UCLA Women's Soccer
Opponent: #19 Pepperdine (5-2-1)
When: 7:00 PM PDT, Thursday, September 17, 2015
Where: Drake Stadium, Los Angeles, CA
Audio: Bruin Live Audio
Video: Pac-12 Networks
Live Stats: UCLA StatBroadcast
The Bruins have one more chance to right the ship before the start of the Pac-12 season.
UCLA (3-4-0) plays its final non-conference game of 2015 tonight when it hosts #19 Pepperdine (5-2-1). Three losses in their last four games has dampened the optimism that went along with the Bruins #4 preseason ranking and an early win against then #14 Wisconsin.
Unfortunately, the last four games have shown how weak the Bruins are in back, and in particular, how vulnerable UCLA is to counterattacking football. A loss tonight wouldn't be devastating for the unranked Bruins, but a win would provide a significant confidence boost for a team that has lost its swagger.
I've written about the Bruins' problems in central defense elsewhere, however UCLA has also struggled to come anywhere near matching the scoring pace of last year's squad. Given that the Bruins haven't created a lot of chances in front of goal in 2015, it's painfully obvious that the dynamic has to change for this team if it is going to enjoy success in the Pac-12.
I doubt that there's a quick fix for UCLA's defensive problems. I'd like to see Coach Cromwell try a 3-5-2 formation as a way to provide a bit more protection in central defense, but I think that the Bruins need to add pace to the back line as well.
Unfortunately the Bruins will be without Taylor Smith tonight. She's serving a one-game suspension due to a red card she picked up near the end of UCLA's 3-1 loss to #4 North Carolina. Presumably, Amber Munerlyn will start up front along with Darian Jenkins and probably MacKenzie Cerda. In any case, the loss of Smith will make it that much tougher for UCLA to find a way to change its fortune tonight.