The UCLA Bruin Men’s Soccer team (5-5-2) plays its final non-conference game of the regular season tonight against the red-hot University of San Diego Toreros (9-1-1). In game six of UCLA’s eight game home stand, the contest against USD tonight will be a tough challenge for the Bruins, who are 2-1-2 in the first five games of the home stand.
Considering that UCLA’s next game is against #7 Washington next weekend, tonight’s game feels like a “must win.” If UCLA drops its next two, falling two games below .500 with four to play, they will be in stark danger of missing the postseason, which requires a minimum .500 record for qualification. UCLA’s RPI is fine, sitting at #32, but they still need to be .500 to go dancing and still have a Bay Area road trip, including at #14 Stanford, to deal with in their final three games, all on the road. So tonight is a very important home game against a difficult opponent.
LAST TIME OUT
After losing a hard fought match to Stanford, 1-0, conceding in the 81st minute of the game last Thursday, the Bruins rebounded last Sunday by drawing the UC Berkeley Golden Bears, 3-3. Although the Bruins did not earn the full three points, they ultimately battled back to draw after leading 1-0, and 2-1, but then trailing 3-2 when Berkeley’s Johnathan Estrada scored the second of his two goals in the 69 minute.
The Bruins earned the draw in the 83rd minute, care of an unlikely hero: Alex Triadis, UCLA’s senior forward who has always come off the bench for the Bruins and, until tying the goal on Sunday, had never scored in his UCLA career. Triadas volleyed the ball into the back of the net with his left foot at the top of the box after a chaotic sequence following a cross from the left flank.
UCLA would never have had the chance to tie the game if it wasn’t for a world-class save by UCLA goalkeeper, Justin Garces, in the 82nd minute, literally less than 30 seconds before the tying goal. Garces leaped to parry a hard shot to his left that was headed high and inside the near post, leading to a counterattack in which UCLA drew level.
It was a tie that felt like a win for the Bruins and their fans.
USD has won nine games of eleven on the season, only losing to Sacramento State and drawing UC Santa Barbara, 2-2. The Bruins have played neither of those teams, but both San Diego and UCLA have some comment opponents in San Diego State, UC Riverside, and UC Irvine:
Both team beat SDSU. UCLA by the score of 5-2 and USD by the score of 3-2. Likewise, the Bruins beat Riverside 3-1 while San Diego beat them 1-0. Finally, the Bruins tied Irvine while the Toreros prevailed in overtime, 1-0. This leads me to believe that tonight will be a tight, hotly contested match.
Senior forward Miguel Berry is an absolute stud for the Toreros, scoring ten goals on the season to go with six assists, both easily leading the team. He has been a part of sixteen of of USD’s twenty-four goals on the season.
At 6’3”, 180 lbs., he is a classic target forward with skills and UCLA will be hard pressed to match up with his size and ability. Berry has forty-five shots on the season, triple the amount of the next Torero. Call him the “Ronaldo of the West Coast Conference.” UCLA needs to have a plan for Berry.
Matt Wiher has played every minute of every game for San Diego this season. He has seven clean sheets and has only allowed seven goals in eleven games on the season. UCLA conversely, has allowed 26 goals on the season. Wiher will start and he will present a formidable challenge for UCLA’s scoring attack.
I think that this will be a hard fought match, and predict that UCLA and San Diego will fight to a 2-2 draw. Milan Iloski will score one for the Bruins but Berry will match him with a goal of his own.