Coming off a draw in its first game of the season, the UCLA Men’s Soccer team takes on Cal State Fullerton tonight. Before we get into a little bit about the teams and the match up, here are some details for the game:
Opponent: Cal State Fullerton
When: August 29, 2016, 7 p.m. PT
Where: Drake Stadium
How to Follow: Live Audio; Official Twitter Account of UCLA's Men's Soccer Team (No TV; No Online Stream)
CAL STATE FULLERTON
Cal State Fullerton (0-1-0) is coming off a season-opening, double overtime 3-2 loss to Vermont at Vermont on Friday, and now face the Bruins after the long trip home. Advantage UCLA.
The Titans had one of the most successful seasons in school history last year. CSUF went 13-8-1 overall, won the Big West Tournament, and made the NCAA Tournament, losing to Santa Clara 3-0 in the first round.
There might not be much drop off from that team as the Titans return seven Big West All Conference players from 2015, including outstanding goalkeeper, David Rodriguez Elias. Elias had a scintillating .89 goals against average last season, racked up 12 clean sheets, and earned Big West Tournament MVP honors
CSUF also returns a very experienced and talented midfield, led by junior Nicolo D'Amato. One of Fullerton's weaknesses might be on the back line, as the Titans, like the Bruins, replace two starters on the back line from 2015.
The #16 Bruins started the season on Friday night against #4 Maryland, at the Stub Hub Center. UCLA trotted out a starting XI in which there were a few surprises (at least to me), including Jason Romero at striker and Brian Iloski at attacking midfielder.
This was Romero’s first game as a Bruin after earning Junior College All American honors, and although I thought Romero would play, I did not see him starting ahead of UCLA’s proven stars up front, Abu Danladi and Seyi Adekoya.
Iloski, an attacking midfielder, started three games for UCLA last season until he was lost for the season due to injury. Again, thought he’d play. Didn’t see him starting the first game.
Well, it didn’t take long for those two guys to link up:
Second minute, UCLA up 1-0.
Unfortunately, Maryland answered three minutes later, leveling the score at 1-1. Neither team was able to find the back of the net for the remaining 105 minutes (including two ten minute overtimes), and the two sides drew, 1-1.
Not a bad result for UCLA against a higher ranked team but, frankly, UCLA wasted a few opportunities in the second half and overtime when left back Chase Gasper, midfielder Willie Raygoza, and forward Abdullah Adam each blasted shots from close range well over the crossbar.
UCLA's Head Coach Jorge Salcedo agrees with me:
" . . . there are a lot of positives for me tonight. We came and played the way we wanted to play and created chances. Unfortunately we couldn't convert on a few clear goal-scoring opportunities."
Adam's miss was the hardest to stomach, since it came so late and was in front of a pretty wide open net, with only the keeper, who was scrambling to get back into position, to beat. A more clinical finish would have seen UCLA through to victory.
Hopefully the Bruins will build on the draw and come in looking for a better result tonight against Cal State Fullerton.
This game is not a push over for UCLA. The 2015 iteration of UCLA Men's Soccer team saw the team drop games it should have won to lesser programs in the southland, including UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara.
UCLA will need to stay sharp tonight against a very solid CSUF team to get the win. It might be easy to overlook the Titans, as UCLA has upcoming home matches against Duke and Akron on Friday and Labor Day, respectively, but UCLA cannot afford to do so.
I see the Bruins putting in a solid effort and coming away with a win, 3-1.
If you are at the game and have any thoughts, please make them in the comment section below. This is your UCLA v. CSUF Men’s Soccer open thread.