Opponent: California (5-4-2, 0-2-2)
When: 6:00 PM PT, Monday, October 19, 2015
Where: Drake Stadium, Los Angeles, CA
Audio: Bruin Live Audio
Video: Pac-12 Networks
Live Stats: None
On Friday, the Bruins lost to #3 Stanford, 2-1, but the score doesn't tell the story of the game. UCLA dominated possession. UCLA dominated in shots and chances. UCLA also dominated in costly mistakes. Both of Stanford's goals were the result of Bruin errors, and UCLA wasn't able to convert enough of its chances to pull even.
Having said that, the Bruins were denied a late goal on a controversial offside call. It was a very poor decision by the linesman, and it left the Bruins short in their comeback attempt.
Unfortunately, the narrative that "we wuz robbed!" misses the key point: mistakes in the back once again cost the Bruins a game they could have won. Even though Stanford's second goal was an amazing long distance strike, it came from an error. Unless the Bruins can clean up those mistakes, they will continue to produce inconsistent results.
There are no shortcuts to becoming a dominant team. Do the Bruins have the talent? Absolutely! Do they have the experience and depth? Yes and yes. Do they have a set of potent attackers? Definitely! Are they solid at the back? No, not even close.
Consistency starts with defense. Teams can win with offense, but not consistently, and that's where the Bruins are right now. They gave up two goals on Friday, which is very close to their season average. It's a problem that MUST be solved if the Bruins are going to play and advance in postseason soccer.
UCLA (6-6-0, 2-2-0) has a good opportunity to get back to winning ways today. California (5-4-2, 0-2-2) has gone five games without a win, and have lost threes straight road games.
The Bruins need to make a good start to the game. Too often, the Bruins don't find the back of the net until the second half, which means that they all too often end up playing from behind. It's great that UCLA has the ability to come back, but it would be even better if the Bruins didn't need to rely on their comeback ability quite so often.
Finally, I hope that Coach Salcedo will revisit the combinations he uses in midfield. The Bruins seem to have much better balance when Jordan Vale is used in the middle of the pitch. Let's see if Coach Salcedo can get the balance right this evening, which probably mean starting freshman Jackson Yueill on the bench.
The Bruins now have a dozen games under their belt, yet their longest winning streak in 2015 is two games. With only seven regular season games left, UCLA needs to produce a series of good results down the stretch to ensure qualification for the NCAA tournament. That makes a win today essential, and it probably requires at least four more wins in the last half dozen games. The Bruins have the talent to put together that kind of run, but it's up to the coaches to put the players in position to find success. So far this year, the coaches haven't managed to do that consistently.