This year’s installment of the Blue-Green men’s soccer matchup went to double overtime and ended in a 0-0 draw on Saturday Oct. 16 inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
The draw allowed both squads to maintain their places atop the Big West standings, as UCSB (8-3-4, 4-0-2 Big West) sits in first place with 14 points while Cal Poly (5-5-3, 3-1-2) remains in second place with 11 points.
The matchup was the 24th most attended regular season soccer game in NCAA history with 10,899 fans in attendance.
“This is a game that had a little bit of everything and I think both teams are so happy that this pandemic is over and that they were able to actually play a match of this intensity with two teams that are battling to be at the very top,” head coach Steve Sampson said.
Junior goalkeeper Carlos Arce-Hurtado earned his fifth shutout of the season to keep a tough Gaucho offense in check.
“This conference season is an absolute grind,” Sampson said.
In the first half, each team had opportunities but were unable to cash them in. Cal Poly’s two shots on target by redshirt freshman forward Drew Patterson and freshman midfielder Nathan Colley drew large reactions from the crowd, but ultimately found the hands of the Gaucho keeper.
“I think the team defensively is perfect,” freshman forward Ocean Salari said. “I think in the attack we just need to finish that final [shot].”
Both sides were physical in the first 45 minutes, with Cal Poly racking up four fouls compared to the Gauchos’ six.
The beginning of the second half was a slow one, but the action began to pick up towards the end of regulation.
In the 74th minute, UCSB took the first shot of the second half with a strike right in front of goal, but senior defender Andrew Forth came in with a heroic slide tackle to clear the ball and keep the game scoreless.
Ten minutes later, the Gauchos took another clear shot on goal, but Arce-Hurtado blocked it before it could reach the back of the net.
Immediately after, senior forward Emmanuel Perez took a shot from outside the box that soared just over the crossbar.
In the last minute of the second half, the Mustangs nearly clinched the victory with three consecutive goal attempts inside the box, but the Gaucho defense continued to throw themselves in front of the ball, keeping the score even at zero and sending the match into overtime.
After an uneventful start to overtime, freshman defender Ori Bitton dribbled around the Gaucho defense and took a shot in the last minute of the first overtime period that was deflected over the top left corner of the goal by the keeper.
Neither team gained much momentum in the second overtime period, ending the rivalry matchup at 0-0.
Despite UC Santa Barbara having scored 32 times this season, good for sixth in the nation, Cal Poly held them to just ten total shots. Three of those shots were on goal compared to the Mustangs’ two.
“I think it takes good concentration throughout the game, mentally we didn’t switch off,” Forth said. “Everyone tracked their runners, defended very well, closed down, tackled hard. It was a very disciplined performance as a group today.”
The physicality ramped up in the second half, with the Mustangs ending with 15 fouls while the Gauchos had 12.
“It was a big rivalry, but [coach Sampson] is always on us about keeping our head and I thought the boys fought really hard today,” Salari said.
Cal Poly will continue the final stretch of the regular season with a matchup against UC Riverside on Wednesday Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. inside UCR Soccer Stadium.
“That game against Riverside is as important as this game tonight, maybe more important.” Sampson said.
There are just three more games of the regular season until the Big West Conference Tournament begins on Nov. 3.
“I see three games but I also see nine points, three must wins,” Forth said.