The 2019 UCLA men’s soccer season gets underway tonight as the Bruins find themselves in the US heartland in Bloomington, Indiana, playing in the IU/Adidas Credit Union Classic. First off, the Bruins face the Northwestern Wildcats. Then, on Sunday, the Bruins will face the hosts, the #2-ranked Indiana Hoosiers.
These two games present challenging match-ups for UCLA, which is replacing a lot of players—and a lot of scoring punch—from a mediocre 2018 season.
Last Time Out
Although this will be UCLA’s first regular season game, the Bruins have already played a pair of exhibition games, one at Wallis Annenberg Stadium and one at Omaha, a midwestern stop on the way to Indiana. The Bruins beat Westmont, new UCLA Head Coach Ryan Jorden’s alma mater, 3-0, last week at home and then beat Omaha, 1-0, last Saturday.
The Iloski brothers, the only two of the top nine UCLA scorers from 2018 who return this season, led UCLA in the exhibition matches. Eric Iloski scored the only goal in the Omaha road exhibition win and Milan Iloski converted a penalty kick and had an assist versus Westmont. Those two and some UCLA newcomers are going to have to step up in Coach Jorden’s new system.
UCLA’s back line did not allow a goal in the preseason and that unit hopes to extend that streak into the regular season. Senior Matt Powell has been named team captain and will anchor the back line. Sophomore Justin Garces will start in goal for the Bruins.
Northwestern is looking to rebound from a disappointing 6-9-5 season in 2018. In fact, the Wildcats have not had a winning season since 2014 when they went 11-4-7 but lost in the first round of the NCAAs.
This squad has six seniors, who figure to be improving in Tim Lenahan’s system. So, there is some hope. This will be Lenahan’s 18th season coaching the Wildcats.
The Cats also have a very solid, up-and-coming junior goalkeeper, Miha Miskovic. Despite Northwestern’s poor record last season, Miskovic still registered eight clean sheets, ninth in the nation and tied for first in the Big 10 conference.
Miskovic and the Cats have not looked good so far in their two preseason games, losing 2-0 at home to the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay and drawing Evansville, 1-1, on the road. But those don’t count. The one tonight does.
Aside from the Iloski brothers who will be expected to provide goals and assists, who knows what to expect from head coach Ryan Jorden’s first game? UCLA certainly has better talent than Northwestern and should prevail in a comfortable manner simply on talent alone. I predict 2-0, Bruins, with at least one score coming early in the first half.