MSoc: Gauchos open Big West with win at Irvine

Geoffrey-Acheampong---UCSB Soccer

Geoffrey Acheampong scored the tying goal at UC Irvine. (Presidio Sports File Photo)

IRVINE – After allowing a goal just three minutes into Thursday night’s Big West opener at UC Irvine, the No. 28 UC Santa Barbara men’s soccer team rebounded by scoring a trio of goals over the remainder of the game and soundly defeating the host Anteaters 3-1.

Geoffrey Acheampong (10th minute), Nick DePuy (’12), and Josue Espana (87′) found the back of the net for a Gaucho side that has now won four of its past five games, scoring at least three goals in each of those victories.

UCSB improved to 6-3-1 (1-0-0 Big West) with the win, the team’s fourth consecutive triumph in a conference opener. UCI slipped to 2-6-2, 0-1-0 with the loss.

As has been the case all year, the Gauchos were successful when Acheampong and DePuy figured prominently in the offense.

UCSB is now 12-0-3 all-time when DePuy finds the back of the net, and his go-ahead marker was his eighth goal and fourth game-winner of the season, both which top the league and rank in the top-10 nationally. Playing in front of family and friends, the Irvine native now has 17 goals in 23 career starts at forward.

Acheampong kept his impressive scoring streak rolling – he has points in four of the last five Gaucho games, perfectly coinciding with the team’s four wins – and the team is now 4-0-1 this season when he registers a point.

Eduardo Calzada put the Anteaters up 1-0 at the 2:34 mark of the first half, chipping UCSB keeper Justin Vom Steeg after a nice pass from teammate Gerardo Gonzalez. But from then on, it was all UCSB.

The Gauchos didn’t wait long to equalize, with Acheampong netting in the 10th minute on the squad’s second shot of the game.

Working himself into space down the left wing, Acheampong went to send in a cross. Instead, he was a bit fortuitous as his probing pass found a way into the net past UCI keeper Michael Breslin to level the score.

Regaining the momentum, UCSB capitalized and took the lead for good less than two minutes later.

Turning in arguably his best game so far as a Gaucho, sophomore left back Randy Mendoza created UCSB’s second goal with an excellent through ball into the box for DePuy, who finished short side to Breslin’s right.

Mendoza also had a golden opportunity to score himself, making an end-to-end run around the 71st minute and unleashing a shot that would have beat the keeper had it not glanced just wide right.

The Gauchos had an excellent chance to extend their 2-1 lead in the 38th minute on a Kevin Feucht free kick, but the German national’s howler glanced off the outside of the post.

Similarly, UCI had a scoring opportunity turned away by the goalpost in the 63rd minute. But other than that, Vom Steeg and the UCSB defense did a good job at holding off the Anteaters attack following their early goal.

Vom Steeg’s best play of the night came in the 20th minute, when he made a nice read and aggressively came out to block a Mats Bjurman shot after he had received a good pass in the box.

Similar to his assist in Sunday’s 4-0 drubbing of San Diego, Josue Espana put the game on ice with an 87th minute goal thanks to defensive tenacity.

Deep in the offensive third, Espana stole the ball away from an Anteater before dribbling into the penalty area and slotting past Breslin.

Justin Vom Steeg improved his personal record to 6-2-0 on the year, while his father and UCSB head coach Tim Vom Steeg is now just two wins away from becoming the first coach ever to record 100 career wins in Big West play.

He will have a chance at win No. 99 on Saturday evening, as the Gauchos travel to Northridge to take on CSUN at 5:00 p.m.