MSoc: Gauchos strike Charleston three times

After a taxing four-game, two-week road trip, No. 28 UC Santa Barbara made a triumphant return to Harder Stadium on Friday night, knocking off College of Charleston 3-1 in a non-conference battle.

Freshman midfielder Geoffrey Acheampong was the offensive standout for the Gauchos (3-2-1) on Friday, setting up the final two goals despite not starting the game.

Geoffrey-Acheampong---UCSB Soccer

UCSB freshman Geoffrey Acheampong recorded a pair of assists on Friday. (Presidio Sports File Photo)

Sam Strong, Nick DePuy, and Andy Perez scored the goals for a UCSB side that outright dominated the Cougars, outshooting the opposition 21-4, enjoying a sizable 12-4 advantage in corners, and controlling the majority of possession.

“We continue to keep playing better each game and that trend continued tonight,” said UCSB head coach Tim Vom Steeg. “We’re excited to be back at Harder Stadium in front of our home crowd and you saw that energy level tonight.”

The scoreline could have been much worse for CoC (3-2-1) were it not for the heroics of goalkeeper Kevin Shields, who made nine saves on the night, tied for the most of any Gaucho opponent over the past three seasons.

Shields made a number of highlight-reel saves, including pushing a hard-struck Kevin Feucht free kick over the bar in the first half and aggressive stops on dangerous shots from Seo-In Kim and Ahinga Selemani, who was an offensive menace in the game’s opening 15 minutes, creating a number of scoring chances and earning more than a few corners.

In the sixth minute, all those early corners paid off for the Gauchos when freshman center back Sam Strong made a run from the back of the box to meet a cross from midfielder Josue Espana, heading down towards the far post past Shields.

That one goal lead evaporated just two minutes later when CoC’s Cesar Murillo scored on a set piece, but UCSB quickly returned to the offensive.

As is his wont, DePuy stepped up to score a big goal in the 19th minute, a tally which held up as the game-winner, giving the Irvine native eight in his short career as a forward.

Like Strong’s opener, DePuy’s goal came off a UCSB corner. Acheampong provided the service on the corner, finding DePuy near post, where the striker flicked across the goalmouth just inside the far post.

UCSB is now 9-0-3 all-time in games in which DePuy scores.

Though the offensive pace slowed down considerably in the second half, UCSB was able to push across an insurance goal in the 69th minute, as Perez finished off the rebound of an Acheampong shot that was deflected by Shields.

The game was delayed for about 20 minutes in the first half after Charleston’s Erik Clark had to be carted off following a nasty fall while trying to win a header. Likewise, UCSB’s Ismaila Jome had to be removed from the game after enduring a tackle from a Cougars defender.

UCSB hits the road again on Monday night to take on UCLA in a Pac-12 Networks-televised showdown before returning to Harder next weekend to host Akron on Friday and San Diego on Sunday.