Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Gauchos continue NCAA Tournament dominance at home with 1-0 win


UC Santa Barbara men’s soccer Coach Tim Vom Steeg said he has been told by at least one Big West Conference coach that this year’s Gaucho squad has an A, B and C game.
But last night Vom Steeg said proudly that his team brought their “D game” and it made all the difference in a defensive match up that ended with a 1-0 Gaucho victory over the University of Washington in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

And what better way to showcase such an effort than in front of nearly 10,000 rowdy Gaucho soccer fans at Harder Stadium.
“We are excited about the fact that a large number of people came out on a Wednesday night,” Vom Steeg said. “Tonight was a great night for Gaucho soccer.”
With predominately offensive victories throughout the regular season that left the Gauchos with a 12-3-4 record, Vom Steeg said he knew shutting down one of the PAC-10 Conference’s powerhouses would require a different style of play.
“I thought we got great defensive performances from our back line,” Vom Steeg said. “It’s different than how we have won all year.”
Defender Andy Iro and freshman goalkeeper Bryant Rueckner, who racked up four saves in his first NCAA tournament game, led the defensive effort.
Vom Steeg credited much of the Gaucho’s success to shutting down Huskies midfielder Raphael Cox and Ely Allen – both of whom he said posed a threat on speedy transitions up field.
“We just didn’t give them a lot of time, space or room,” Vom Steeg said. “We worked on our transitions.”
But defensive highlights aside, the offensive highlight of the evening, however brief, got more tortillas thrown onto the west end of Harder Stadium than any single play.
The unassisted goal came in the 10th minute of play by sophomore midfielder Jon Curry, who served up a 25-yard rocket from the left side of the field, which was just enough to give the Gauchos the upper hand.
The ball found its way to Curry’s foot after a corner kick by Ciaran O’Brien was deflected. When Curry’s shot found the back of the net, the Gaucho faithful, armed with tortillas (and, for some reason, celery), began flinging the food onto the field, which prompted the first of several scathing public addresses from the announcer.
Curry said the play transpired quickly, but he just got a good angle on the ball.
“I just saw it come out and got a good first touch,” he said.
Vom Steeg said he wasn’t surprised by Curry’s shot because he has prowled the left side of the box all season rebounding corner kicks and knocking them in.
“It was a great shot to make,” Vom Steeg said.
It was also fortunate for the Gauchos that one of the Huskies’ 13 shots, six of which were on goal, didn’t go in.
The Huskies completed a flurry of offensive attacks late in the second half, many of which provoked the kind of sighs and ringing of hands no home crowd wants to entertain.
The first came from Washington forward Ellis McLoughlin, who launched a rocket up the middle in the 59th minute that cleared the top of the goal by five feet.
With 17 minutes remaining in regulation, Cox launched a corner kick from the right side that deflected to Allen, who narrowly missed a shot.
Two minutes later, Cox rebounded a Washington shot and narrowly missed another high shot.
Cox finished the night with three shots and Ely had two. Husky’s forward Ellis McLoughlin led with four shots.
For the Gauchos, Eric Avila and Curry each took two shots, while Alfonso Motagalvan, O’Brien and Tino Nunez each contributed one.
With the win, the Gauchos remain undefeated (8-0) in NCAA playoff matches at Harder Stadium and are set to play Ohio State University in Columbus this Saturday.
While the Gauchos still have their work cut out for them in defending last year’s NCAA title, the local fans decided to make an early postseason attempt at stealing the goal, which ultimately failed.
But it’s that same crowd that provides and electric atmosphere when the blue-clad Gauchos take the field at Harder Stadium.
“You look up into the stands, it kind of gives you that extra push,” Iro said. “It’s kind of that 10th man on the field. You want to win as much for them as anyone else.”

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