No. 12 Gauchos Begin Big West Title Defense Sunday
This Week's Schedule
Big West Conference Opener
Sunday, September 18
No. 12 UC Santa Barbara vs. UC Riverside
Harder Stadium 6:00 p.m. Kickoff
Another Defense Begins
UC Santa Barbara begins its Big West Conference title defense this weekend when UC Riverside visits the not-so-friendly confines of Harder Stadium. Winners of three of the last four Big West Championships, the Gauchos have been down right dominant in the conference since it reinstated men's soccer in 2001, posting a combined record of 31-7-2. Last year, Santa Barbara went 8-2-0 in league play and had eight players receive all-conference honors, including sophomore defender Andy Iro's Freshman of the Year accolades. Senior defender Pat Scott was named First Team All-Big West and midfielders Nate Boyden and Tyler Rosenlund garnered second team honors.
UC Riverside Game Capsule
The Gauchos have been quite successful against UC Riverside since the Highlanders made the jump up to Division I, and the Big West in 2001. In fact, they have been perfect. Boasting an 8-0-0 all-time record against UCR, UCSB has combined to net 24 goals in those eight matches while limiting the Highlanders to just two, posting six shutouts on the way.
Harder Stadium has not been any kinder to Riverside than have the Gauchos. In addition to the Highlanders' 0-4-0 record against UCSB in Harder, they were also held winless by Virginia and Cal two weeks ago at UCSB's adidas Classic, giving them a combined 0-6-0 record at Harder Stadium. In those six matches, UCR has been outscored 15-1.
UCR snapped a two-game scoring and winless streak last week when they tied Cal Baptist 1-1 in Riverside on a late goal by Randy Poggio. Unfortunately, the Highlanders were not able to keep their momentum rolling as they lost to San Diego State later in the week 3-0 to fall to 0-3-1 on the season.
Beginning this week, selected UCSB men's soccer players will be available for autographs at a designated location following the matches, including players such as Andy Iro, Nate Boyden, and Kyle Reynish. Schedule posters for signing can be purchase at the game for $1.
Lochhead Signs with New England Revolution
Former Gaucho All-American and four-time All-Big West honoree Tony Lochhead signed this week with Major League Soccer's New England Revolution. Drafted by the Revs in the third round of this year's MLS Superdraft, UCSB's all-time minutes leader (7,546) will join New England as a senior international once his work visa clears. Revs head coach Steve Nicol had this to say about the 2004 Big West Defensive Player of the Year and All-College Cup honoree, "Tony is a tough and experienced defender. He has a track record as a full international and comes from one the top college programs in the country." Lochhead graduated this past spring after earning four letters with the Gauchos, missing just five matches in his career.
It's Just the Way it Works
After a stellar week two to the 2005 season, it appears that UCSB's young squad is beginning to come together. Entering the season with a No. 4 preseason ranking in the NSCAA/adidas poll, largely based upon the skill of the Gauchos' returning players and the potential of its highly touted recruiting class, Santa Barbara fell from the rankings after a season-opening loss to current No. 6 Cal and a double-overtime tie against Virginia, currently ranked fourth in the nation. Well week two proved that all the Gauchos needed was a little more time to come together to show that the preseason hype was not that far off. Thanks to a balanced attack and a stingy defense, UCSB pounded then No. 15 (Soccer America) Northwestern 6-1 in sub-par playing conditions before dominating the defensive minded and then 23rd-ranked (NSCAA) Portland 1-0 to improve to 2-1-1 on the year. Due to the intricacies of the NSCAA poll and the overall strength of the Gauchos' Far West region UCSB is only receiving votes in this week's Top 25. Santa Barbara is sixth in the Far West, a region that sports five teams in the current Top 25. UCSB moved up one spot in College Soccer News' poll to 12th this week, and improved to 15th in Soccer America's Top 25, up from last week's 18th ranking. Soccer Times, which uses a points system, still has the Gauchos at 16th in the nation. UCSB's highest ranking this week comes from Top Drawer Soccer.com, which has the Gauchos tabbed at No. 8.
Taming the Wildcats
Going scoreless through the first weekend of play, the question as to when, where and from whom the Gauchos' offense would come from lingered entering last weekend's UNLV adidas Classic. Senior forward Jonathan Davis and freshman midfielder Eric Avila answered that question. Just 12 minutes into their match against then No. 15 Northwestern, the scoreless streak to start the year ended at 212 minutes. Davis went on to net his, and UCSB's, second goal of the year less than seven minutes later, getting the train off and rolling as Santa Barbara when on to paste six goals on the scoreboard. Along with Davis' two goals, sophomore Hermann Trophy candidate Tyler Rosenlund netted a pair of his own, including a blast from over 25 yards out. But it was Rosenlund's play directing the Gauchos' attack that stood out the most, playing the full 90 minutes, the Canadian International spearheaded an offense that saw nine different players register points in the game. Senior Nate Boyden and freshman Chris Pontius netted UCSB's final two goals of the match as the Gauchos wound up out-shooting the Wildcats 18-6 on their way to a 6-1 victory.
Las Vegas: Windy City?
