MSoc: DePuy, defense get it done for UCSB

A lot of the talk leading up to UCSB’s soccer season opener was about the team’s potent attack.

Well, the defense made a statement in Friday’s match against No. 8-ranked Stanford. The Gauchos turned in a solid defensive performance and made Nick DePuy’ first-half goal stand up for a 1-0 victory before 3,312 at Harder Stadium.

UCSB’s holding midfielder Kevin Feucht, the back line of Duncan Backus, Ismaila Jome, Jeff Quezada and Sam Strong and goalkeeper Justin Vom Steeg were disciplined all night and didn’t give the vaunted and experienced Cardinal offense many good looks at the goal.

“I felt like there were one or two times when they broke in. Other than that, we did well,” UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg said of his defense. “Against Stanford, you don’t want to let their forwards run on you. I felt tonight we had to sit back a little bit and make Stanford try to pass through us versus hit a ball up to (U.S. National Team player) Jordan (Morris) in open space and have him get a goal. We obviously had to defend the set pieces, which we did well tonight, too.”

UCSB gave up three goals on set pieces in a 4-1 loss at Stanford last season.

There were so many big defensive plays in Friday’s match, starting with Justin Vom Steeg’s stop on Eric Verso one-on-one in the 20th minute. In the second half, Adam Carn-Safterstein made a key tackle at the top of the 18-yard box to break up a dangerous situation. Feucht made tackles all over the field and had a terrific clearance of a crossing ball in the 81st minute.

“I thought Kevin was unbelievable,” coach Vom Steeg raved. “He threw his body around in the middle of the park, broke up so many plays and stretched out for tackles. The back line is relying a lot on Kevin to pick up things in front of them. I thought Kevin was exceptional. That’s a player that’s going to help you win a lot of games with that kind of work rate.”

Vom Steeg said another key to the victory was the play of the substitutes. Seo-in Kim was one of those players. The midfielder got the assist on DePuy’s goal.

“When I came I knew I could make a difference,” he said. “When the ball popped out, my mindset was to go. Tim really talked about breaking the defense, breaking the midfield line and that’s what I wanted to do. When I picked my head up I saw Nick and crossed it.”

Kim’s ball was a perfectly placed for the 6-4 DePuy to hammer his header past Stanford goalie Andrew Epstein. Going back to last season, DePuy has scored in six of his last seven matches.

“The game is won on two broken tackles on a dribble,” Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn said of the goal-scoring play. “Our defenders have to win a tackle; it’s as simple as that.”

Coach Vom Steeg liked how the whole team rose to the occasion against a top-tier opponent.

“I think the game was won not only by our defending but by the players off our bench.”

It was UCSB’s first win over Stanford since 2004.