UCLA ended up with a disappointing, hard-fought draw against Maryland yesterday in a clash of college soccer giants on national television. The replay is up on ESPN3 for the rest of the week. This is a great year for UCLA soccer fans due to the sheer number of games that will broadcast on TV between ESPN3, the Pac12 network, and our big national clash with UCSB on Fox Soccer Channel.
For the second week in a row, a good honest shift by the field players was undone by a massive error by our keeper. Whereas last week it was our highly touted U-20 national team keeper Earl Edwards getting caught out on a long range effort, this week it was his backup Cervantes coming out to cutoff a cross, whiffing, and allowing an easy tap in at the far post. With Edwards injured and out for an unknown time it is unclear if we can trust Cervantes with the keeper duties. This is strange territory indeed for a school so used to not having to worry about the keeper position after having produced the likes of Brad Friedel, Kevin Hartman, Matt Reis, DJ Countess, Nick Rimando, Brian Perk, and Brian Rowe.
Cervantes' error combined with the ref gifting UM a pk on an obvious dive in the second half ruined an otherwise solid road effort by the Bruins. Our highly touted centerbacks Wiet and Sofia combined to prevent UM from getting many good opportunities. UM had a large quantity of shots but they lacked much bite.
The biggest change was that we abandoned our possession-oriented system from last season in favor of a much more direct approach. This is a little surprising given coach Salcedo's dedication to possession and keeping the ball on the ground throughout last season. However, it makes sense to play defensive, direct, and concede the majority of possession on the road against a top team like Maryland. Especially when we have such an effective target forward in Victor Chavez who is good at winning long balls and knocking them down for trailing runners. Ryan Hollingshead did a good job also of playing the target role a couple of times, and his knockdown header with his back to the goal set up Reed Williams for UCLA's first goal.
The team has a lot of talent and has shown signs of promise that they are better than their 0-1-1 record reflects, but the two burning questions right now are 1) can we get our problems at the keeper position sorted out, and 2) will we return to our swashbuckling possession-oriented, short passing game from last year when we get back from this road trip?