Playing at Harder Stadium has become just that for the CSUN men’s soccer team: Harder.
The Matadors suffered their sixth defeat in seven trips to the campus of UC Santa Barbara, as the defending national champion Gauchos dished out a 3-0 beating of the Matadors on Saturday night.
“It’s always hard to come play here,” junior goalkeeper Kevin Guppy said. “We just didn’t follow the game plan that the coaches laid out for us and it hurt us in the end.”
The 15th-ranked Gauchos were carried by two goals from sophomore midfielder Ciaran O’Brien and a goal and assist from senior forward Tino Nunez. Santa Barbara also got stellar play from junior midfielder Eric Avila, who assisted on a goal and also created a number of goal-scoring opportunities early in the second half.
The Matadors received a scare just two minutes into the game when freshman midfielder Rafael Garcia pulled up lame. Garcia tried to play through the pain, but was ultimately subbed out.
“It was a turning point,” senior defender Sean Franklin said of Garcia’s loss. “He’s the core of our midfield.”
The Gauchos got its first good look at a score in the 20th minute, when a Matador foul set up a free kick just outside the CSUN box. O’Brien sent the ball over the Matador wall and toward Guppy. The ball deflected off Guppy and hit the crossbar, but crossed over the goal line.
“I thought I had it covered,” Guppy said. “What had happened was it hit the post, came back, hit me in the back and it went in the goal. So, I thought I had it covered, but…”
O’Brien’s score was the only goal of the first half, though the Gauchos did their best to add to the lead, out-shooting CSUN 10-2 in the first 45 minutes. Santa Barbara then broke the game open in the second half. In the 68th minute O’Brien sent a ball into the box. Guppy punched the ball away, only to have it go to the Gaucho’s sophomore midfielder Jon Curry, who fed the ball to Nunez, who fired the ball into the unprotected net. The Gauchos sealed the win in the 71st minute when Avila had his shot attempt stopped by Guppy, but the ball went to O’Brien, who struck the ball into the open net.
“We knew what they were going to do. We just fell asleep on those three goals,” senior defender Sean Franklin said.
When it was all said and done, Santa Barbara had attempted 18 shots to CSUN’s eight. Guppy did his best to stay afoot amongst the onslaught, recording seven saves.
As is the case when the Matadors and Gauchos play against each other, the game also had its usual share of physical play. Both teams combined to commit 36 fouls, with CSUN committing 20 to the Gauchos 16. Eleven cards were issued out in the match. Avila, CSUN sophomore midfielder Adrian Lopez and Santa Barbara assistant coach Neil Jones were unfortunate to have been given the early hook, as all three received red cards.
The Matadors will look to bounce back on Wednesday when they host the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Mustangs at Matador Soccer Field at 2 p.m.
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