Fresh off an a trip to the sweltering deep south in which they pounded then-18th ranked Coastal Carolina, 4-0, the UCLA Bruins Men’s Soccer team returns to Westwood now ranked #12/#17 in the nation to face the unranked University of San Diego Toreros. Kickoff is tonight at 7 pm at Wallis Annenberg Stadium. The game will be televised and livestreamed via the Pac-12 Networks.
This is the first official game that the UCLA men’s soccer team will play at UCLA’s brand new soccer-specific stadium, although they played an exhibition game there on August 19th, beating UCI Irvine, 1-0.
USD is coming off an 8-6-3 season in 2017, one in which they beat the Bruins in San Diego, 3-1. That game wasn’t close, at USD carried a 3-0 lead into the 89th minute, when UCLA spoiled the clean sheet.
Despite beating UCLA last year, San Diego failed to make the postseason, losing three out of their last four games. So far this season, The Toreros have drawn their only opponent, UC Irvine in San Diego, with neither team being able to find the back of the net.
In an interesting and unusual swap, USD switched coaches in the offseason, with Brian Quinn (an assistant at USD) taking over the reins and the long time former head coach, Seamus McFadden, staying on as Quinn’s assistant.
San Diego returns eight starters from the 2017 squad, including the 2017 West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year defender Aaron Frey. Striker Miguel Berry and defender Harry Lander are also excellent returnees, with both players garnering post-season awards last year and pre-season accolades in 2018.
Like UCLA, USD has had to replace its goalkeeper from 2017, and had three candidates to choose from. Coach Quinn went with sophomore Matt Wiher against UCI and Wiher earned the clean sheet, with three saves. I expect to see Wiher between the posts tonight.
What a debut for UCLA newcomers, Matt Hundley and Mohammed Kamara, last Friday night in Conway, South Carolina!
Hundley, a freshman midfielder in his first official game in a UCLA uniform, had a brace. He opened the scoring in the 24th minute and put the Bruins comfortably up, 2-0, with another in the 71st minute.
But junior college transfer Mohammed Kamara had the moment of the match with one of the best chips of the ‘keeper that you will ever see:
Wow! Just wow. That goal in the 78th minute put UCLA up 3-0 and the Bruins would get one more in the 89th minute from Robert Knights.
Also, in his first start as UCLA’s goalkeeper, Cole Martinez recorded a clean sheet by making three saves. Martinez starting was not a foregone conclusion but, if he continues earning clean sheets like the one against Coastal Carolina, it might be hard for him to lose his starting spot.
The Bruins should be flying high coming back home from a dominant victory over a ranked team on the road. The USD game tonight, however, is one that the Bruins should win, but is EXACTLY the type of game in which UCLA teams in the recent past have not played well. It is a classic trap game, even in the second game of the season.
Is this team “different” from recent Jorge Salcedo teams of the past? I’d like to think so and I’ll predict tonight’s game with my heart, not my head, which keeps reminding me that Salcedo is still at the helm. I think UCLA records another clean sheet, prevailing at home by the score of 3-0.
What do you think about tonight’s game? Or about the team’s performance in South Carolina last Friday night? Sound off in the comment section and let us know!
This is you UCLA Men’s Soccer versus San Diego open thread.