MSoc: Shorthanded Gauchos KO’d by Penn State, 1-0

UCSB captain Goffin Boyoko, Reed McKenna and Fifi Biden plead their case after Biden was given a red card early in Sunday's match. Penn State's Mason Klerks is on the ground being attended to by the Penn State trainer. (Presidio Sports Photo)

UCSB captain Goffin Boyoko, Marshall Cazares and Fifi Baiden plead their case after Baiden was given a red card early in Sunday’s match. Penn State’s Mason Klerks is on the ground being attended to by the Penn State trainer following an aggressive slide tackle by Baiden. (Presidio Sports Photo)

An already shorthanded UCSB men’s soccer team suffered another blow to its lineup in the sixth minute of Sunday’s NCAA Tournament second-round match against Penn State.

The 10th-seeded Gauchos lost midfielder Fifi Baiden to a red card for a studs-up tackle, leaving them down a player for the rest of the match. They hung tough against a physical, organized Nittany Lions team. But Penn State broke through in the 78th minute on a brilliant strike by Connor Maloney and came away with a 1-0 victory at Harder Stadium.

The loss ? only UCSB’s second at home in 11 NCAA Tournament appearances ? ended the Gauchos’ season at 12-6-3.

Penn State (13-5-2), the Big Ten regular season champion, advances to a Sweet 16 matchup at New Mexico on Sunday. The Nittany Lions’ win was their first on the road in the tournament since 1998.

UCSB entered the match without starters Drew Murphy and Kevin Garcia-Lopez, both of whom were serving one-game suspensions after getting red cards in a loss against Cal State Northridge in the Big West Tournament semifinals.

“That put us under the eight ball tonight,” UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “But, that being said, I?ve said it all long we have enough on this field, if our seniors show up, to go win this game. And, fortunately, our seniors did show up tonight. They showed up in a big way. But we gave up the one shot, and the margin of error is really, really small in soccer. You have to be a little bit lucky and have things go your way a bit. And tonight it didn?t go our way.”

The Gauchos played well after the red card to Baiden. who was the only UCSB player on the field with NCAA playoff experience.

Penn State coach Bob Warming was impressed with UCSB.

UCSB's Adam Carn Saferstein  and Penn State's Jordan Tyler compete for a bouncing ball just cleared from in front of the Penn State goal.

UCSB’s Adam Carn Saferstein and Penn State’s Jordan Tyler compete for a bouncing ball just cleared from in front of the Penn State goal.

“We tried to attack. They?re just tough to get behind,” Warming said of the Gauchos. “The center backs are unbelievable. They?re incredible. I don?t think we got knocked off the ball or been dispossessed by center backs any time this year. They were hard to get behind.”

Center backs Daniel Welsh and Nick DePuy and outside backs Adam Carn-Saferstein and Duncan Backus played solid throughout the match.

“I thought we played well as a group all over the field,” said Welsh, who played his last game as a Gaucho. “We put everything into it, we put our hearts into it. It?s tough to lose on a goal the way we did. We didn?t let anything get behind. It?s obviously very disappointing.”

The goal was set up by 6-2, 200-pound forward Jordan Tyler. He received the ball at the top of the 18-yard box and laid it off to Maloney. the 5-6 freshman midfielder ripped a right-footed rocket from 22 yards into the upper left corner of the goal.

“I saw the ball in flight to Jordan, and he?s a great forward,” Maloney said. “He held the ball up well and he gave it to me, and I did what I had to do; I did my job.”

Earlier in the match, Maloney had to leave the field with an injury to his right leg. But he didn’t stay out long.

“I got a little dead leg and it hurt a little bit,” he said. “I needed to get back into the game, I couldn?t sit out. I went back in and sucked it up a little bit. I just did it for the team.”

The goal was a big blow to the Gauchos, who fought toe-to-toe with Penn State.

“I thought we had good possession, I thought we were disciplined,” Vom Steeg said. “It?s just unfortunate we gave them the one look, the one player, who, in my opinion, was their most dangerous player. He got the opportunity and he crushed it. The minute it left his foot there was no doubt it was going to be a goal.”

The Gaucho coach was proud at how his team battled and played hard while dealing with adversity. Injuries, red card suspensions and illness left Vom Steeg with just 14 players.

“That was going to be a challenge,” he said. “The other challenge was, as many times as we’ve been to the playoffs, Fifi was the only player that had played in an NCAA playoff game. So we played tonight with 10 players who had never played in a playoff game.”