The UCLA Men’s Soccer team closes out non-conference play tonight up the California coast at Cal Poly. The Bruins (4-1-1) have steadily risen in the rankings and now sit at #6 in the nation. Tonight’s match at 8 p.m. PT will only be UCLA’s second game on the road, following the Bruins’ 1-0 win at UC Santa Barbara last Friday night. Here are the details of the game tonight:
Opponent: Cal Poly
When: September 23, 2016, at 8:00 p.m. PT
Where: Alex G. Spanos Stadium, San Luis Obispo, CA
The Mustangs (1-4-1) have struggled this season, but have played better of late, drawing #11 San Diego State 0-0 at home last Saturday night. Prior to that, Cal Poly beat Fresno Pacific (who?) 4-1 at home.
The Mustangs four losses have come on the road, at the hands of North Carolina and Wake Forest (in North Carolina); and Air Force and New Mexico in New Mexico. UNC and Wake Forest are both top ten teams, so those losses are nothing to sneeze at.
Cal Poly is led by senior forward Justin Dhillon, who has found the back of the net four times this season. The Mustangs have only scored five goals, so keeping Dhillon in check should be priority one for the UCLA back line.
Head Coach Steve Sampson, former head coach of the United States Men’s National Team and the Los Angeles Galaxy, has used two goalkeepers this season. Junior Eric Kam has started four games, allowing five goals with a goals against average (GAA) of 1.18. Kam has made 14 saves and has been in net for Cal Poly’s win and tie. Sophomore Simon Boehme has not fared as well, going 0-2 in his two starts, allowing four goals with nine saves. Expect to see Kam between the posts tonight.
The Bruins have won three straight, including victories over then perennial powerhouse Akron and then #13 UC Santa Barbara. UCLA had been on a bit of an offensive run, outscoring its opponents 10-1 until squeaking by the Gauchos, 2-1, in overtime last Saturday night.
UCLA would have lost to UCSB, but for Brian Iloski’s goal off a free kick with three second left in regulation. Jackson Yueill won it for the Bruins with a golden goal in the 97th minute.
UCLA’s back line is much improved from last year and goalkeeper Juan Cervantes has been special, allowing only four goals on the season, for a .63 GAA. Cervantes has 23 saves on the year and has recorded two clean sheets. UCLA has not allowed an opponent to score more than one goal in a game this year.
UCLA would lose these types of non-conference games last season. This year, they have taken care of business against teams with lesser talent. Has Head Coach Jorge Salcedo’s program turned a corner this season? UCLA should prevail in its final game before conference play starts next week. My prediction is that UCLA takes this one by a score of 2-0.