Men's Soccer vs. UCSB

Theo O'Malley boots the ball downfield. The Zags had seven shots in the second half compared to only one in the first.

Gonzaga men’s soccer dropped a tough one at home Thursday evening, losing 1-0 against the Gauchos of University of California Santa Barbara in a game defined by physical play and controversial calls.

With the first 45 minutes largely even, UCSB (2-2) held only a slight advantage in possession, and few shots were generated by either team. The Gauchos only mustered five shots, and the Bulldogs (0-4) only had one. 

The opening minutes were largely marked by chippy play between two undersized teams. Both sqauds struggled to find a rhythm through multiple time stoppages, ending the half tied 0-0.

But UCSB started the second half hot, striking first with two quick shots right off the bat. Both sailed wide of the goal, and the Bulldogs moved downfield quickly to counter with some shots of their own.

The Zags returned with two strikes, but were similarly unable to capitalize on either. Junior midfielder Joe Corner’s shot bounced off the side of the goal, and sophomore midfielder Frankie Ljucovic’s subsequent header bounced off the crossbar only seconds later in an unfortunate turn of events for GU.

UCSB finally broke the stalemate in the 57thminute in controversial fashion, as a Gaucho made contact with GU goalkeeper Johan Garibay to lead to a loose ball that was tapped in by forward Carter Clemmensen. The no-call and ensuing goal led to a cacophony of boos from the home crowd, and GU players and coaches vocally protested the score.

“For 60 minutes, we played really good, and then there was a controversial call that didn’t go our way,” said senior forward Isaiah Jackson. “After that, we pushed for the goal. I thought we didn’t really give them any dangerous chances.”

GU head coach Paul Meehan was visibly frustrated with the refereeing post-game.

“When [the players] do what we ask them to do… it’s disheartening,” he said. “It’s sometimes the nature of our game to play well and not get the results, but they deserve better.”

The second half led to an improved offensive output by both teams, with the Gauchos creating 10 shots to the Bulldogs’ seven. However, the rough play continued. GU’s Garrett Wilson and UCSB’s Sahid Conteh both received yellow cards before full time.

“I think in these situations we just have to keep our head and don’t let calls impact our game in a negative way,” Jackson said. “You just have to find a way to keep on playing through it.”

The Bulldogs continued to generate shots on goal for the rest of the game, primarily thanks to multiple foul calls and UCSB defensive breakdowns. GU also started to equalize the possession battle, playing much of the second half deep into enemy territory. Regardless, they were unable to secure a tying goal. 

“In the second half, we did a better job of stretching them and hitting some bigger balls over the top, which gave us a little more room to play… we were able to press them and put them under pressure,” Meehan said. “So clearly, the majority of the second half was played on their half of the field.”

The Bulldogs will continue their search for their first win in a road match at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California on Sunday.

Connor Gilbert is a sports editor. Follow him on Twitter: @connorjgilbert.

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