Opponent: #12 Georgetown (0-2-1)
When: 10:00 AM PDT, Monday, September 7, 2015
Where: Shaw Field, Washington DC
Video: GU Hoyas Video (Premium Content)
Live Stats: GameTracker
UCLA Loses to Maryland on a Golden Goal
The #1 Bruins (1-1-0) lost a heartbreaker on Friday night when #6 Maryland scored a golden goal six minutes into overtime to earn a 2-1 victory. If you followed the game, you'll know that the referee was unfortunately a factor in the game, but the Bruins have no one but themselves to blame for an uneven performance. Yes, it would have been helpful if the ref had called handball on Maryland in the buildup to the winning goal. Yes, it would have been helpful if the ref had called handball when a Maryland player used a hand to deflect a UCLA shot. And yes, it would have been helpful if the ref hadn't swallowed his whistle when midfielder Brian Iloski was clearly fouled on the edge of the box, and the Terps handled the ball in the follow-up play.
On the other hand, the ref wasn't responsible for the Bruins lack of energy to start the game, or UCLA's hesitant play in the opening half hour of the match, or the fact that UCLA was out-shot 11-3 in the first half. And as far as the penalty award that resulted in Maryland's opening goal, it was a rare call but a correct call by a ref who seemed determined to ignore almost every foul and infraction.
Thankfully for the Bruins, Abu Danladi persisted throughout the second half, and his hard work was rewarded in the 80th minute when he ripped a shot past the 'keeper from just outside the box to level the score.
However, Abu Danladi's goal merely postponed Maryland's victory celebration. The Terps took the initiative in the opening minutes of overtime, and after nearly five minutes, when Maryland played the ball into the box and one of the Terps brought the ball under control with his chest and right arm, the Bruins seemed to momentarily hesitate as if waiting for a handball call from the ref. After watching the ref in action for 90+ minutes, the Bruins should have known better, and they should know to play to the whistle in any case. The slight hesitation made the Bruins late to close down the attacker on the wing who then crossed the ball for the winning goal.
At this point, I should add that UCLA didn't do a good job of closing down when the Terps attacked from the wings. It's a recipe for disaster when defenders allow wingers time and space to send crosses into the box. It's a problem that Coach Salcedo and his staff need to address as soon as possible.
Additionally, UCLA has to add more muscle and bite to the midfield. Against Maryland, it was all-too-easy for the Terps to pass or carry the ball from the back into the attacking third. Good teams play defense all over the pitch, not just in front of their own goal.
I think it's fair to say that Georgetown has had a horribly disappointing start to the 2015 season. After the Hoyas' lost to Akron on Friday, Georgetown Head Coach Brian Wiese had this to say:
"The schedule we put together is merciless and if you don't get it just right, you lose"
Well, it's undoubtedly true that if you don't get it right, then you get it wrong, and getting it wrong will usually result in a loss. But let's take a closer look at the "merciless" schedule that the highly-ranked Hoyas have to start the season. Georgetown opened the season with a scoreless draw against mighty Florida Gulf Coast. The Hoyas played mighty USF next and lost 2-0. Georgetown's most recent opponent was mighty Akron; Georgetown lost 1-0. After facing UCLA today, the Hoyas have mighty Radford on the schedule, followed by a game against mighty VCU. For the record, none of those teams except for UCLA are in the top-25 of the NSCAA Coaches Poll, although Florida Gulf Coast is at least receiving votes and would qualify for a top-40 ranking.
For what it's worth, before struggling in the first few games of its "merciless" schedule, the Hoyas entered the season as the nation's third-ranked team.
So what's gone terribly wrong for the Hoyas this season? The obvious answer is that they just can't seem to score. Not only that, but they've been blitzed in the first halves of their matches, with their opponents out-shooting them by a 2-1 margin. That said, the Hoyas have conceded more goals in the second half than in the opening frame, so Georgetown's losses simply can't be attributed to slow starts.
The Hoyas don't lack elite talent. Senior forward Brandon Allen and junior defender Joshua Yaro were both named to the 2015 MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List, and Allen was a third-team All-American last year. Additionally, senior midfielder Keegan Rosenberry was named to the preseason All-Big East Team. This is a team that should be playing better, and has the talent and depth to "get it right" at some point this season. When that happens, Georgetown could be formidable, but at the moment, the Hoyas are struggling for answers.
What to Expect
UCLA can't sleepwalk through the opening minutes of the game. The Bruins need to take the initiative from the kickoff and show a strong work ethic all over the pitch for the entire 90 minutes. The Bruins have top class talent, but it has to be matched by consistent, focused application of that talent.
Although the Bruins might well win this match by playing their normal game--especially considering Georgetown's poor start to the season--I'd like to see some evidence that the Bruins can learn from their mistakes and their losses. It's on the UCLA coaches to make sure that the Bruins' midfield plays with energy, intelligence and aggression so that it can better control games. Everything else will take care of itself.