SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – A headed goal from senior defender Faouzi Taieb off a free kick from fellow countryman Thibault Candia in the 10th minute was the difference between the UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team and crosstown rivals Westmont in the 57th annual Bryant and Sons Cup on Saturday night at Harder Stadium.
The annual exhibition match between the two teams saw a pair of players make their debuts for UCSB, with freshmen Lucas Gonzalez and Finn Ballard McBride stepping onto the pitch at Meredith Field for the first time.
Just 17 seconds into the affair, Westmont attacker Lucky Puengrod nearly gave the visitors a shock lead when his well-timed effort was trapped by UCSB sophomore goalkeeper Ben Roach.
The next major chance for either squad came in the 10th minute when the Gauchos drew a foul in the Westmont final third, setting up a free-kick opportunity for attacking midfielder Candia 22 yards out from goal near the right edge of the penalty area.
Continuing the trend from last season, it was the Gauchos' towering center back duo of Taieb and Hunter Ashworth that rose highest in the box when the ball was delivered, and this time it was Taieb who was positioned perfectly at the back post to nod the ball downwards across the goal.
"We've gone to more of a concept to where we can get [Taieb] freed up a bit in open area, Hunter [Ashworth] open in another area, Will[iam Gillingham]- you start to look at our size. So, to borrow a West Coast football analogy, we're looking to flood the area and have someone open. That's kind of our thought process right now with our set pieces," said Head Coach Tim vom Steeg after the match.
The goal highlighted what was a relatively tame first 45 minutes, in which UCSB was creating chances in midfield but lacking quality in the final third.
Westmont emerged from the halftime break on the front foot again, with Owen Bates putting a shot wide left of the target in the 50th minute.
An upstart Ignacio Tellechea joined the newcomer Gonzalez in putting shots off target in the 62nd and 65th minute, showing signs that the Gauchos were perhaps close to finding a second goal.
UCSB's best chance of the second half came through sophomore striker Carter Clemmensen, as he hit the right post of Westmont's goal in the 70th minute, and Tellechea having his follow-up effort blocked just seconds later.
A scrappy game from both teams led to a high foul count, totaling 27 at full time. Westmont committed 11 fouls and picked up five yellow cards, while the Gauchos were whistled 16 times and booked on five occasions as well.
"It was a good win in the end. It definitely took us some time to get into it in the first half, but in the second half I think we were in it more. It was a good win and we had some good chances," said junior midfielder Kaya Fabbretti in the postgame press conference.
Season tickets for the 2019 UCSB men's soccer season, with a parking pass included, are now available. Click here for more information or call the UCSB Athletics Ticket Office at 805-893-UCSB.
The Gauchos return to action next Saturday, August 24 in an exhibition at Loyola Marymount University. The match kicks off at 7 p.m.