Opponent: UC Santa Barbara (3-2-1)
When: 7:00 PM PDT, Monday, September 21, 2015
Where: Drake Stadium, Los Angeles, CA
Audio: Bruin Live Audio
Video: Pac-12 Networks
Live Stats: UCLA StatBroadcast
Are you ready for some futbol?
The Bruins (2-3-0) host a rare Monday night game against the Gauchos (3-2-1) at Drake Stadium tonight. UCLA needs a win as it fights to recover from the early season wobble. The Bruins' dip in form took them from the top-ranked team in the country to a team that now sits outside of the top-25. There's plenty of season left for the Bruins to demonstrate their quality, but they can't afford many more setbacks along the way.
The Bruins won big against Cal Poly on Friday night, but it was far from a dominant performance. At halftime, Cal Poly held a 1-0 lead, and the halftime stats were pretty even.
The second half was a different story. UCLA scored two goals in the first ten minutes, and the Bruins turned it on from there, scoring twice more through Seyi Adekoya. The victory was the Bruins' first win since the opening game of the season.
It may be a great relief for the Bruins to snap their losing streak, but as the match against Cal Poly showed, there's still a lot of work to be done. UC Santa Barbara will presents a much stiffer challenge for UCLA, so the Bruins can't afford to open the game passively.
Although the Gauchos don't hold down a spot in the latest NSCAA Coaches Poll, UCSB has a recent history of success in men's soccer. In fact, the Gauchos have won a national championship in men's soccer (2006) more recently than the Bruins (2002). By the way, the Gauchos' victim in the 2006 NCAA Championship was UCLA.
UCSB is a relatively high scoring team, averaging 1.7 goals per game. By way of comparison, the Bruins average 1.6 goals per game, but scored half of their season goals against Cal Poly.
The Gauchos have one very good win this season: they opened with a 1-0 win over #4 Stanford. Since then, their results have been mixed: they fought #15 Denver to a 2-2 draw, and lost 2-1 to unranked UConn. The only common opponent that UCSB and UCLA share is #17 New Mexico: UCLA beat the Lobos 1-0 while UCSB lost 2-1.
I'm skeptical about the Bruins' ability to build a long winning streak. The same flaws that lead UCLA to produce erratic performances within games will keep the Bruins from turning in consistently strong performances from game to game. Of course, with effective coaching, that could change over the course of the season, but I'll have to see sustained progress--not just one half of good football--before I become a believer.