Another match, another formation.  While we successfully employed a 3-6-1 versus Pacific, tonight was a different 3-6-1 , more of a 3-2-4-1 versus the 3-3-2-1 we had used previously.  It meant that our backs were more exposed, both in the middle as well as on the flanks.  If we could revert back to our original 3-6-1 or a 4-2-3-1, I’d appreciate it!  Trust me, I’ve played many hours of Football Manager, so that makes me an expert on these matters.

Tonight, we started 6 freshmen for the first time with Fabbretti earning his first start.

Dream Team 4-2-2-2 football formation

During the first half, it didn’t appear as though we were playing an 0-8 team.  UCR was able to find space and isolated defenders on the flanks which led to an early shot that Carrillo blocked with a rare knee save as he got low.

Then in the 13th minute, UCR played a searching ball toward our box.  Kashani was there to deal with it.  Carrillo was there to deal with it.  Unfortunately, both Kashani and Carrillo were there to deal with it.  Likely due to poor/no communication between them as well as a feeling of diffusion of responsibility, neither dealt with the danger, so UCR’s forward poked the ball among the convergence of all three players and rolled the ball into the abandoned net.  Video of the goal:

As in a prior match, Kashani was on goal kick duties.  Carrillo must be dealing with a minor injury or some tightness, probably his groin again.

For the second match in a row, we found ourselves down a goal late in the first half.  And for the second match in a row, a substitute scored late in the half to draw us level prior to halftime.  This time it was Liua.  Michael played a lovely 20 yard floated ball upfield that dropped into the path of a spinting Kryzda.  When I say dropped in his path, I mean the ball dropped in his path.  Kryzda stepped on the ball in stride and fell forward, but quickly got back to his feet, had his shot blocked, andthe ball fell to Liua just inside the left corner of the box.  With UCR’s defense not fully recovered, he had time to pick out his shot, and he placed a relatively soft, curled effort just beyond the reach of the keeper and just inside the far post.  Place your shots, kiddos.

Vom Steeg was clearly unhappy with our defense in the first half (and he confirmed this in his post match comments), so he very intelligently employed the formation I’ve been wanting.  Yes!  The 4-2-3-1!  Ilskens dropped to CB while Mejia and Salgado assumed the holding midfield roles.  Michael played more centrally to start the half.

Dream Team 4-2-2-2 football formation

The tactical change greatly reduced UCR’s opportunities and denied them space on the flanks.  Their opportunities tended to come from free kicks, most of them launched from near midfield.  On those free kicks, I thought we conceded far too much space and should have played a higher line.  Instead, those kicks were sent into our box and created some chaos.

Mejia and Salgado both did their jobs.  Mejia excelled at keeping possession while picking out the right passes.  Salgado played as an effective disruptor in midfield and maintained solid positioning when we became more compact in defense.  He also consistently picked out the right pass.  Metiche would be proud.

We would take the lead when Michael passed to Tellechea who got off a shot.  The keeper had come way off his line and blocked Telelchea’s shot from the top of the box but wasn’t in position to deal with the rebound that fell to Billingsley, also at the top of the box.  Noah calmly chipped the shot over the keeper and into the goal.  It’s no coincidence that these three players would all figure into the goal.  All three have been playing phenomenally well lately and with tremendous confidence, flair, and determination.  In particular, my notes are filled with positive references to Michael.  He would hit the post and hit two shots into the side netting in addition to consistently being involved in many of our dangerous chances.

Later in the half, Billingsley nearly chipped the keeper again from 40 yards out.  The keeper scrambled back toward his goal and barely got his hand to it.

About 10 minutes later, Billingsley was sent in on goal by Tellechea.  With Billingsley 4 yards outside the box and the keeper 2 yards outside the box, Billingsley attempted his third chip on the night.  Unfortunately, he had gone to the well once too many times.  He chipped it with a pitching wedge instead of a nine iron, and a UCR defender was able to catch up with the high arcing ball before it found its way into the goal.  Rounding the keeper would have been the smarter choice there.

