Opponent: San Diego State (5-3-2, 0-2-0)
When: 7:00 PM PT, Monday, October 12, 2015
Where: Drake Stadium, Los Angeles, CA
Audio: Bruin Live Audio
Video: Pac-12 Networks
Live Stats: UCLA StatBroadcast
One of the few things predictable about UCLA Men's Soccer is its unpredictability. Last week, Coach Salcedo finally seemed to be taking serious steps to address the team's defensive fragility. The result was a double-overtime, 1-0 loss to Oregon State. While it certainly wasn't the overall result that Coach Salcedo would have hoped for, his adoption of a 3-5-2 formation appeared to be partly responsible for the Bruins' improved defensive performance.
But the more things change, the more they stay the same. Just two days later, the UCLA defense leaked two more goals against Washington, though the Bruins escaped with a double-overtime, 3-2 victory. Back to square one, apparently.
I don't know why the 2015 Bruins are struggling so much defensively, I don't know why Coach Salcedo hasn't been able to correct the problem. Last year's team had plenty of defensive problems, yet conceded just one goal per game on average; this year's team is surrendering nearly two goals per game with almost all of the same players in defense. It's a problem that will have to be solved soon if the Bruins hope to contend for a Pac-12 title this season.
The Aztecs are a decent defensive team with a GAA of 0.8, but they shouldn't overwhelm UCLA's back line in attack. SDSU is 0-2 in Pac-12 play, with a pair of 1-0 losses in the northwest (Washington, Oregon State) last weekend. It's understandable that the Aztecs are struggling at the outset of conference play as nearly half of SDSU's roster is new to the team.
Unlike the Bruins, the Aztecs have settled on a goalkeeper, and he's played well in 2015. Redshirt sophomore Adam Allmaras is 38th nationally in GAA and gives San Diego State decisive play between the posts. Although the Aztecs haven't been prolific in front of goal lately, the two players most likely to trouble UCLA's leaky defense are redshirt senior Rene Reyes and sophomore Jeroen Meefout. The pair of forwards lead SDSU in shots and could prove dangerous against the Bruins' vulnerable back line.
The Bruins are without freshman stars Jackson Yueill and Malcolm Jones tonight, as both players are away on national duty with the US U-20 team. That means that UCLA will rely even more heavily on the creative skills of freshman Jose Hernandez to unlock the Aztecs defense for the Bruins' outstanding trio of forwards: Seyi Adekoya, Larry Ndjock, and Abu Danladi.
It's unclear if Michael Amick will be available tonight as he recovers from what is being reported as a "minor injury." If Amick is healthy, it might make more sense for Coach Salcedo to employ a 4-4-2 formation against the Aztecs considering the fact that the Bruins are a little bit light in midfield without Yueill. However, Coach Salcedo's personnel decisions rarely seem logical to me, so describing what I would do isn't particularly helpful in trying to predict what Coach Salcedo will do.
This is a game the Bruins should win, and a game they must win if they are going to mount a serious challenge for the conference title. It's time for UCLA to deliver on its potential.