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UCLA Women's Soccer: Can the Bruins Rebound against the Toreros?

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UCLA will try to bounce back from a disappointing opening season loss to Long Beach State.

@UCLAWSoccer

Opponent: San Diego (1-0-0)

When: Sunday, August 23, 2014, 5:00 PM PDT

Where: Torero Stadium, San Diego, CA

Audio: None

Video: None

Live Stats: Toreros StatBroadcast

Official Game Preview: Here

UCLA (0-1-0) is in San Diego this evening to face the Toreros (1-0-0). The Bruins are coming off a disappointing 1-0 loss to Long Beach State in the season opener, while San Diego enjoyed a 2-1 win in their season opener against North Carolina State. Coach Cromwell will be hoping that her inexperienced squad learns quickly from its mistakes and losses and can rebound tonight against the Toreros.

UCLA Falls in Its Season Opener

The Bruins dropped their opening game against Long Beach State 1-0. Although the Bruins had created better scoring chances than the 49ers in the first hour, LBSU's Vania Robles scored an opportunistic goal in the 67th minute when UCLA gave the ball away at the back. Six minutes later, Kodi Lavrusky put the ball in the back of the net, but the apparent equalizer was disallowed due to an offsides call. Ten minutes later, Amber Munerlyn rattled the crossbar with a shot, but ultimately the Bruins couldn't produce a goal.

In spite of the loss, the performance by the inexperienced back four was generally encouraging. UCLA's defense showed solidity, and more than anything else, it was the Bruins' inability to finish that was the big disappointment. But the Bruins have a lot of quality along the front line, so the UCLA attack is bound to improve as Taylor Smith, Darian Jenkins, and Kodi Lavrusky develop as a unit and establish an understanding with new contributors in midfield.

Scouting the Toreros

The Toreros were 10-8-2 last season, with two of their losses coming against UCLA. In fact, the Bruins and Toreros last met in the first round of the NCAA tournament; on that occasion, UCLA hammered USD 5-0.

The Toreros are led by junior midfielder Jacqueline Altschuld who was All-WCC First Team and NSCAA Pacific All-Region Team in 2014. All-WCC senior midfielder Nikki Pappalardo also returns, as does junior forward Victoria Walker. Walker is off to a good start in 2015: her brace lifted the Toreros to victory against North Carolina State on Friday.

The Toreros didn't have a great defensive record last season, and there isn't much reason to believe that they'll be significantly stronger at the back this year. Last year the Bruins exposed the vulnerability of San Diego in passing the ball out of defense. If UCLA is having trouble scoring, the Bruins may try to press higher up the pitch to create a mistake that could lead to a quick counterattack.

What to Look For

The Bruins may not be quite as far along as we expected, but it's far too early to conclude that they won't be competitive in the Pac-12 or qualify for the NCAA tournament. As far as this team is concerned, the non-conference part of their schedule ought to be seen as games in which performances are more important than results. This year's team is too inexperienced to be expected to challenge for a top spot in the national polls in the first month of the season. This team and these players need time to grow and develop to become a well-organized, cohesive unit.

The immediate concern, though, is that the Bruins still haven't found the back of the net in 2015. Although a defensive mistake by the Bruins led to the winning goal in the season opener, UCLA's defense has been reasonably solid so far. Unfortunately, the place where success has been lacking is up front, which is also where the Bruins have the most experience. That needs to change tonight.

It will be a very good sign for the Bruins if either Taylor Smith or Darian Jenkins score tonight. However, keep an eye on Lauren Kaskie and, in particular, Kodi Lavrusky this season. Both players have shown signs of providing offensive firepower and creativity.

In spite of the disappointing result in their opener, I regard the Bruins as the favorite in tonight's match. I predict that the Bruins will earn their first victory of the season this evening.

Go BRUINS!