FanPost

Women's Soccer - NCAA Second Round - UCLA vs Harvard - Preview and Game Thread

@uclawsoccer

When: Friday, November 21, 2014, 8:00 PM PT

Where: Drake Stadium, Los Angeles, CA

Audio: Bruin Live Audio

Video: UCLA/Pac-12 Online Streaming

Live Stats: NCAA GameCenter or CSTV GameTracker

Official Preview: Here

Official NCAA Tournament Digital Program: Here

The #1 ranked Bruins face the Harvard Crimson tonight in the second round of the NCAA women's soccer tournament. Both teams are coming off convincing first round victories, and both teams are conference champions, but that's where the similarities end. UCLA enters the contest as the top-ranked team in the most recent NSCAA Coaches poll; Harvard is unranked. UCLA is second in RPI; Harvard is 51st. The Bruins are a fantastic defensive team and lead the nation is goals against average, limiting opponents on average to 0.187 goals per game; Harvard has a decent defensive record, but concedes goals at a rate that's 4.5 times greater. UCLA is the sixth highest scoring team in the nation, averaging 2.81 goals per game; again, Harvard doesn't have a bad scoring record, but they average only 1.94 goals per game.

Of course, as islandbruin2 often points out, soccer is a game in which a single bad bounce or a mental error can be decisive. That's true of other sports too, but not to the extent that it happens in soccer where scoring opportunities can be very hard to come by. So although the season statistics suggest that the Bruins should handle the Crimson, the difficulty of UCLA's task tonight will depend on how Harvard adjusts its tactics to try to frustrate the Bruins.

UCLA Dominates San Diego

The Bruins wasted no time in taking control of the game in their first round matchup with San Diego. UCLA relentlessly attacked the San Diego defense from the opening kickoff, and after just 5 and a half minutes, the Bruins found the back of the net. Pac-12 Defender of the Year Abby Dahlkemper ran onto a beautifully placed corner kick by Rosie White and headed it firmly past the Toreros goalkeeper. Less than a minute and a half later, Abby Dahlkemper found Rosie White with a long, precise pass, and White calmly slotted it home to give the Bruins a 2-0 advantage.

Less than 5 minutes later, the Bruins added to their lead on a counterattack from a San Diego corner. After collecting the ball in the box, Rowland quickly threw a fantastic outlet pass to Taylor Smith who was streaking upfield. But rather than read about it, watch the video clip below to see an amazing bit of skill from Taylor:

Taylor Smith #golazo. Just watch and marvel. @taylorsmith14_ #goalieassist #splittingdefenders #goaloftheyear #soccer

A video posted by UCLA Women's Soccer (@uclawsoccer) on Nov 11, 2014 at 10:50am PST

The Bruins continued to dominate possession in the first half, and they came close to unlocking the Toreros defense several times, but ultimately the final pass wasn't quite precise enough or the final touch wasn't quite good enough.

The Bruins used more width in attack in the final third after halftime. After just a little over 6 minutes into the second half, the Bruins got their reward. Sam Mewis found Kylie McCarthy in space at the top of the box, and McCarthy confidently finished to register her sixth goal in six games. Two and a half minutes later, McCarthy was fouled in the box and the Mewis scored from the penalty spot. Even with a five goal lead, UCLA continued to press for more, but the San Diego goalkeeper made some terrific saves to keep the Bruins from scoring a sixth, seventh and eighth.

As usual, the Bruins only needed one goal because Katelyn Rowland kept another clean sheet. With her 53rd career shutout, Rowland established a new Division 1 record:

A quick look at the game statistics shows UCLA's dominance. In particular, the Bruins outshot the Toreros 25-3.

While our men's basketball coach is unwilling to develop his reserves by giving them extended playing opportunities in blowouts, Coach Cromwell took advantage of the big lead to give 10 substitutes experience in an NCAA game. In particular, it was gratifying to see players like junior Madison Tye, sophomore Taylor Alderete, sophomore Kristiana Konkol-Mrockowki and freshman MacKenzie Cerda get a chance to play in a such a significant game.

Scouting Harvard

The Crimson (5-1-1, 11-4-2) advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament by defeating Central Connecticut State 6-0 with two goals each by sophomore forward Margaret Purce and junior forward Emily Mosbacher. The other two goals came from midfielders Laura Aguilar (senior) and Dani Stollar (freshman). Sophomore goalkeeper Lizzie Durack kept a clean sheet.

The bulk of Harvard's scoring comes from its forwards. Purce leads the Crimson with 10 goals and Mosbacher is second on the team with 6. Harvard has a surprisingly low assist to goal ratio, with senior midfielder Meg Casscells leading the Crimson with 4 assists.

Like the Toreros, Harvard has a goalkeeper platoon. Senior Cheta Emba splits time between the posts with Durack, and for what it's worth, Emba has a higher save and shutout percentage. In a high pressure matchup against the top ranked team in the country, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Emba get the start tonight.

Prognostications

I hope I'm wrong about this, but I have a feeling that Harvard may adopt a compact, defensive posture and rely on its top two goalscorers to try to create chances without a lot of service from the midfield. Although UCLA has the ability to play wide and get around behind the defense, the Bruins prefer to play the ball through narrow channels and in tight spaces around the box. However, when teams cluster their defenders in the middle of the pitch, UCLA will find it increasingly difficult to find the seams that they exploited against San Diego in the first half.

Nevertheless, I suspect that the Crimson will succumb to overwhelming pressure by UCLA before halftime and will have to push their midfielders further upfield in the second half in an attempt to create scoring chances. With a more open game, UCLA should be able to score at least once more and will advance with a solid victory. Predicted final score: UCLA 3, Harvard 0.

Go BRUINS!

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.

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