In a rollercoaster of a game, Clemson defeated UC-Santa Barbara 3-2 on Sunday night. Santa Barbara, the #15 seed, is an aggressive and high scoring team that provided Clemson with a real challenge. They went toe to toe with Clemson all night, pressuring the Tigers high up the field and staying committed to holding onto possession, rather than bunkering down and countering like other teams. Clemson changed up the starting lineup a little with the return of Kyle Fisher at centerback, and the placement of Saul Chinchilla at right mid instead of Grayson Raynor
The Gauchos had a goal disallowed in the first few minutes of the game, when one of their players was called offside on a free kick. Santa Barbara scored the first goal of the game in the 39th minute. However, Clemson equalized right before halftime courtesy of Aaron Jones. Jones had a ridiculous solo effort to dribble through the entire UCSB defense before ripping a shot into the far corner of the net.
Clemson began to take control of the match in the second half. The Tigers finally pulled ahead in the 69th minute. Diego Campos and Alex Happi had a nice one-two combo play on the wing to avoid a crowd of defenders, Campos cut in to the top of the box and sent a beautiful curling shot past the keeper into the top far corner of the goal.
However, UCSB was able to tie the game less than a minute later when Patrick Bunk-Anderson committed an awful defensive error. Bunk-Anderson has played exceptionally well this year but this play was really bad. UCSB hit a long ball forward and instead of clearing the ball out of bounds, Bunk-Anderson attempted to head the ball back to Tarbell so the latter could pick it up. The ball had already bounced a couple of times so Bunk-Anderson couldn't get enough on the header to send it back to Tarbell. The UCSB forward was able to pounce on the ball before it got to Tarbell and he passed it into the open goal.
Ultimately Clemson was able to get the last laugh. The Tigers had a quick breakaway after a midfield turnover and Thales Moreno played a fantastic diagonal through ball to Saul Chinchilla who squared a pass in the box to a wide open Kyle Murphy. Murphy simply tapped the ball into a wide open net. This attack was great team play. The ball from Moreno to Chinchilla made the whole attack possible. The pass carried Chinchilla into the box and away from the defender, but not too far wide to keep him from quickly squaring it to Murphy. It was also a heads up play by Chinchilla to keep his cool in the situation and pick out Murphy, rather than trying to be a hero and blasting a shot straight at the keepers.
Clemson looked dangerous on offense throughout the game and should improve defensively now that Kyle Fisher is back and has a game under his belt. The Tigers will take on the Maryland Terrapins this Friday night at Riggs Field. The turtles defeated Notre Dame on Sunday afternoon. Speaking of ACC teams, half of the Elite 8 is comprised of teams from the ACC, with Boston College, Wake Forest, and Syracuse joining Clemson in the quarterfinals.