The UCLA Men’s Soccer team (2-1) played one of its best games in the past few years on Friday night, stunning the defending National Champions, the Maryland Terrapins, by the score of 3-2. Milan Iloski scored all three goals for the Bruins and UCLA looked every bit as good as the highly-regarded, #3 ranked Terps on the night.
Now, three days later, the Bruins welcome the #6 Georgetown Hoyas to Wallis Annenberg Stadium for an early 5 p.m. PT kick-off this evening. The game will be televised on the PAC 12 Network and PAC 12 Los Angeles. Can UCLA get another big win? Or will the Hoyas prove to be too tough a task?
LAST TIME OUT
Friday night’s win over Maryland was not a fluky win. With both of UCLA’s previous games this season on the road, Friday night was the first look that many Bruin fans have gotten of this team under new Head Coach, Ryan Jorden. And, although there are a solid core of players back from 2018, there are a lot of new faces too.
What we saw was, frankly, exactly what Coach Jorden said he wanted to do with this team: play an exciting, possession based system with lots of passing and less reliance on physical, one-on-one play, usually seen at the collegiate level.
Maryland got on the board first, with a quick goal in the 6th minute. Eric Matzelevich’s first close range shot was saved by UCLA goalkeeper, Justin Garces, but the rebound fortuitously fell back to Matzelevich’s feet and he slotted it home to put the Terps up 1-0.
Then it become the Milan Iloski show, with the UCLA midfielder getting a low one through Maryland’s freshman ‘keeper in the 19th minute, booting a cracker of a goal from outside the box in the 51st minute, and giving an amazing individual effort in the 62nd minute to complete the hat trick. Check out the PAC 12 Network’s highlight reel from the game, featuring all three of Iloski’s goals.
That last one. Just. Wow.
Although Maryland clawed a goal back in the 72nd minute, making for a tense final 18 minutes of the game, UCLA held off what felt like wave after wave of Terrapin attacks as they pressed for the equalizer, in order to preserve the 3-2 win.
Maryland out-shot the Bruins 11-8 (6-5 on target), but several of those attempts were in the waning moments of the game when the Bruins were hanging on for dear life. It was a huge win for the early days of Coach Jorden’s program, but another big task presents itself tonight in the form of the #6 Georgetown Hoyas.
The 2019 Hoyas are undefeated in three games, beating Syracuse, 3-1, and Temple, 3-0, at home, before coming to the left coast to beat UC Irvine, 1-0, on Friday night. Those wins have lifted the preseason #13 ranked Hoyas all the way to #6.
The Hoyas went 13-5-3 last season, making it to the round of 32 in the postseason before being knocked out at Michigan State.
Senior midfielder/defender Dylan Nealis is one Hoya to watch closely, as he is on the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List (one of only 36 players) and was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in 2018.
Midfielder, Dante Polvara, who is listed at 6’4” (which is HUGE for a midfielder) has scored two goals in his freshman campaign so far. With that height, the Bruins will need to mark him closely on set pieces in the final third and corner kicks!
Junior midfielder Paul Rothrick has assisted on three of Georgetown’s seven goals so far this season, so UCLA needs to be wary of him as well. Junior forward Derek Dodson scored nine goals for Georgetown in 2018, and will look to get on track versus UCLA after potting only one goal so far this year.
Although goalkeeping duties have been split so far this year, expect Giannis Nikopolidis in net for the Hoyas. The sophomore from Greece started 17 games last year and two of the three games this year (the exception being versus lightly-regarded Temple).
On Friday, I predicted a 1-0 Maryland win, while hoping for a 1-1 draw. UCLA won, 3-2.
Going by the reverse-jinx phenomenon, I think I will predict that Georgetown prevails 1-0 but maybe, just maybe, UCLA can find the back of the net once and earn a draw.