The UCLA Men’s Soccer team (1-1) started the season with a tough road trip to Indiana last weekend, beating Northwestern 1-0 in overtime and falling to #2 ranked Indiana 2-1, also in overtime. Now, the unranked Bruins welcome the defending national champions and #3 ranked Maryland Terrapins to Wallis Annenberg Stadium tonight.
Kick-off is at 7 p.m. PT and the game will be televised on PAC 12 Los Angeles. This will be UCLA’s home opener for the 2019 season.
LAST TIME OUT
Last Sunday, UCLA Men’s Soccer squared off against #2 Indiana in Bloomington, Indiana and, although UCLA did not come out with a result, they acquitted themselves well. After a scoreless first half, UCLA newcomer Marcony Pimental, a junior transfer from Pitt, netted his first goal as a Bruin, putting UCLA up in 1-0 in the 53rd minute.
The lead was short-lived, as Maryland’s Victor Bezerra equalized in the 58th minute. The teams battled during the remainder of regular time, forcing overtime.
The teams went scoreless in the first 10 minutes of OT, but Maryland’s Jack Maher scored the golden goal off a corner kick in the second overtime, ending the game on a sour note for the Bruins and giving Maryland the 2-1 double overtime victory.
Frankly, it was a solid effort by a rebuilding UCLA team with a new coach and a new system in a hostile environment against a team that could win it all this year. The Bruins had 10 shots (5 on frame) to Indiana’s 15 (6 on frame). Both keepers made four saves. That is a solid showing for this Bruin team that is still finding its way.
Maryland was ranked #1 going into the season and remained there after beating USF last week at home, 1-0. Unfortunately for the Terps, they faced Virginia at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. on Labor Day and lost to the ‘Hoos, 2-0, causing them to drop in the rankings to #3.
Although five starters from the 2018 national championship team were set to return for 2019, Maryland lost one of them, senior winger Paul Bin, to injury (ACL tear) for the season in preseason training. Scoring goals could be an issue for the Terps, who lost a lot of starting fire power up front. The Bin injury doesn’t help.
Sophomore midfielder William James Herve, who scored four goals and notched three assists last season, does return. Herve made the Big 10 All Freshman Team as well as the Top Drawer Best Freshman XI First Team last year.
Junior defender Ben Di Rosa and senior center back Johannes Bergmann return to anchor the back line.
The Terps are loaded at the field positions, returning many non-starters from last year who made major contributions. Maryland also welcomes in a top-notch recruiting class, including midfielder Malcolm Johnston, who scored Maryland’s only goal so far this season.
One position where Maryland may be unsettled is at goalkeeper. Dayne St. Clair, who played every minute of every game last season for the Terrapins, and did not allow a goal in the final 500 minutes of his college career (including the entire NCAA tournament!), has moved on to the professional ranks and is now the backup ‘keeper for Minnesota United FC of Major League Soccer.
Of Maryland’s remaining goalkeepers, Russell Shealy played in the USF game, a victory, while Niklas Neumann appeared in the loss versus Virginia. Both guys are freshmen, so your guess is as good as mine as to who will start in net tonight versus UCLA.
This will be another stiff challenge for the Bruins. Maryland is a long way from home, but may be a more well-oiled machine than rebuilding UCLA. The Bruins looked pretty darn good last week against a tough IU team.
Personally, I think Maryland will win the game by the score of something like 1-0, but I am hoping that UCLA can find the back of the net at least once and perhaps earn a draw.