Gauchos Head North to Face USF and Defend Their No. 1 Ranking
This Week's Schedule
Friday, October 1
No. 1 UC Santa Barbara (8-0-0) at USF (5-1-0)
San Francisco, Calif. Negoesco Stadium 7:00 p.m.
One week after receiving its first-ever No. 1 national ranking, the UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team became the nation's consensus No. 1 this week. The Gauchos moved up from No. 2 and into the slot as the top team in the NSCAA/adidas Coaches' poll, the NCAA's primary national pool. Santa Barbara made it four for four when Soccer Times, the ESPN.com affiliated coaches' poll, also slid UCSB up from the No. 2 spot it held last week and tabbed it as the nation's best. The Gauchos, who are ranked No. 1 in all four major polls, have gotten to where they are this season with a perfect 8-0-0 start and having given up just one goal. UCSB currently leads the nation with a 0.12 team goals against average and a 0.88 shutout percentage with seven total shutouts. UCSB is also just one of three remaining teams with a perfect 1.000 winning percentage, and is 25th in the nation in scoring offense averaging 2.25 goals per game.
There's Not One Better
Off to the second best start in school history, tying the 8-0-0 start of the 2002 Big West Championship squad, this year's team has a chance this weekend to set yet another record. With a win this weekend over USF the Gauchos would extend their season opening win streak to nine games, tying the record-holding team from 1971. Currently one of just three teams in the nation with a perfect 1.000 winning percentage, along with No. 2 Duke and No. 6 New Mexico, it could be argued that this year's team has already established that it is off to the best start in program history. Obviously, the program's first ever consensus No. 1 national ranking that it is currently sporting is the most telling, but there is more to it than that. Through the first eight games the 2004 Gauchos allowed just one goal for a nation's best 0.12 goals against average and 0.88 shutout percentage, in 2002 they allowed nine goals in their eight game stretch, and in 1971 that gave up a total of five.
USF Game Capsule
The University of San Francisco is off to its best start since 1991, sporting a 5-1-0 overall record and receiving votes in the both the Soccer Times and College Soccer News national polls. The Dons are coming off of a pair of wins over Davidson and San Jose State last weekend, with their only loss of the season being a 3-0 decision to 20th-ranked Brown.
The all-time series is knotted at 1-1-0 after the Gauchos utilized a Drew McAthy overtime goal to top the Dons 2-1 in Harder Stadium last year. The win was in response to UCSB having had its school record 18-game home unbeaten streak snapped two days before by UC Irvine. After Santa Barbara opened the scoring in the second minute of the second half, the Dons' freshman midfielder Matt Languis scored the equalizer less than ten minutes later to force the overtime period.
Currently USF is led by sophomore forward Aaron Chandler with six goals and one assist for a team-high 13 points, and junior Jordan Keyes is second on the team with seven points off of two goals and team-high three assists. Much like the Gauchos offense the Dons' output has come from all over the field with five different players accounting each of the game-winning goals.
Friday's match can be viewed live via streaming video on the USF's official athletic website www.usfdons.com. A high-speed internet connection is suggested for the best possible viewing.
Breaking Out In A Big Way
Senior co-captain Neil Jones picked the perfect week to score his first goal of the season, and then his second, third, fourth, and fifth. Jones netted his first career hat-trick in UC Santa Barbara's debut as the top-ranked team in the nation against UC Riverside last week, kick-starting a weekend that earned the forward a spot on both Soccer America's and College Soccer News' National Teams of the Week. After accounting for all three Gaucho goals in its 3-0 win against UCR to start the Big West Conference season, Jones responded with another two tallies and a game-winning assist in UCSB's commanding 4-0 win over UNLV. With five goals on six total shots and one game-winning assist the Auckland, New Zealand native was also named the Big West Player of the Week for the second time in his career. It is the third week in a row that Gaucho has received the Big West Player of the Week honors, and it also the third week in a row that a UCSB player has occupied a spot on both the Soccer America and CSN Teams of the Week.
