Murphy-DePuy combination is a winning one for UCSB

Two guys playing in new positions made the plays to help UCSB start its Big West campaign on a winning note Thursday night.

Drew Murphy delivered two excellent services in the penalty area that Nick DePuy set up for a tying goal and headed in for the game winner in a 2-1 decision over Cal State Northridge before 4,095 at Harder Stadium. It was the third straight win for the Gauchos (5-3-1).

The deciding goal came in the 71st minute. Axel Mendez fed Murphy on the left wing and he hit a diagonal ball to DePuy, who split two defenders and redirected the ball past Northridge goalkeeper Adam Hobbs.

Murphy and DePuy were instrumental in the Gauchos’ first goal, which tied the score in the 21st minute. Murphy found DePuy with a corner kick to the far post and DePuy headed the ball across to Duncan Backus. Backus smartly headed the ball into the far deep corner of the net for his first goal of the season.

The two plays demonstrated that Murphy and DePuy are making the most of their new positions. Murphy was moved from the midfield to left back and DePuy switched from midfield to point forward.

“At some point, we figured it out,” UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “We got a great service to somebody who can do something with a head ball in the box.”

The two players have developed a great chemistry on and off the field.

“To start off, it’s having your best friend on your team and also your roommate,” Murphy said. “I think there’s a lot more to it than just the soccer part. It’s the friendship. And, to have his presence in the box and such a huge target makes my job a lot easier. He got his head on both of them tonight and we got the win.”

Said DePuy: “Every service is spot on. It’s just whether the timing is right, and luckily on the second one I found a good spot.”

Vom Steeg said moving Murphy to the outside made the Gauchos more dangerous.

“We talked about playing to player’s strengths. One of the reasons why we moved Drew from the middle of the field out wide left was because in the first two or three games we didn’t get that kind of service. I think it’s about as good of a left foot you’ll see in college soccer. His wide services set up goals.”

Murphy has recorded a goal and four assists over the last three games. He almost had another assist in the second half. He knocked a short square pass to Ismaila Jome and Jome hit a shot off the cross bar in the 78th minute.

DePuy said he’s having a good time playing on top.

“I’m having fun up there and trying to do the best job I can to help this team,” he said.

He did a good job on the game-winning goal.

“I saw the ball coming, and I can see the center back in front of me and he mistimed his jump. I thought, ‘It’s going over his head.’ I got ready, anticipated it and made sure it was on frame.”

The goal was a big reward after the Gauchos withstood heavy pressure from the Matadors (4-5-1).

“We weathered the storm and we had one good play,” Vom Steeg said. “A good ball in the middle, a good ball out wide and a great cross, and Nick was in a good spot. After that we just battled.”

The Gauchos had to battle from behind as Northridge scored off a long throw-in from Gabe Robinson in the ninth minute. Robinson launched a 30-yard throw from the right flank into the middle of the 6-yard goal box. Several Northridge players rushed the net and defender Patrick Hickman got his head on it and beat UCSB goalkeeper Brandon Berke.

“It was a cannon,” described Murphy of Robinson’s throw-in.

“The throw-in surprised us, said Vom Steeg, who noted they watched three Northridge matches on film and didn’t see Robinson throw a ball that far.

The Gauchos rebounded after the goal with some solid play.

“That’s the part I’m most happy about tonight. I felt we stayed after it after we gave up the goal. We didn’t change anything,” said Vom Steeg.

Ludwig Ahl almost tied the score in the 12th minute with a tremendous individual effort. He beat three defenders on the dribble but his shot went just wide of the post.

The Gauchos kept the pressure on Northridge’s back line. They generated six corner kicks in the first half and broke through on one to knot the score at 1-1.

“It’s a good start and now it sets up the game that we’re looking forward to, which is Saturday night,” Vom Steeg said. “Irvine comes in and it’s good opportunity to play against a team that’s had a good season so far.”

UC Irvine is ranked third in the nation. The Anteaters played Cal Poly to a 1-1 on Thursday in San Luis Obispo.