Michael iced the game in the 86th minute when he ran at defenders on the dribble, megged one defender, ran past another at the top of the box, and then fired a shot past the keeper into the far post.  It was an Ema Boateng-esqe goal.

All our goals can be seen here:

In the Big West North, Davis and Sac St both conceded game-tying goals in the final minute and ended up drawing their home matches.  Poly went on to lose 1-0 at home to CSUF.  The North has a cumulative 5-1-2 record versus the South.  Standings


Davis 4

Sac St 4

Poly  3

Believe it or not, we’re now on a 4 match winning streak. Olé!

We next play at CSUN on Thursday.  Of note, senior defender Darion Dealing picked up a red card versus Davis, so he will be suspended.


After playing with two or three holding midfielders which has yielded us a pair of wins in as many games, Vom Steeg switched things up by returning to a single holding mid in a functional 4-1-2-2-1 formation.

Dream Team 3-5-1-1 football formation

In terms of personnel, Magpayo is a first choice player for me, so it was disappointing to see him not starting.  I also preferred to continue to see Kashani at center back with a more attack minded right back.  Tactically, it was mystifying to see us move away from a 4-2-3-1 which had been so effective, particularly defensively.  I had discussed some of my thoughts on our tactics and personnel yesterday with Arthur Wilkie of KCSB Sports.  That can be heard here.

I believe Fullerton’s goal in the 15th minute was largely due to the absence of a second holding midfielder.  On the play, Fullerton found an open player near the corner of our box.  Had we had an additional defensive midfielder, the player who received the ball likely would not have had the space he enjoyed.  Instead, Kashani had to defend any possible forays toward the middle while keeping the wide player in front of him.  So, the player received the ball with a modicum of time and space, found a running teammate who had half a step on Ilskens at the top of the 6, and he was able to redirect the pacy pass past Carrillo.

With 5 minutes to go in the first half, Michael and Kryzda converged at midfield to collect a loose ball, but Michael waved him off.  Michael then dribbled the ball upfield and eventually dribbled through a defender.  As other defenders began to converge on him, he played a leading ball into the box with the outside of his right boot to an overlapping Kryzda who got off the shot as a defender slid to block the attempt.  The shot got past the keeper’s right foot and found the inside of the far post (videos of all our goals below).

As it turned out, my hand wringing regarding our personnel and tactics proved unfounded.  However, it would take some additional consternation until my concerns could be put to rest.  Here is how we started the second half with the score tied 1-1.

Dream Team 4-1-2-3 football formation

In the 58th minute, CSUF earned a corner kick.  The corner was very well placed and sailed to the far post.  When I say far post, I mean far post.  High corner far post.  The 6’3″ Bass Sarr just needed to get a head on it to ensure it went into the goal.  Truthfully, the ball was very likely going in without any intervention.

Then madness ensued.

Here is a preview and summary of what was to come.

And here is the video of those goals, all of very high quality (Click on the pic.twitter link).

Additional highlights with multiple angles:

So, in the span of about 40 minutes, we scored as many goals as we had in our prior 8 matches combined.  Of special importance for the performance was the fact that a high number of students attended the match and were treated to a show.  The team played with tremendous confidence and increasing flair.  In particular, Michael, Billingsley, and Tellechea wooed the crowd.

On the day, the Big West North went 4-0 against the South with all the matches played at North sites.

Up next for us is 0-8 UCR at home on Saturday.

Player Ratings

With 8 regular season matches behind us and the conference slate looming, I have seen enough of our play to (subjectively) evaluate individual players that have played significant minutes.  I have left Ammer, Liua, Kryzda, Adomakoh, Fabbretti, Conteh, Montalvo, and Le Roux off the list.

Keep in mind that many of the players are underclassmen, so they would be expected to improve as they develop physically and mentally.  For example, a Luis Silva likely would have been a 5.5 as a freshman but a 9 as a senior.

Agree?  Disagree?  Leave a comment below or tweet at me.

