Gaucho defense never rests in 2-0 win over No. 8 West. Virginia

For a team that’s been touted to have everything going for it on offense, UCSB demonstrated Friday night that it has a defense that can play big, too.

The sixth-ranked Gauchos turned in a superb defensive effort and frustrated eighth-ranked West Virginia 2-0 before 3,136 fans at Harder Stadium.

David Opoku scored his fourth goal of the season in the first half and Luis Silva scored in the second half. But the story of this game between top-10 teams was the defensive effort of the Gauchos (4-0). They shut down the athletic Mountaineers (2-2) with blanket coverage in the midfield and pressure in the back.

“Each individual player did their responsibility,” UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “It starts and ends with work rate and we got great work rate, starting from our forwards all the way to the back line.”

All you needed to see was forward Sam Garza going in on tackles against West Virginia’s fullback to realize what Vom Steeg was talking about.

The return of defensive midfielder Machael David certainly contributed to the Gauchos’ outstanding play. David was suspended the first three regular season games for his red card in the playoff loss to Cal last year.

David combined with Fifi Baiden, Jose Madueno, James Kiffe and Silva to neutralize  West Virginia’s speedy midfielders Shadow Seberle and Uwem Etuk. Forward Andy Bevin, the team’s leading goal scorer, wasn’t a factor in the match.

“Tim made it clear,” David said. “Every time, we try to play like Barcelona,  and if you look at Barcelona carefully, (midfielders) Xavi and Iniesta, they don’t defend, But they defend as a team, they work as a team. That was the speech, that’s what Tim came in and said: “Let’s work for each other, let’s help each other. Everybody from the forwards to the goalie was defending, and that’s what won the game for us.”

The back line of Peter Schmetz, Tim Pontius and Matt Glodack made the night easy for goalkeeper Andre Grandt. He didn’t have to make any saves. The Mountaineers were held to four shots.

“We definitely shut down their whole team, from the forwards all the way to the back,” said Pontius.

“We were nervous before the game because we knew they were a very good team and fast up front,” center back Peter Schmetz said. “But we were well prepared by our coach. We did all this video stuff, he told us what to do and to stay tight with them. We did a really good job; we outworked them.”

The Gauchos threatened early. After some good ball movement at the top of the box, Kiffe got a good look from about 16 yards but hit it wide in the second minute.

Opoku broke through for the Gauchos’ on a set piece. Garza found him wide open at the near post on a corner kick and the sophomore beat West Virginia goalkeeper Pat Evenson to the ball and headed it into the net for a 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute.

Opoku almost scored again later in the half but he couldn’t get good control of a Nic Ryan cross and his right-footed shot from a bad angle was cleared off the goal-line by West Virginia centerback Eric Schoenle.

The second goal capped a nice sequence of passing. Garza started it with a pass to Madueno coming up the right side. Madueno rolled a diagonal ball to Dom Sarle, who was running on goal. He lost the ball momentarily, regained possession and laid it back for Silva, who coolly buried his shot into the open net.

The Gauchos kept their work rate high through the final whistle.

That was pleasing to Vom Steeg.

“For us to win games, if we play like that, we’re going to be a hard team to beat.”

The Gauchos are back in action Sunday at 1 p.m. against Villanova.



  1. Shadow *Sebele