By ARTHUR WILKIE
UCSB SPORTS WRITER
The UCSB men’s soccer team (10-3-4, 6-0-2 Big West) defeated UC Riverside 3-2 in a wild affair Saturday night at Harder Stadium.
In the 32nd minute, Gaucho freshman forward Rene Pacheco scored the first goal of the game as well as his third goal of the season by heading the ball into the left side of the net on a left-footed assist from senior forward Rigoberto Barragan.
Shortly after the second half kicked off, UC Riverside forward Roberto Garcia-Vargas headed the ball across the box to defender Freymar Omarsson, whose first shot was blocked by sophomore goalkeeper Leroy Zeller, but his effort on the rebound found its way to the back of the net to tie the game up.
A few minutes later, Highlander forward Herminio Padilla scored a powerful right-footed shot to take a 2-1 lead in the 49th minute.
In the 64th minute, Barragan crossed from the right wing, connecting with junior attacker Thaabit Baartman, who fired a shot into UCR goalkeeper Carlos Gonzalez, who then made the save but bobbled the ball and saw it fall into the path of sophomore forward Finn Ballard McBride. The Australian slotted the ball on target, but it was thought to have been cleared off the line by the Riverside defense before the officials signaled that it had crossed the goal line and would stand, giving the Gauchos the shock equalizer.
The game-winner came in the 75th minute for the Gauchos when Baartman and Ballard McBride played a one-two just outside the box, with Ballard McBride threading it through into the penalty area for Baartman to take on his right foot and smash it past Gonzalez.
McBride remains at the top of the team’s goalscoring charts with eight on the year, while Baartman also remains second with his seventh of the season.
The Gauchos will secure the top seed in the Big West Tournament with a point next weekend at Cal State Northridge. If the Gauchos lose and UC Irvine wins at Fullerton, the Anteaters would earn the No. 1 seed and home field advantage throughout the tournament by virtue of having a better goal differential in conference games, with both teams sitting at a +10 margin.
With a win against Cal State Northridge next weekend, UCSB would complete its first unbeaten conference season since 2013.
“Ten wins has always been a benchmark for me as a college soccer coach.,” UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “Anytime we’ve gone past 10 wins, I feel like we’ve done well. (The win) continues our unbeaten run, and there’s a lot to be proud about.”
The Gauchos will play Cal State Northridge Saturday night in their season finale. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+. Live stats will be available at gomatadors.com.