Opponent: Washington (7-2-1, 0-1-0)
When: 7:00 PM PT, Thursday, October 1, 2015
Where: Husky Soccer Field, Seattle, WA
Video: Pac-12 Networks
Live Stats: University of Washington StatBroadcast
For only the second time this season, the Bruins will take the pitch with a two-game winning streak. Last week, UCLA (5-4-0, 1-0-0) opened its 2015 Pac-12 account with a 1-0 win against the Ducks. The shutout marked the Bruins' second straight clean sheet, with redshirt freshman Arielle Schechtman in goal for both. Schechtman now has a career record of 2-0 and a perfect goals against average of 0.
While it's terrific to see that Coach Cromwell has solved some of the defensive problems that the Bruins displayed just 18 days ago against North Carolina, UCLA's consecutive 1-0 wins have little in common aside from the final score.
Against Pepperdine, the Bruins dominated possession and out-shot the Waves 13-3, yet the Bruins didn't get the game-winning goal until the 90th minute, when midfielder Annie Alvarado knocked a penalty kick into the back of the net. Against Oregon, UCLA took the lead in the ninth minute when MacKenzie Cerda ran onto a through ball and tapped it over the Ducks 'keeper. The Bruins then held on for dear life. Oregon out-shot UCLA 13-5, and the Bruins needed 10 saves from Schechtman to preserve the lead.
The Bruins have played the last two games without their senior striker, Taylor Smith, and Darian Jenkins didn't play against the Ducks. The good news is that Smith returns to action today after serving her two-game suspension (for a red card against North Carolina), and Jenkins will be back after suffering a shoulder injury. The availability of the Bruins' two top forwards should significantly bolster UCLA's attack.
The Bruins will need to be at their best against the Huskies. Washington entered Pac-12 play with an eight game unbeaten streak, but lost a 1-0 decision to the Wildcats in Tucson last week. However, Washington hasn't lost at home this season, and the Huskies have conceded just two goals in their home matches in 2015.
Last season when they visited Seattle, the Bruins scored half a dozen times while blanking the Huskies. It won't be so easy this time around. Washington is particularly dangerous in midfield, with junior Amanda Perez and sophomore Shannon Simon combining for eight goals already this year. It will be interesting to see if Coach Cromwell drops another player into midfield today to counter Washington's strength in that part of the pitch.
Tonight's match will be a good test of the Bruins' ability to contend for the Pac-12 crown. If UCLA is going to challenge for the conference title this year, the Bruins have to be able to beat teams like the Huskies. We'll find out tonight if the Bruins are ready for the challenge.