The UCLA Bruin Men's Soccer Team (1-1-1) is looking to rebound from a tough 1-0 loss last Friday night, at the hands of Duke. They'll get their chance this evening against the Akron Zips, who are looking to get at least one win on their west coast trip, dropping their game against the San Diego State Aztecs on Friday, also by a score of 1-0. Here are the details about tonight's game:
When: September 5, 2016, at 5:00 p.m.
Where: Drake Stadium
Akron (2-1-0), which has turned into a top college program in men's soccer, is currently ranked number nine in the nation in the new rankings that came out today from Topdrawersoccer.com. Before the Zips dropped last Friday' game to SDSU, 1-0, Akron was ranked number one. The SDSU contest was decided by a penalty kick in the 61st minute, which was buried by SDSU.
Here are highlights from the match, including the game winning PK:
Before its loss to SDSU, Akron had beaten been two tough teams at home in Georgetown and Seattle, each by a score of 1-0.
Akron's top player might be #10 midfielder, Adam Nejam. Forward Sam Gainford is also a threat. Those two are second and first respectively in shots for Akron, although neither has yet to find the back of the net in 2016. Defender Brad Ruuhak, who scored for Akron against Georgetown, is another player that could give the Bruins fits.
UCLA has not really impressed in its first three games. It played OK against a tough opponent in Maryland, getting a 1-1 draw to open the season. The Bruins were then outplayed by Cal State Fullerton, but got the win in overtime on a PK by Brian Iloski. Last Friday night against Duke, UCLA outplayed the Blue Devils for much of the game, especially in the second half, but neither team could score. Then Duke's Brian White did this in the 88th minute.
There is no stoppage time in the college game, and UCLA had about a minute to equalize, which it did not do, before the whistle blew. The 1-0 loss dropped UCLA to #22 in the rankings.
As UCLA's two goals this season were in the second minute of the Maryland game and via PK in the CSUF game, the Bruins have not found the net through the run of play in the last 288 minutes of soccer. This is a far cry from the 2015 UCLA squad that had no trouble scoring goals. The problem in 2015 was stopping goals.
This season, it appears that UCLA's defense is improved--true freshman Reggie Cannon has stepped up at right back and redshirt freshman Matthew Powell has played well, complimenting veteran Michael Amick in the central defense.
The season is early, but the problem for UCLA has been scoring. Neither of UCLA's offensive midfielders, Jackson Yueill or Jose Hernandez, has found the net. Sedi Adekoya, who led UCLA in goals last year, has not scored. Abu Danladi, team leader in assists last season, has inexplicably not played a single minute this year and there have been no reports of injury.
Perhaps most frustrating for Bruin fans is Head Coach Jorge Salcedo's tactics. Against most teams, UCLA has the talent advantage and, if it wanted to, could play a pretty direct game. Usually, however, UCLA appears content to stroke the ball around the midfield hoping to break down the defense, although that has only resulted in one goal in the run of play this season. When UCLA has played direct, the ball handler has made bad decisions, usually holding onto the ball too long for a "perfect" shot and being dispossessed, or failing to make a pass that would lead to a better chance.
It will not get easier for UCLA tonight. Akron has not allowed a goal in the run of play this season. Further, Akron will be hungry to avoid an 0-2 road trip. UCLA will need to solve the puzzle of Akron's defense. I predict that they will fail to do so. I see Akron scoring in the first half off of a UCLA turnover in its own third, and then getting a second goal in the final 10 minutes as the Bruins push for the equalizer.
This is your UCLA Men's soccer vs. Akron open thread. Go Bruins!
C'mon UCLA, prove me wrong!