Sept. 5, 2007
Match No. 3
Friday, September 7, 2007
No. 9 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers
Kickoff 7:00 p.m.
The first week of the 2007 season was a forgetful one for the defending national champions, as the Gauchos posted a 0-1-1 record against two unranked foes in matches that they would tell you they should have won. After taking a 2-0 second half lead at Stanford Friday night, the UCSB defense allowed two goals in a span of two minutes and 10 seconds, as the Cardinal came roaring back. Despite out-shooting Stanford 4-2 in the two overtime periods, Santa Barbara could not respond and had to settle for a 2-2 tie. The Gauchos then came home to face Gonzaga Sunday in their home opener and completely dominated the ball, posting a 19-8 shot advantage. UCSB could not find the net all afternoon however, and a Bulldog goal in the 82nd minute was the difference in a gut-wrenching 1-0 loss.
Scouting the Panthers
Santa Barbara hosts the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Friday in a battle of two teams looking for their first win of 2007. This weekend's contest marks just the second meeting between the two schools after the Gauchos defeated the Panthers 2-1 in double overtime in an NCAA Tournament Second Round match-up at Harder Stadium in 2004. Jonathan Davis gave UCSB a 1-0 lead in the 28th minute and Pat Scott punched in the game-winner in the 103rd, as Santa Barbara began its run to the program's first national championship match.
UW-Milwaukee enters Friday's match with a mark of 0-2-0 after dropping consecutive 2-1 decisions to Western Michigan and Tulsa at last weekend's University of Wisconsin Invitational. The Panthers return a total of 14 letterwinners and eight starters from their 2006 squad that finished with an overall record of 8-9-2 and lost to Butler in the Horizon League Tournament.
Senior midfielder Zeke Dombrowski returns after starting 18 games for Wisconsin-Milwaukee a year ago and has netted both Panther goals so far in 2007. Also back is All-Horizon League Second Team selection and team captain Steve Bode, senior defender Chris Lins, and junior forward Colin Baker, who is second on the team with five shots so far this season. Keepers Ryan Germann and Grant Fernstrum have both started a game and allowed two goals apiece.
What a difference a week makes. After posting a record of 0-1-1 in the season's first week, the Gauchos slipped 12 spots from No. 1 in the preseason Top 25 to No. 13 in this week's NSCAA/adidas coaches poll. In the media polls, UCSB didn't fall as far in the first College Soccer News Top 30 of the 2007 regular season, securing a No. 9 ranking, which is down just six spots from its preseason tab of No. 3, but fell from a preseason mark of No. 4 down to No. 18 in this week's Soccer America Top 25. Finally, after claiming the top spot in Soccer Times' preseason poll, Santa Barbara enters week two with a No. 12 nod. With a victory over Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a great showing against SMU and New Mexico at the Nike/Crescent Financial Solutions Invite September 14-16, UCSB will surely be back near the top of the national polls.
UCSB Drops Heartbreaker In Home Opener
After settling for a 2-2 tie at Pac-10 power Stanford to open the season last Friday, UCSB returned home to Harder Stadium eager to pick up a win against Gonzaga. The Gauchos dominated the Bulldogs for the duration of the match, controlling possession and keeping the Gonzaga defense on its heels for nearly 90 minutes. But despite out-shooting the visitors 19-8, Santa Barbara failed to capitalize on several quality scoring opportunities and could not finish all afternoon. Grant Lundberg scored the game's only goal in the 82nd minute to lift the Bulldogs to a 1-0 upset over the defending national champions after they countered on a Santa Barbara offensive push, drove down the field, and scored on a broken play. 13 of the Gauchos' 19 shots came in the decisive second half as the Gauchos saw their record slip to 0-1-1 on the young season. Tino Nuñez led the way with six shots, while Nick Perera had five, three of which were on frame, and Eric Avila had three.
Gonzaga Does What Few Can
The Bulldogs did what a very select few have done over the past few seasons: Win at Harder Stadium. Sunday's 1-0 loss at the hands of Gonzaga snapped the Gauchos' seven game home winning streak dating back to last season. Santa Barbara's last loss within the friendly, yet raucous confines of Harder Stadium was a 3-1 defeat at the hands of then-ranked No. 7 and eventual national runner-up UCLA in front of 5, 475 screaming fans October 5. The Gauchos' went 11-2 at home in 2006, with their other loss coming in heartbreaking fashion as well, after No. 18 Illinois-Chicago scored the decisive goal with overtime just 31 seconds away in a 2-1 defeat September 8. Since 2002, UCSB has a posted an overall record of 37-7-2 (.826) at Harder Stadium, including a perfect 6-0-0 mark in NCAA Tournaments contests. Gonzaga became the first unranked opponent to defeat the Gauchos at home since UC Irvine escaped with a 1-0 win October 21, 2004.
The Offensive Will Come
After failing to convert on 19 shots (five on goal) in the 1-0 shutout loss Sunday, many people in the college soccer community are probably wondering if the Gauchos' offense will stuggle in 2007 like it did at times in 2006. Because UCSB put together such an incredible run, winning 11 of its last 12 games, people tend to forget that the Santa Barbara offense had issues finishing at the beginning of last season. In fact, the Gauchos scored one goal or less a total 13 times during the regular season a year ago, including nine times in the first 13 games, and five of their seven losses were shutouts. But then the offensive found its stride and UCSB scored 20 goals in its final 12 games on the way to the program's first NCAA National Championship. There is no question that the 2007 squad is capable of turning it up in the same way, as Santa Barbara's two goals on the road against Stanford last Friday suggest.
