The UCLA Men’s Soccer Team starts its 2018 season this afternoon far from home in the heat and humidity of Conway, South Carolina, against the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. After a horrific 2017, the Bruins look to start this year on the right foot while CCU, fresh off a Round of 16 appearance in last year’s postseason, will try to keep the momentum moving forward.
Kickoff is at 4:30 pm PT. Although the game will neither be televised nor will there be live audio, CCU does provide a live stream and stats. Just click on the appropriate hyperlink in the sidebar to take you there.
And, yet again, as I do at the start of every season (last time it was baseball in February), I have the same complaint. How in the world are most schools (even small schools with budgets far inferior to UCLA’s) able to provide live streams while UCLA, arguably the top film and television school in the country, cannot / does not / will not? The new Wallis Annenberg Stadium would have been the perfect time to work this into the mix, at least for home soccer games. It truly boggles the mind and is another one of many failures of those leading the UCLA Athletic Department. But I digress, let’s talk about what to expect in the game.
I won’t spent too much time delving into the UCLA squad. If you’d like a primer, check out BN’s season preview from a few days ago.
The biggest questions for me is who will start in goal? Will it be the highly touted freshman Justin Garces (my personal hope), senior Cole Martinez (two appearances, five goals, and three saves in his college career), or sophomore Aristides Costeas (a newcomer from St. John’s who has not played a minute of college soccer)? Have I made my case for Garces? Head Coach Jorge Salcedo has not named a starter.
It should be said that the Bruins did well in their two preseason games, beating Grand Canyon 2-0 and UC Irvine 1-0, with both games at UCLA (the first at Drake Stadium and the second at the new Wallis Annenberg Stadium). Will those successes translate into a game that counts in the standings, 2,800 miles from home?
UCLA’s opponent, Coastal Carolina, is ranked #18 in the preseason (largely based on its finish last year) and is predicted to win the Sun Belt Conference. If the Bruins want to put balls into the back of the net, they will need to avoid Kervin Fadel, who was voted the Sun Belt Conference’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. CCU also has scoring punch, with forward Yazeed Matthews, the Chanticleer’s leading returning scorer, expected to lead the attack.
But everything is not rosy in Conway, S.C. Although CCU made it to the Round of 16 last season, losing to the ultimate champion Stanford by the score of 2-0, the Chanticleers have lost a lot of players from that team and are welcoming 20 new faces to the squad.
And, at least in the preseason exhibition games, it has showed. CCU has played three preseason exhibition games, against #3 North Carolina (a 4-0 loss at home), UNC Charlotte (a 1-0 loss at home), and UNC Greenboro (a 2-2 tie on the road).
This game is far from a gimme though, as the Bruins had major issues last season and, although UCLA has fared better than CCU in preseason games, CCU played better competition in their preseason games. Further, the Bruins will not only be facing a Coastal Carolina squad, but they will need to do so in the heat and humidity of the Deep South, which will present a completely different challenge for the Bruins.
I am cautiously optimistic about the Bruins this year. Nevertheless, I think that the travel and the environment will not be favorable to them tonight. I predict a 1-1 draw, with UCLA getting an early goal, failing to put the game away, CCU equalizing late, and both teams failing to score the winning (golden) goal in overtime. I hope that I am wrong and that UCLA comes home with the “W.”
What do you think? Let us know in the comment section.