Santa Barbara quickly picked up its second victory of the season en route to its perfect 2-0 record at the UNLV adidas Classic, topping the then 23rd-ranked University of Portland 1-0 for the Gauchos' first-ever victory over the Pilots in five tries. Playing in 35 mph wind gusts, as they did on Friday as well, UCSB dominated the match, giving up just one Portland shot-on-goal through the first 87 minutes. Attacking a skilled back line and playing against the wind in the first half, it took the Gauchos until the 73rd minute to get on the scoreboard. Freshman Chris Pontius, who netted his first career goal just two days before, got on the back end of an Andy Iro cross and hammered home what proved to be the game-winning goal. As he did in the Northwestern match, Tyler Rosenlund once again controlled the middle of the park very well for Santa Barbara, ultimately out-shooting Portland 15-6, and it was his dish out wide to Iro that set up Pontius' goal. Junior goalkeeper Kyle Reynish also came up huge for the Gauchos in the waning minutes to preserve the win, making a pair of acrobatic saves in the final three minutes, finishing the match with three total for his second shutout of the season.
Popping the Cork
UCSB's offensive explosion this past weekend brought to light both the depth to and diversity of the Gauchos' new attack. Having settled in as Santa Barbara's new go-to-guy, senior Jonathan Davis is currently tied for the team lead with two goals on the young season, netting both early on against Northwestern. Had Davis not suffered an injury nearing the 30th minute of the NU match, he very well could have scored a couple more. Not playing the final 60 minutes of Northwestern match, and a limited role in the Portland match, Davis finished second on the team six total shots last weekend, including a team-leading four on-goal. Sophomore Hermann Trophy candidate Tyler Rosenlund and freshman Chris Pontius have each scored two goals as well, tying them with Davis for the team-lead, and second in the Big West. By virtue of him having only played in three matches, Pontius sits alone in second in the Big West with a 0.67 goals per game average. Senior midfielder Nate Boyden, who last week made the move to UCSB's backline, is the only other Gaucho to score this season, rifling a 25-yard shot on a set piece with a heads up play.
From All Sides
Once it came alive, the Gauchos' attack came from all over the place at this past weekend's UNLV adidas Classic. Although Tyler Rosenlund seemed to have his hand in all six of UCSB's goals by setting up most of the plays, a different player was credited with the assist on each one of Santa Barbara's six goals in the run of play (Boyden's goal off of a free kick was unassisted). Ivan Becerra, Eric Avila, Andy Iro, Pat Scott, Eric Frimpong, and Myles Davis combined to produce seven assists last weekend, each on separate goals. Frimpong was the only player to record two assists, giving him the team lead and tying him for tops in the conference, as he and Davis combined for a double-assist on UCSB's final goal of the Northwestern match.
Somewhat of a surprise to many when he was named to the Watch List prior to the start of the season, sophomore midfielder Tyler Rosenlund has shown early on this season that he is a legitimate contender for the Missouri Athletic Club's Hermann Trophy. The Gauchos' possession-minded midfielder has taken a relatively young lineup around him and turned it into a formidable force. Playing in front of and behind a pair of freshman, Rosenlund has shouldered most of the midfield load early on this season. In week one's matches UCSB was out-shot 12-10 and 14-12 by a pair of Top 6 teams, not bad considering the youthful makeup of Santa Barbara's lineup. But last weekend, Rosenlund's skill and guidance helped the Gauchos' midfield turn the corner. Playing alongside freshmen Eric Avila and Alfonso Motogalvan and junior transfer Eric Frimpong, Rosenlund's ability to posses and direct the UCSB attack led to seven goals for, and just one goal against, tallying a pair of his own. The Gauchos out-shot then 15th-ranked Northwestern 18-6 on Friday and then 23rd-ranked Portland 15-6 on Sunday. Total on the weekend, the play of UCSB's midfield helped to produce a 17-6 shots-on-goal advantage, helping Rosenlund earn National Team of the Week honors from Top Drawer Soccer.com.
The New Look D-Unit
Since giving up a pair of goals in its opening match, including one while playing a man down, UCSB's defense has shored up its back line. Anchored by junior goalkeeper Kyle Reynish, the Gauchos' defensive unit has allowed just one goal over the course of the last three matches (290 minutes), posting a pair of shutouts along the way. Playing in less than perfect conditions this past weekend, especially for a goalkeeper, fighting a glaring sun and 35 mph wind gusts, Santa Barbara's lone goal allowed came on a high floating corner kick. And when you take into consideration that all four teams at last week's UNLV adidas Classic allowed at least goal with the wind in their faces, and that 10 of the total 14 goals scored where "wind aided," UCSB's lone goal against almost seems as if it was a given before any last weekend's matches were even played. Utilizing a new formation with all-conference midfielder Nate Boyden making the move into the defensive backline, flanked by Andy Iro and Pat Scott, and the insertion of freshman Alfonso Motagalvan into Boyden's original defensive midfielder position, Santa Barbara's D-unit has limited the opposition to just three shots-on-goal in each of the last two games.
Making a Name of His Own
Goalkeeper Kyle Reynish has officially settled in minding the net for the Gauchos, doing his part in posting two shutouts through UCSB's first four matches and tying him for the Big West lead. Reynish is also tied for the conference lead in saves with 17, thanks in part to his career-high seven he made in Santa Barbara's double-overtime shutout of No. 4 Virginia. In fact, Reynish has saved 12 of the 13 shots on goal that UCSB has allowed since its season-opener against No. 6 Cal, helping him produce a conference second-best .850 save percentage on the young season.