The UC Santa Barbara men’s soccer team returned to Harder Stadium Saturday night for its season-opening Community Shield Game with Westmont, putting away three second half goals to take a 4-0 win in the annual exhibition.
“We did all the right things tonight. This is a very, very talented group of players and we added three or four playmakers,” said UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg. “(Alexis) Ledoux was much more comfortable today than in last week’s scrimmage at San Jose State. What separates him is his unbelievable work rate, attacking the ball on both sides. He’s a difference-maker.”
The Gauchos put on a display on the offensive end, showcasing new talent that looked to fit in seamlessly with last year’s Big West Championship-winning roster, which returns 10 of its 11 starters in 2022. Sophomore forward Salvador Aguilar tucked away two headers in the second half, while junior forward Finn Ballard McBride opened the scoring in the 43rd minute and newcomer Filip Basili added another in the 58th.
“It was very important for us to start well on this field, with this atmosphere and with all of the fans coming out,” sophomore Alexis Ledoux said. “The team today had the perfect mentality and we were able to perform and score four goals. I’m very happy for the team.”
UCSB dominated possession from the outset and could have easily put up more than four goals with a number of excellent chances in the early going. Three outstanding saves by Westmont goalkeeper Abraham Arteaga in the first 11 minutes kept things level at 0-0. Arteaga went into halftime with six saves, four coming on shots by UCSB’s talented French forward Ledoux.
“While it doesn’t feel like we took a step forward tonight, we absolutely did,” said Westmont head coach Dave Wolf on the night he officially began his final season. “I’ve got to make sure that this team sees the progress we made tonight. Training camp still has a week to go. The regular season doesn’t start until September.
“Abraham wasn’t originally scheduled to get the start tonight, and he had to make a very quick adjustment,” reflected Wolf. “Abraham responded really well to the short notice and responded really well in this environment. That’s a credit to him being mentally sharp and having a strong next-man-up mentality.”
UCSB’s Ledoux looked extremely comfortable in his first match, beating defenders with a combination of agility and precision that demonstrated why head coach Tim Vom Steeg believes he will be a key contributor in his first season with the team. His well-placed corner as the clock reached 42 minutes nearly led to an own goal as the ball ping ponged off several players. Senior defender Henry Davies was in the right place to direct it towards Ballard McBride on the goal line, who contorted his body to knock in the first goal of the night.
The Gauchos kept the pressure on high coming out of the break, while the Warriors patiently waited for opportunities to break. Westmont did end up with several great chances to score with numbers on the counter, but some indecisiveness combined with great hustle by the Gaucho defense would see the attacks break down.
In the 55th, the Gauchos cut through the Westmont defense with Thaabit Baartman finding Pablo Figueroa on the left wing. His first touch cross with the left foot could not have been better served, and Aguilar’s run down the middle of the box ended with an unstoppable header to double UCSB’s lead.
Less than four minutes later, UCSB made it look easy once more. A slick one-two combination saw redshirt sophomore midfielder Lucas Gonzalez set up senior defender Rigoberto Barragan with space on the byline to send in another excellent, first-time ball that found the head of sophomore midfielder Filip Basili. Basili’s first attempt caromed down off the crossbar, but he was the first to the rebound and calmly headed it away from traffic and in to make it 3-0.
Barragan would eventually get his assist in the 77th minute, sending it into Aguilar whose perfect positioning outside the 6-yard box allowed him to turn and redirect his shot far post to secure his brace.
“I liked a lot about our team tonight,” said Westmont’s Wolf. “The one piece I didn’t like was the fact that we didn’t capitalize on chances to hurt them. We could have hurt them five or six different times, and we never even got shots.
“At some point, somebody has to put the ball in the back of the net. I realize I can’t use games like this as a barometer, but there are things you can take away from these games. We lacked a killer instinct in and around the goal tonight, and we have to fix that.”
- With the offense dominating possession, UCSB goalkeepers Leroy Zeller and David Mitzner weren’t tested to make any saves on the night. On the other side, Arteaga was forced to make saves on eight of UCSB’s 12 shots on target.
- There were 27 different Gauchos who saw the pitch as the team showed off its depth with impressive play on both ends. Last year, left back was a committee position for UCSB, and if Saturday night was any indication, that could be the case again. Eddie Villeda was solid as the starter, while both Figueroa and Barragan later pushed up on that left wing and provided excellent service that led to goals.
- UCSB ended the night with 26 total shot attempts, while only allowing three.
- Prior to the match,Wolf was presented with the UCSB Golden Scarf in midfield, honoring the many contributions he has made as the Warrior’s head coach as he heads into his 32nd and final season with the team.
Michael Jorgenson writes about sports for UCSB.
Jacob Norling of Westmont College sports communications contributed to this story.