Picking Up the Pace
After a relatively slow start offensively by UCSB's current standards, Santa Barbara's offensive output has come alive in the past two weeks. After the first two weeks of the seasons the Gauchos had tallied just a total of six goals, but in their last four that have found the back of the net a total of 12 times, or twice as much. Now sporting a 2.25 goals per game average, UCSB's offense finds itself tied for 25th in the nation. And thanks to their stellar defense which has given up just one goal in eight games for a 0.12 per game average, by far the best performance in school history, the Gauchos' current scoring margin stands at +2.12, second only the 2002 squads final mark of +2.14 in program history. And as to be expected most of, 30 of a total of 61 team points, have come off the foot or head of senior forwards Drew McAthy and Neil Jones. But the welcome sight to the Gauchos' coaching staff is that the remaining 31 points have been distributed between 15 players, in fact, only 3 of the 20 players who have stepped between the lines for UCSB this season have not tallied a point.
He is the Greatest
With two more UCSB records under his belt after capturing the all-time complete game shutout record with his 28th last weekend and the goalkeeper minutes school record now also in his grasp, senior Dan Kennedy has very few Gaucho records left to put his name on. But Kennedy will be the first to tell you that record most important to him, and the rest of the team, is that of being the first team in UCSB history to win a National Championship. That aside Kennedy could match his career-best this weekend with his eighth shutout of the season, he is currently four shy of the Gauchos single season record of 11 set by Bob Tuler in 1978. Currently Kennedy's 0.12 goals against average is second in the nation only to Stanford's Andrew Kartunen who has only appeared in only five of the Cardinal matches this season. Now with a four-year, rather three-and-a-third-year careers goals against average of 0.88 the three-time All-Big West honoree has proven time and time again this season that he has earned the praise that he has received. Kennedy has been a major factor in UCSB starting the year at 8-0-0, making big saves when tested. Despite outshooting their opponents by a 100-to-93 margin this season, the Gauchos have been outshot three times in 2004, and in each of the games Kennedy made more saves than his counterpart. And in each of those games, SDSU, Seton Hall, and Indiana, Kennedy has blanked his opponents while making an average of 6.3 saves. Sitting on 241 career saves, Kennedy should move into third all-time in school history this weekend when he surpasses John Guthrie's mark of 242.
Drew McAthy's goal scoring ability has been none around the Big West ever since his freshman season when he finished second on the team in both goals and points while earning all-conference honorable mention honors, but this past weekend the three-time All-Big West forward showed that he should be considered as one of the conference's best ever. In both of Santa Barbara's wins this past weekend McAthy made the impossible possible, deftly finding the back and side of the net from nearly impossible angles to run his conference leading total to seven. And if those that he could not put in the net himself, McAthy demonstrated his work rate and ability at setting up his teammates, tallying two assists, including one game-winner, with passes that left the opposition's defense standing still. With 17 total points already this season, his 2.12 per game average puts McAthy in a tie for 23rd in the nation, and his 0.88 goals per game average places the senior in a tie for 21st. And although it is still a bit of a ways away, UCSB's all-time goal scoring record, currently 46 held by Scott Grassinger ('79-'83, will belong McAthy before the season is over. McAthy already occupies the number two spot with 42 career tallies.
The Compton Connection
Sophomore forward Tino Nuñez has carried the Compton College torch this season for the Gauchos. With the arrival of former CCC standout Memo Arzate at UCSB two seasons ago, the Santa Barbara community was blessed with being able watch one of the greatest playmakers in NCAA history. It must be something in the water there, but just as Arzate left off, Nunez has taken over the spot of the Big West Conference's assist leader. With four total assists in his first eight games as a Gaucho, the sophomore is tied for the league lead. The key to Nuñez's success has been his strength on the ball, and when he his not driving through defenders himself, he has been able to draw fouls because that is the only way to opposition can knock him off the ball. In fact, Nuñez set up Santa Barbara's game-winning goal against Indiana when the Hoosier defense double-teamed him unsuccesfully as he drove to the goal, setting up the free kick and ensuing corner kick that gave the Gauchos the victory.