Carson Vom Steeg may have lost his soccer season to a knee injury, but he didn’t lose his voice.
UCSB’s junior defender has brought an astute, insider’s look into Gaucho soccer this fall as the color commentator on its video-streamed broadcasts.
“It’s been a ton of fun,” he said shortly before UCSB’s NCAA Tournament opener against Cal, “and here we are.”
Wednesday’s match came exactly nine years to the day of the most controversial soccer match in UCSB history: a 2-1, overtime loss at Cal in the 2010 playoffs.
Carson, the son of Gaucho head coach Tim Vom Steeg, recalls few details beyond it “being a nightmare.”
“I was listening to Gerry that night,” he said, referring to Gerry Fall, his current announcing partner and the founder of Fall Productions. “I was really young, about 10 years old, and I was sitting in my living room with my mom and little brothers, listening to it all.
“I don’t remember anything specific except the look of shock on my mom’s face.”
The Gauchos had to play a man down for more than 75 minutes after star player Luis Silva received a disputed red card. Cal wound up tying the match with 80 seconds left in regulation and then winning it with one second left in overtime.
Three of Silva’s teammates got post-match red cards after chasing the referees out of the stadium.
The play-by-play description of the bizarre scene captivated young Carson. He’s been interested in sports announcing ever since.
“When I was in the U15s, my soccer team traveled to Kansas City and we visited the College Basketball Hall of Fame,” he said. “They had a fake SportsCenter set there where you could read from a teleprompter. My friend and teammate, Tim Heiduk, and I must’ve sat there doing it for about three hours.
“We both knew right then that we were interested in doing this.”
Heiduk, a star player on Westmont College’s soccer team, also works in broadcasting and sports information at his school.
Vom Steeg’s soccer journey has taken many twists and turns in the years that followed. He served as captain of the U18 National Team and played in 18 games as a freshman for Stanford’s NCAA championship team of 2017.
He transferred to UCSB last year to play for his dad, appearing in 13 matches despite a gimpy ankle that he’d injured during the summer.
Carson was sitting out a match at UC Riverside last season when he asked Arthur Wilkie, the play-by-play announcer for road matches, if he wanted a partner for the broadcast.
“It was my first experience live on the air,” he said. “I got thrown into it.”
He asked for a season-long gig after suffering a major knee injury before this season.
“I called up Gerry and said, ‘I’d be interested in doing this full-time for you guys,’” Carson said. “His first words were, ‘You’re hired.’ I thought, ‘Wow, that was easy.’”
He makes announcing seem easy with a conversational delivery that comes from having viewed countless hours of Major League Soccer telecasts.
“I’ve watched a lot of Stuart Holden and Taylor Twellman, and I’ve tried to emulate their way of speaking and calling a game,” Carson said.
It helps having a mother, Almeria Vom Steeg, who has taught public speaking at SBCC.
“I have her in my left ear, telling me how I can come across better, and my dad in my right ear, giving me his soccer knowledge,” Carson said. “I’ve got two real professionals giving me a lot of positive feedback.”
His own insight comes from knowing every single Gaucho player and game plan.
“I’ve been at every team meeting — every single one — and have learned a lot from them,” he said. “Sometimes my teammates ask, ‘Why are you at the meetings?’ I tell them, ‘Hey, this is important for me.’
“I never had a backup plan, I always wanted to be a professional soccer player, but this is another interest and passion, and something I can do when I stop playing the game.”
Carson gives an unbiased view of the matches even when the match is against an old rival like Cal. Golden Bears midfielder Taylor Davila is a close friend and former club teammate, and he knows several of the other Cal players who battled the Gauchos on Wednesday.
He’s also doesn’t hold back in pointing out the Gauchos’ mistakes.
“I think it gives you more credibility when you’re honest,” he said. “There’s a fine line because they are my friends and teammates. I don’t go off the rails on them, but I do know when they mess up, and I’ll point it out.
“They know when they mess up, too … Nobody has confronted me about anything.”
Carson also does color commentary for UCSB women’s soccer.
“Obviously my dad can’t listen to the men’s matches, but he does watch the women’s broadcasts,” he said. “Gerry told him, ‘I really think Carson has a future in this.’”
Carson got a kick out of hearing his father’s response: “He said, ‘Let’s just make sure he doesn’t forget how to play soccer.’”
Carson is seven months into the rehabilitation of his knee. He recently resumed training with the Gauchos.
“Nothing too serious — no defense — just offensive stuff like ball-possession drills,” he said.
He is anxious to get back into the action instead of just calling it.
“If the team makes a really deep run into the playoffs, you never know,” Carson said. “I’m rooting for that.
“Maybe they can mike me up and I’ll get the best of both worlds.”
Mark Patton’s column appears on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org