Two quick goals help Gauchos snap skid, stay in race

With its season on the line, the UCSB men’s soccer team played with a sense of urgency in the opening minutes of Tuesday night’s Big West clash with first-place Sacramento State.

The 16th-ranked Gauchos pressured from the start and, in the eighth minute, Ema Boateng and Nic Ryan scored 12 seconds apart to send them to a vital 2-0 victory over the Hornets at Harder Stadium.

The win and the goals snapped a two-match losing and scoreless streak for UCSB (9-2-3, 3-2-1, 10 points in the Big West).

It was a must win game for UCSB, which now trails Sacramento State (7-5-2, 4-1-1, 13 points) in the Big West North Division by three points and second-place UC Davis by two points with four conference matches remaining. The top two teams in the North and South Divisions make the conference tournament.

“The cool thing about the way the structure is is everything is a two-game swing,” UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “We’re one game behind them and we play them again. Everybody is playing each other. In my opinion, we feel like we have to win out. We’re optimistic; we get (center back Peter) Schmetz back on Friday (for Cal Poly).”

“It’s a four-horse race,” Sacramento State coach Gary Linenberger said of the Big West North. “There are four tough games to go for everyone.”

Beset by injuries for most of the season, the Gauchos got one regular back on the field Tuesday, senior defensive midfielder Machael David. His presence helped energize the team and his defensive prowess enabled the Gauchos to attack relentlessly up both flanks. Also keying the surge was forward Cesar Castillo, who tested Sacramento State’s goalkeeper Bryan Oliver early with shots on frame and put himself in dangerous positions in the attacking third.

Vom Steeg said the game plan was to attack up the flanks, utilizing the speed of Boateng and Peter McGlynn.

“We said we were going on both sides, but here’s the key, I got MD back,” Vom Steeg said. “You can go all day long on the outsides because MD and Fifi (Baiden) win everything in the midfield. We were just so limited for four games (without David). Yeah, I can on on the outsides, but coming back I’m giving up two goals. When you have a team struggling to score goals, you don’t have the luxury to do that.”

David, who’d been sidelined by a hamstring injury, was happy to help the team get back on the winning track.

“This is my lsat year and I don’t want to be part of the group that didn’t make the playoffs,” said David.

With David and Fifi diffusing things in the midfield, the Gauchos controlled the tempo and the majority of ball possession.

“We’re like brothers,” David said of him and Fifi. “We think a like. we play a similar kind of game, we know what each other is thinking. So, when we play together in the midfield, it’s a different game We know we’re going to work for each other.”

Gauchos outshot the short-handed Hornets 12-1 in the first half and had five shots on goal. Goffin Boyoko had at three quality opportunities, including one he hit off the cross bar in 44th minute.

Sacramento State was missing four starters on Tuesday, including two central midfielders and its leading goal scorer, Chris Sandoval.

The Hornets got some positive play in the second half, but this night belonged to UCSB. The Gauchos outshot Sacramento State 23-8 for the game, forced Oliver to make seven saves and earned six corner kicks to none.

Boateng put UCSB on the board with a booming left-footed blast from 30 yards from the right flank. Shortly after the kickoff, UCSB got the ball back and Peter McGlynn sent a cross into the box that deflected right to a wide-open Ryan, who poked it past Oliver.

In the second half, Castillo missed an open look from 12 yards in the 51st minute. In the 75th minute, Boateng raced down the left flank and crossed the ball to Ryan right in front of the goal, but Ryan slipped and couldn’t get off a good shot.

Gaucho goalkeeper Austin Mansker made a terrific diving save on Sacramento State forward Mez Chimdum in the 59th minute to keep the shutout.

UCSB faces another important game on Friday night against Cal Poly. The Mustangs also are fighting to make the postseason. The game, which has drawn some of the biggest crowds in college soccer, is being televised nationally on the Fox Soccer Channel at 8 p.m.