Top-Ranked Gauchos Battle Stanford To 2-2 Tie In Season Opener
Aug. 31, 2007
STANFORD, Calif. - Sophomore midfielder Ciaran O'Brien scored his first goal in the blue and gold and junior forward Nick Perera picked up where he left off a year ago with a second, but the No. 1-ranked UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team allowed two goals in a span of less than three minutes and could not push through in overtime of a 2-2 tie with Stanford Friday night at Maloney Field.
With the tie in their season opener, the Gauchos' record now stands at 0-0-1. After UCSB went through its entire national championship season in 2006 with just one tie - against Wake Forest in the College Cup Semifinals - Santa Barbara opened defense of its title in 2007 with a draw.
"We are obviously disappointed with the outcome tonight," head coach Tim Vom Steeg said. "We played well enough to win and we had a comfortable lead, up 2-0. We just didn't keep the pressure on them defensively and it hurt us."
Despite allowing two goals, freshman goalkeeper Bryant Rueckner was tested and played well in his debut. He made a key save in the 19th minute, denying a penalty kick from Michael Strickland after Santa Barbara was whistled for a foul in the box. Rueckner finished with six saves in 110 minutes, his first at the Division I level.
After a scoreless first half in which UCSB was out-shot 9-1, Santa Barbara came storming out of the locker room eager to live up to its No. 1 ranking. Six and a half minutes into the second half, O'Brien put the Gauchos on the board, showing what a great addition he will be in the midfield this season. The transfer from the University of San Diego penetrated the left edge of the box and, from a difficult angle, managed to curl a shot past Carnidal goalkeeper Andrew Kartunen and into the top-right corner of the net for the game's opening goal.
UCSB continued to attack and increased its lead to 2-0 at the 71:48 mark when junior midfielder Eric Avila centered to Perera just outside the box. The Madrid, Spain native blasted a shot from 15 yards out through the net, giving UCSB a seemingly insurmountable advantage.
But the Cardinal would respond roughly seven minutes later, as forward Dan Shapiro was able to get his foot on a loose ball in the box, and sneak it just beyond the reach of Rueckner, who had misjudged the play and was well out of the net.
Stanford needed only two minutes and 10 seconds to equalize and force an eventual overtime. An attack to Rueckner's left saw forward Brant Bishop streaking upfield, before he found Scott Bolkan with a cross into the box. Bolkan's header bounced past Rueckner for Stanford's second goal and the final 2-2 count.
UCSB definitely had its changes after regulation, taking four shots in the two overtime periods to Stanford's two, including an excellent left-footed look by senior forward Andrew Proctor with roughly three minutes remaining. In the end, the Gauchos were unable to find the net in the waning moments. Kartunen made two of his six saves in the second extra session to help preserve the tie.
Stanford out-shot UCSB 17-13 for the game, while Santa Barbara posted an 8-4 advantage on corner kicks. The Gauchos' struggled with the long pass all night and were called offsides nine times.
UCSB will look to bounce back on Sunday when Gonzaga comes to Harder Stadium in the Gauchos' home-opener. Kickoff is slated for 2:00 p.m.