack in the midfield. Carrasco is the second-leading goal scorer with six. Forward Davis Paul is the team leader with seven.

Denver played Cal this season and battled the Bears to 2-2 draw.

“It’s a different atmosphere when you play at Cal,” Denver coach Bobby Muuss said. “You play in the afternoon. It’s a different game, in my opinion. Cal is a very good team. They got two very good centerbacks and they have a very good goalkeeper that you’ll see playing on the weekends some day.”

Vom Steeg knows it will be a challenge to knock off Cal at home. But he likes his team’s chances.
“It will again be a test for us to go up there and find something,” he said. “But you don’t really want to bet against this group.”

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