UCSB vs. The Horizon League
UCSB will welcome the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee back to Harder Stadium Friday night after the first meeting between the two program's back in 2004. This weekend's match will not only mark the second-ever meeting between the Gauchos and Panthers, but it will be just the sixth time Santa Barbara has squared off with one of the 10 current members of the Horizon League, with the Gauchos owning an all-time record of 4-1-0 against the conference. In addition to UWM, UCSB has posted victories over Cleveland State and Valparaiso in the only meeting between the Gauchos and the two schools and split two contests with the University of Illinois-Chicago -- the only member of the Horizon League to record a victory over UCSB (a 2-1 win at Harder Stadium last September).
Slow Start, No Problem
While head coach Tim Vom Steeg and the Gaucho coaching staff aren't exactly thrilled with the team's 0-1-1 record to start the season, it doesn't mean they haven't seen it before. UCSB has had a tough first week of the season in recent years, but has always been able to bounce back. In 2005, Santa Barbara started 0-1-1, losing to No. 20 Cal and tying No. 6 Virginia at Harder Stadium in its own Adidas Classic. The Gauchos went on to finish 13-5-3 and advanced to a fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament. Last season, UCSB opened with a bang, defeating No. 7 Akron 5-0 on the first day of the University of Virginia Soccer Classic, but was then limited to just eight shots in a 1-0 loss to host and third-ranked Virginia. We all know what the Gauchos did from there. Lastly, after the Gauchos fell to 7-6 on October 11 last season, Vom Steeg issued a challenge and the team answered with 11 wins in their final 12 games, culminating in a national title. There is no question this team will respond, just as teams in years past have done.
Perera Picks Up Where He Left Off
After emerging as one of UCSB's top offensive weapons towards the end of 2006, junior forward Nick Perera has continued his aggressive play at the offensive end so far this season. The native of Madrid, Spain was second on the team in scoring a year ago, after finishing the year with seven goals and four assists for a total of 18 points. Three of his goals came during the Gauchos' postseason run and he earned College Cup Most Outstanding Offensive Player honors after scoring Santa Barbara's first goal in the final against UCLA and assisting on the game-winner. But while no one can argue the importance of his contributions in the second half of the season, his first goal didn't come until UCSB's seventh match of the year -- the game-winner in the 106th minute at Cal State Fullerton. That was then, this is now. Perera is one of just two players to have found the net so far, scoring the Gauchos' second goal against the Cardinal when he fired from 15 yards out to give Santa Barbara a seemingly comfortable 2-0 lead in the 72nd minute. He was in the starting lineup against Stanford and Gonzaga and leads the team with nine shots and six shots on goal through two games.
Manning the Middle
Much has been made of what a big addition University of San Diego transfer Ciaran O'Brien will be to the Gauchos' roster in 2007. The native of Tacoma, Wash. wasted little time proving that sentiment, as he scored UCSB's first goal of the year in his first career game in the blue and gold. After a scoreless first half, O'Brien scored the game's opening goal when penetrated the left edge of the box and curled a shot past Stanford goalkeeper Andrew Kartunen and into the top-right corner of the net, giving the Gauchos' a 1-0 lead at the 51:26 mark. After scoring six goals and dishing out four assists on the way to Freshman All-American honors for the Toreros in 2006, O'Brien has started both contests for the Gauchos so far this season and all signs point to him having an excellent year in the Santa Barbara midfield.
Avila, Nunez Look to Get Going
Junior midfielder Eric Avila and senior forward Tino Nuñez will look to find their touch when the Gauchos take on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee this Friday. Avila is second on the squad with six shots, but like most of the Santa Barbara roster, he has struggled to find the net. The Preseason All-American did notch his first points of 2007 when he connected with Nick Perera in the 72nd for UCSB's second goal of the game at Stanford last week. After starting just seven matches in 2006, Nuñez was in the starting lineup in both contests so far this season and has also posted six shots. He had several excellent opportunities against Gonzaga Sunday, but was unable to convert.
Iro, Avila Named to Hermann Award Watch List
Senior defender Andy Iro and junior midfielder Eric Avila were recently named to the 2007 M.A.C. Hermann Trophy Watch List, marking the first time in program history that two Gauchos were selected for the prestigious list that will eventually determine the NCAA Division I Player of the Year. The defending national champions are one of only two schools in the nation that had multiple players named to the Watch List, joining senior goalkeeper Matt Allen and junior forward Byron Dacy of Creighton. UCSB has now had a total of four players named to the list after Iro received the honor in 2006 and former teammate Tyler Rosenlund was selected in 2005. The winner of the M.A.C.'s Hermann Trophy will be determined by a panel of NSCAA Division I member coaches. A list of 15 semifinalists will be announced in November, and three finalists will be named in early December in conjunction with the NCAA Division I College Cup. The final three will be invited to the Missouri Athletic Club on Friday, January 11, 2008 and the winner will be announced during a nationally-televised news conference that evening.