Jorge Aldana’s perfect cross set up Aguilar for the late equalizer.
Opening the regular season at No. 19 Missouri State on Thursday, the UC Santa Barbara men’s soccer team battled back from a first half deficit to claim a 1-1 tie.
Sophomore forward Salvador Aguilar’s goal in the 75th minute came off a perfect cross from the right side by junior right back Jorge Aldana. The lone goal proved to be enough to keep the Gauchos out of the loss column, as a late Missouri miscue negated what should have been the game-winning goal on a penalty.
Although they would take the lead in the first half, the Bears got out to a bit of a nervy start. Their offense started building momentum with some dangerous crosses, including one near-goal that was wiped off by an offside call.
Santa Barbara found itself with an excellent chance on a 24th minute breakaway by junior forward Finn Ballard McBride. The Australian patiently took his man into the box, but as he made his final move couldn’t quite get the touch he needed and lost possession without getting a shot off.
Missouri State opened the scoring in the 33rd minute after a good run made from the midfield drew the Gaucho defenders out. The ball was sent wide to two-time All-MVC First Teamer Aadne Bruseth with tons of space. Bruseth’s cross just outside the six-yard box deflected off a Gaucho defender and fell right to junior forward Jesus Barea, who slotted his shot in through traffic.
The Gauchos held off the Bears to keep the scoreline manageable, waiting for their chance to finally break down what had been a stubborn defense. They got their chance during a seemingly harmless progression as the clock approached 74 minutes.
Senior center back Henry Davies sent it out wide to Aldana, whose quick long ball from deep on the right wing caught the Bears’ back line off guard. Aguilar’s well-timed run saw him get right under the pass with all the room in the world to jump freely, and his twisting header could not have been better placed just inside the far left post.
Not long after, a foul on a jump ball in the Missouri State box awarded the Bears a penalty and a chance to retake the lead. Fortunately for the Gauchos, although the penalty was put away by Nicolo Mulatero, his stop-and-start move towards the ball caused multiple Bears to enter the box early, and the goal was called back.
Both teams pushed forward and made subs aggressively looking to break the tie, but would run out of time.
– The last time the Gauchos opened the season on the road was in 2016. They are now unbeaten in their last 10 season-openers with a 9-0-1 record since 2011.
– The Bears were winners in 17 of their 18 matches prior to the NCAA Tournament last season. They entered Thursday’s contest winners in 26 of their last 28 matches at home, but in the end earned their first tie result since Nov. 17, 2019.
– The two sides matched each other with four shots on goal, while the Bears had a slight 9-8 edge in total shots. UCSB goalkeeper Leroy Zeller and Missouri State keeper Harry Townsend had three saves apiece.
UCSB will face California Baptist this Sunday, Aug. 28, in its first regular season home match on Frontline Workers Night.
Michael Jorgenson writes about sports for UCSB.