Oct. 27, 2007
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Ciaran O'Brien turned in another outstanding performance Saturday night, scoring a pair of goals and recording an assist on the other to lead the No. 15 UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team to a 3-0 victory over Big West Conference rival Cal State Northridge at Harder Stadium.
With the win, UCSB improves 8-3-3 overall and 5-1-1 in conference play to keep pace with first place Cal Poly in the Big West standings. The Gauchos are still one game behind their Central Coast rivals after the Mustangs defeated UC Davis 1-0 in San Luis Obispo Saturday night.
CSUN falls to 5-4-5 overall and 1-2-3 in the Big West this season with the loss.
In what turned out to be another physical match, the Gauchos got the better of their conference rivals to even the all-time series at 13 wins apiece. The only two programs to win a Big West championship since the conference reinstated men's soccer seven years ago, Santa Barbara and Northridge have also battled to four ties over the years in what has developed into one of the nation's best rivalries. The latest installment featured 36 fouls, eight yellow cards, and two ejections.
"I thought we played really well tonight," head coach Tim Vom Steeg said. "Our offense got going against a Northridge team that has played great recently and we were able to field our full compliment of guys for the first time in several games. You hate to see all the cautions because it affects you the next time you take the field but, fortunately, we came out on top."
UCSB's offense looked sharp from the get go and the Gauchos jumped out to an early lead on their fourth shot of the match. After junior midfielder Eric Avila was fouled just outside the box, O'Brien lined up for the free kick straight on from roughly 25 yards out. The University of San Diego transfer sent a high shot towards the net that hit the crossbar and bounced past Matador goalkeeper Kevin Guppy and the goal line for what became the game-winner just 19:18 into the first period.
Santa Barbara maintained the one-goal advantage for the remainder of the first half and out-shot Northridge 10-2 through the first 45 minutes.
After Avila connected with fellow midfielder Chris Pontius on two excellent crosses in the opening minutes of the second and neither resulted in a score, the Gauchos found the back of the net again in the 68th. Avila crossed for O'Brien entering the box, but Guppy charged and punched the ball out before the Federal Way, Wash. native could get a second touch. The rebound bounced out to sophomore midfielder Jon Curry on the left side and he fed it back in for senior forward Tino Nuñez, who finished the play to put UCSB ahead 2-0 at 67:02.
The goal was Nuñez' fourth this season, which is a new personal best and one more than his career total entering the season.
As they have done so often in 2007, the Gauchos kept attacking after the second goal and scored again just over three minutes later. Avila carried the ball on the right side and crossed over to beat a defender. One-on-one with Guppy, his shot was denied but O'Brien tracked down the loose ball and fired to the top left corner for the final 3-0 margin.
O'Brien scored his fourth and fifth goals in the blue and gold this season and is now second on the squad in that category. He has found the net in each of the last two matches and has been directly involved in Santa Barbara's last six goals overall.
For the match, UCSB out-shot CSUN 18-8 and held the Matadors' offense down for 90 minutes. Even playing a man down after Avila was issued his second yellow card in the 73rd minute, the Santa Barbara defense held strong and limited Northridge's scoring chances.
Midfielder Adrian Lopez was issued a red card for the Matadors in the 89th minute.
Freshman goalkeeper Bryant Rueckner recorded five saves for UCSB, which was the most since he made six stops at Stanford in the season-opener August 31. Guppy tallied seven saves for CSUN.
The Gauchos return to the pitch Wednesday, October 31 when they travel to UC Irvine for a match-up with the Anteaters at 7:00 p.m. UCSB defeated UCI 4-0 at Harder Stadium earlier this month.