In the first ever meeting between the UC Santa Barbara and Cornell men’s soccer teams Friday night at Harder Stadium, a pair of first half goals were enough for the Big Red to hand the Gauchos their first defeat of the young season, 2-1.
The Big Red capitalized on some fortunate bounces for the game’s opening goal. After the ball was cleared high into the air from the Gauchos’ (1-1-1) attacking third, it took a couple fortunate bounces before being taken by forward Alioune Ka in full stride. A great touch on his final move set up a left-footed shot in the box that slipped past UCSB goalkeeper Leroy Zeller to the far post.
The Gauchos threatened to equalize, forcing incredible saves by Cornell goalkeeper Ryan Friedberg on two occasions. A gorgeous move by sophomore forward Alexis Ledoux saw him beat his man by faking the cross from the right wing. He moved in towards the box and picked out sophomore forward Salvador Aguilar for a side volley that he made great contact with, but it was stopped just short of the goal line.
10 minutes later, Ledoux sent in a great ball from the corner that led to several shots from within six yards by the Gauchos. Aguilar forced another outstanding save, and both center backs Henry Davies and Timon Windisch weren’t able to place shots in past the converging defense.
As the clock approached 39 minutes, Ledoux used his speed on the counter to force a foul just outside the box and draw a yellow card from Cornell’s last line of defense. Making his regular season debut, Lucas Gonzalez laid it off softly for Thaabit Baartman, who ripped through it with the right foot. The shot took a deflection off a player in the middle of the wall and went in towards the opposite post of the Cornell goalkeeper’s diving save attempt, giving UCSB its first set piece goal of the season.
The two sides weren’t tied for long. In the 41st, Cornell took over possession in midfield and lined up several perfect passes in a row to get defender Kisa Kiingi down to the byline. The junior’s incisive ball cut back across the box and found forward Dakota Jonke, who had time and space to set up and place his first-time shot right down the middle.
The second half provided some sluggish, physical play, with subs and fouls slowing down the game. The final 20 minutes saw a noticeable uptick in energy and urgency, especially from the Gauchos who pushed numbers forward into the dying seconds. However, the home side was unable to equalize once more.
– The match was littered with unbelievable saves. Zeller finished with a season-high six saves, while the Gaucho offense forced four saves, the most for an opposing goalkeeper so far this season.
– Aguilar had more shot attempts (4) than in the first two games of the year combined, with his two well-placed shots on goal requiring top-notch reactions to keep him off the scoresheet for the first time.
The Gauchos will face another tough test this Sunday, Sept. 4 at 4:00 p.m. when they travel to face No. 24 Loyola Marymount.
Michael Jorgenson writes about sports for UCSB.