MSoc: Gauchos sputter in 2-0 loss to Akron

The offense wasn’t clicking for the UCSB men’s soccer team Friday night.

Playing before their biggest crowd of the season, the 25th-ranked Gauchos couldn’t make things happen in the attacking third of the field and dropped a 2-0 decision to No. 6-ranked Akron before 7,283 at Harder Stadium.

The loss comes four days after a history-making 4-2 win at UCLA. In that game, the offense fired on all cylinders.

Friday night it sputtered.

The Gauchos were outshot 13-6, and Akron goalkeeper Jake Fenlason had to make only one save. That came in the third minute on a nice piece of teamwork. Josue Espana stole the ball and fed Nick DePuy, who hit a diagonal ball to Ahinga Selemani rushing in at the far post. Fenlason did well to follow the play and slid across the goal mouth to smother Selemani’s shot.

That was the best the Gauchos could muster on the night.

The eventual winning goal was the result of a mistake. In the 35th minute, defender Fuad Adeniyi hit a back pass that a hustling Sam Gainford of Akron got to before goalkeeper Justin Vom Steeg. Gainford’s toe poke was blocked by Vom Steeg but the Zips forward collected the rebound and scored into the open net.

Stuart Holthusen scored the Zips second goal in the 86th minute after intercepting a pass deep in the UCSB end.

“It was certainly a disappointing result,” UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “We had high expectations coming into the game and we didn’t play well. It could have been a different game if we score on our opportunities in the first 5-10 minutes of the game, but we weren’t able to connect a pass and get our offense going.”

The result drops the Gauchos to 4-3-1 while Akron improves to 5-2-1.

The goal off the back pass was the second one scored against the Gauchos this season. The first time was in a 2-1 loss at UConn.

In both cases, coach Vom Steeg said the passes were made by players who hadn’t seen a lot of minutes on the field.

“I credit that to not being on the field,” Vom Steeg. “It’s (Fuad’s) first game. He just left (the pass) short.”

UCSB played with a revamped backline after starting centerback Jeff Quezada went down with an ankle injury at practice on Thursday. The team was already missing outside back Ismaila Jome.

On the lackluster attack, Vom Steeg said the team struggled to hold the ball. “We didn’t do enough in the midfield, just connect a few passes and then we’d turn it over. We were not good enough on the ball tonight to move them around and open things up.”

Akron was organized and solid on defense.

“The reality is we gave them that first goal and that allowed Akron to sit in with seven guys and just sit in,” Vom Steeg said. “Akron was very comfortable keeping the game in front of them.”

The Gauchos have little time to regroup as they return to Harder Stadium on Sunday to play the University of San Diego.

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