A rough guide to the ratings is as follows:

5 – Average Big West player

6- Honorable mention candidate

6.5 -7 – Second team candidate

7 – 7.5 – First team candidate

7.5+ – Player of the Year candidate


Carrillo – 7

Along with Magpayo, and to a slightly lesser extent, Kashani, an unexpected revelation this season.  Comes off his line well, deals with crosses appropriately, and very capable of making difficult saves.  His defense has done well to limit shots on goal but let him down earlier in the season by allowing too many far post tap ins.  Was responsible for a St. John’s goal when he tried to evade a forward.  Some of his clearances have been low and susceptible of being intercepted in dangerous areas.

Mendoza – 7

Since arriving at UCSB as a sophomore, Mendoza has been our most consistent player.  Great tackler and very good defensive instincts.  Covers well around the back.  Decent crosser of the ball when he comes forward.  Better passer on the defensive half of the field than in the offensive half.

Michael – 6.5

Technically gifted on the ball and great acceleration and speed with nice first touch and flair.  Very capable of taking on a defender but also looks to play teammates into more dangerous positions.  Strong passer.  Outstanding work rate and plays both sides of the ball.  Trending upward.

Magpayo – 6.5

Listed as a forward, he has demonstrated the necessary skills and attitude to be extremely effective in a central midfield role, either as an attacking mid or as a box-to-box midfielder.  Versatile.  Confident and skilled with the ball at his feet and the use of misdirection.  Consistently shows for the ball.  Picks out the right pass.  Good tackler and tenaciously seeks to dispossess the opposition and maintains a very high work rate.

Ilskens – 6

A more natural defensive midfielder than forward.  Uses his strength and size appropriately to win and keep possession.  Makes decisions and passes that help the team retain possession.  Good defensive positioning and determination make up for his relative lack of mobility.

Adames – 6

Strong, big, and fast.  Composed when defending and takes good angles to intercept players.  Mentally alert and very determined.  Early in the year, had a tendency to get pulled out of position and was also prone to being dispossessed when under pressure.  Can use a little more composure and confidence to look for a pass than play the ball long.  Trending upward.

Kashani – 5.5

Played most of the year at right back.  Very strong defensively, appropriately aggressive, and strong tackler.  Struggled early with passing and crossing the ball.  Probably a better center back.

Billingsley – 5.5

Strong ability to take on a defender off the dribble and create space for himself.  Very high work rate and determination to play both sides of the ball.  Excellent crosser.  When he finds himself in space, has a tendency to lose the ball with a heavy touch.  Trending upward.

Tellechea – 5.5

Decent forward who is starting to find his scoring touch.  Doesn’t excel in any particular area but also doesn’t possess any obvious deficiencies.  Passionate but needs to control negative emotions versus the referee and opposition.

Acosta – 5

After playing at left back and left wing back early in the year, he has settled in as a defensive midfielder.  Good speed and determination.  Hasn’t done much to set himself apart but also shows that he can belong.

Salgado – 5

Dependable and reliable at center back and defensive midfield.  Good defender and passer.  A back injury caused him to miss several matches and reduce his playing time.  A solid option and provides the team valuable depth.

Bench – 4.5

A hard working and aggressive midfielder and outside back.  Has not had the opportunity to see consistent minutes at the same position.  Provides the team good energy.  Probably best at right back or defensive midfield.

Poulter – 4.5

Started a number of matches at right center back when paired with Adames.  Decent defender but also prone to get adventurous with the ball.  Early in the year, played too many long balls.  Later, he showed the ability to pick out his pass.  If he can reduce errors, can be a very effective defender.

Gillingham – 4.5

Played mostly at right back and likely out of position.  Lacks speed and agility to play outside.  A more natural center back.  Aggressive but sometimes a bit too aggressive.  Good tackler.  Prone to make a poor pass.

Kim – 4.5

Possesses the technical ability and determination to be a solid contributor.  Too often, tries to dribble past defenders and gets dispossessed due to a lack of strength and acceleration.  Can switch off mentally but with potential to play at a 5.5 level with better decision making.

Mejia – 4

Intelligent and technically sound.  Decent tackler and determined.  Struggles by lacking both speed and strength of which at least one is needed to be effective at the D1 level.  Needs to resort to clutching/grabbing players or desperation tackles to neutralize faster and stronger opposition.