|School: UC Santa Barbara|
|Conference: Big West|
|Coach: Tim Vom Steeg – 20th Season|
|Final 2017 Season Ending Rank: NA|
|2017 Record: 6-8-5 overall, 4-3-3 in conference|
Five Year Win Total:
|Key Personnel Losses from 2017 Team: Defender Randy Mendoza due to graduation. Midfielder Kevin Feucht who missed the 2017 season due to injury transferred.|
|2017 Goals Scored and Goals Allowed: Eighteen scored, twenty-seven allowed|
|2017 Goals Scored and Goals Allowed Per Game: 0.96 scored, 1.33 allowed|
|2017 Key Statistic: 2-5-1 when playing away|
Background: Under head coach Tim Vom Steeg the Gauchos have been a force in the Big West Conference and on the national level.
UCSB has earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament a total of twelve times (all since 2001) with the last in the 2015 season during which they were the number fifteen seed and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. They have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen a total of seven times and to the College Cup in College Cup in 2004 and again in 2006 when they won the National Championship.
The Gauchos have historically been the team to beat in the Big West Conference winning the conference championship a total of ten times.
In 2017 UCSB had a subpar season by their own standards with a 6-8-5 overall record and a 4-3-3 mark in conference play. Forward Rodney Michael was named the Big West Freshman of the Year and to the All-Big West First Team. Michael was also a College Soccer News All-Freshman First Team selection.
Defender Randy Mendoza was a 2017 All-Big West Conference Second Team selection. Defender Adrian Adames and goalkeeper Alan Carrillo joined Michael as a member of the All-Big West Freshman Team.
|Number Starters Slated to Return in 2018: Ten|
Hunter Ashworth – Defender – Laguna Beach, California – University of San Francisco – Redshirt sophomore transfer from San Francisco, Member of he U-20 New Zealand National Team. Competed in the U-20 World Cup in South Korea.
Thibault Candia – Forward – Nantes, France – Temple University – Junior transfer from Temple, Starter at Temple last year where he scored six goals. Named Second Team All American Athletic Conference. United Soccer Coaches All-East Region selection.
Faouzi Taieb – Defender – Marseille, France – St. Francis Brooklyn College – Junior transfer from St. Francis Brooklyn. Named NEC Defensive Player of the Year. All-Northeast Region United Soccer Coaches First Team selection.
Ben Roach – Goalkeeper – Santa Barbara, California – Santa Barbara High School – Played for Santa Barbara Soccer Club. Played for the United States Soccer Development Academy.
Oscar Ferreira – Forward – Goleta, California – Dos Pueblos High School – Led high school team with ten goals and three assists. Played for Santa Barbara Soccer Club.
Carter Clemmensen – Forward – Paradise Valley, Arizona – Brophy College Preparatory – Played for Sereno SC. Netted a total of 112 career goals at Brophy College Preparatory. Finalist for Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year.
Sam Fletcher – Midfielder – Phoenix, Arizona – Brophy College Preparatory – Played for SC del Sol. Led team in assists for three seasons.
Zade Ghani – Midfielder – Phoenix, Arizona – Notre Dame Prep – Played for SC del Sol. Played for Region 4 ODP team.
Outlook for 2018: UC Santa Barbara lacked consistency and big play ability last year. Injuries that resulted in lineup changes and the fact that there were a lot of young players in key roles likely contributed to that. The inconsistency was reflected in the fact that the Gauchos had both a four-game winning streak and a four-game losing streak. The lack of big play ability was reflected in their seven overtime matches including four scoreless draws. The Gauchos were 2-0-5 in those seven contests. Unlike vintage UCSB teams, the Gauchos appeared at times to be a team that was playing with a mindset of trying not to lose instead of to win.
The 2018 season looks to be a pivotal one for the Gauchos as they seek to regain the momentum that the program enjoyed in the past. Goal number one has to be winning the Big West Conference Tournament Championship and securing the automatic berth in the NCAA Tourney that goes along with it.
The fact that the Big West Conference does not fare well in the RPI rankings makes winning the conference tourney very important. Last year, UC Davis which had an RPI of sixty had the highest ranking RPI in the Big West conference. Surprisingly, for a program with a history of success, UC Santa Barbara has not fared well in the Big West Tournament. Since the tourney began in 2008, the 2010 season was the only year in which they have won the conference tournament.
The chances that the Gauchos will rebound in 2018 are excellent. In fact, a formidable season, once again, is not out of the question, but that is dependent on significant improvement on both sides of the ball.
Vom Steeg clearly knows what it takes to be competitive at the highest level and has a good track record of brining on board transfers who can fill the voids. He has added a solid recruiting class that includes three experienced transfers who have the potential to have an immediate impact. There were a lot of underclassment in the starting lineup last year who now have the benefit of a year of experinece under their belts. The return of senior midfielder Joseph Ammer who missed almost the entire year due to injury is a plus.
Vom Steeg will have a lot of lineup options in 2018. Sophomore Rodney Michael (8g, 4a) who made a huge splash in his first season as a Gaucho returns to power the attack up-top. Michael was UCSB's top goal scorer last year.
Juniors Ignacio Tellechea (4g, 3a) and Noah Billinsley (2g, 2a) and sophomores Sahid Conteh (1g, 0a) and Derek Kryzda (2g, 1a) are among other returning forwards. Junior transfer Thibault Candia from Temple is a playmaker who should add punch to the offense either up-top or in the midfield.
Ammer along with senior Jan Illskens (0g, 0a), junior Brandon Magpayo (0g 1a) and sophomore Koby Bench (0g, 0a) as well as several of the individuals listed above provide a solid group of returning midfielders.
The Gaucho offense should be significantly more multi-dimensional in 2018 than it was in 2017. The return of Ammer and the addition of Candia should take some of the pressure off Michael and keep opposing defenses from being able to collapse on him.
On the defensive side of the ball, UCSB will have to replace left back Randy Mendoza who was a three-year starter. However Vom Steeg returns a very solid and deep contingent of defenders including sophomores Adrian Adames (1g, 1a), Kavani Kashani (0g, 1a), Giovanny Acosta (0g, 1a) and William Gillingham who gained valuable experience last year. Junior right back Giovanny Restrepo Mejia (0g, 1) who was a starter last year also returns. Junior Frazer Poulter and senior Adam Ek are among other returning defenders who will be in the mix. Junior transfer Faouzi Taieb who was the NEC Defensive Player of the Year last year at St. Francis Brooklyn and redshirt sophomore Hunter Ashworth who transfers in from San Francisco have the potential to make an immediate impact.
Sophomore Alan Carrillo who was the starter in goal last year returns to give the Gauchos a now experienced, physical, and talented presence between the pipes.
Even though another season with a series of injuries is unlikely, that remains a concern. Team toughness and chemistry are key unanswered intangibles. The elephant in the room is whether the last two seasons without a berth in the NCAA Tournament were temporary setbacks or a sign of what is to come.
On the positive side there are plenty of reasons for excitement and optimism heading into the 2018 season. The roster looks to be talented, deep and experienced. If Michael is able to build on the success he had last year, if the newcomers are able to help fill the voids, and if the year of experience the returning players gained last year results in improvement across the board, then 2018 has the makings of a very special season at UC Santa Barbara.