Men's Soccer Game of the Week preview: UCLA vs. UCSB

Don Liebig/UCLA Athletics

Who: UC Santa Barbara at UCLA

When: Monday, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m. PT on Pac-12 Networks with Christian Miles and Cobi Jones

The Season So Far: UCLA (2-3-0, 0-0-0 Pac-12)

It hasn’t been the smoothest of starts for the 2014 runners-up. Entering the season as the No. 1 team in the NSCAA poll, the Bruins lost three in a row for the first time since 2007 and only the sixth time in program history after a 1-0 win over New Mexico to start the season. It’s far from easy to head east and come away with results at national powerhouses in No. 6 Maryland (2-1 OT loss) and No. 12 Georgetown (3-1 defeat), but losing in overtime to UC Riverside on an own goal is not how 12th-year head coach Jorge Salcedo wanted to return home.

That said, there is plenty of season left and the non-conference losses haven’t damaged the Bruins’ hope of living up to the Pac-12 men’s soccer coaches’ prediction of winning the conference. Also, the Bruins should be feeling a tad better about things after a get-right 4-1 victory over Cal Poly Friday night, with all of UCLA’s tallies coming in the second half.

The Season So Far: UC Santa Barbara (3-2-1, 0-0-0 Big West North)

There are three things in life: death, taxes and UCSB topping the nation in men’s soccer attendance. Home to the best fan support in the country for eight years running, the Gauchos knocked off then-No. 8 Stanford 1-0 in front of 3,312 of their closest friends (that is a monster number for men’s soccer). Perhaps the win gave the team a little too much confidence, however, as the Gauchos won just one of their next four matches (beating Yale 2-0) before taking down College of Charleston 3-1 at home Friday night.

Like the Bruins, the Gauchos are picked to win their conference, marking the 14th straight year they have been pegged to top the Big West or their division in the Big West. Also like the Bruins, the Gauchos are coming off their highest-scoring match of the young season.

Three Players to Watch: UCLA

  1. #9 Abu Danladi (Forward, sophomore)Simply put, this guy knows how to serve ‘em up. Whether it’s centering it from the wing or flicking it through congestion into the box, the Ghanaian will find his teammates. The 2014 Top Drawer Soccer Freshman of the Year had a two-dime match coming off the Salcedo bench against Cal Poly and leads the Bruins with three assists overall in 2015 thus far (he had six helpers to go along with five goals in 2014).
  2. #17 Seyi Adekoya (Forward, sophomore) – the Seattle native is coming off a brace against the Mustangs Friday night, notching the Bruins’ last two goals of the game (his last goal was a thing of beauty). They were his first two goals of the season, but the 2014 Soccer America All-Freshman selection figures to have plenty more in store considering how he can slide past defenders and finish at the net.
  3. #3 Michael Amick (Defender, junior) – the Bruins’ back line has been leaky this year, having surrendered eight goals in the last four games, but Amick is considered one of the best defenders in the nation (he was ranked the No. 11 college soccer player in the country by Top Drawer Soccer in the preseason, the fourth defender listed). The MAC Hermann Trophy watch list selection and preseason All-Pac-12 selection has started all five games at defender.

Three Players to Watch: UC Santa Barbara

  1. #6 Nick DePuy (Forward, junior) – chances are, Nick DePuy will score against the Bruins: DePuy has scored 13 times in 19 matches since making the full-time move to forward in the middle of the 2014 season. To nobody’s surprise, DePuy scored the game winning goal against College of Charleston, which was his eighth game winner since making that switch.
  2. #15 Ismaila Jome (Defender/winger, junior) – the All-Big West First Teamer and MAC Hermann Trophy Award Watch List member in 2014 has an assist in half of the Gauchos’ matches thus far this season. The Gambian is one of five international players on UCSB’s roster.
  3. #22 Justin Vom Steeg (Goalkeeper, freshman) – the son of UCSB head coach Tim Vom Steeg, Justin has started in cage four times this season and has led the Gauchos to a 3-1-0 mark in those outings. He has stopped 10 of the 13 shots he’s faced this year (77 percent) while sporting an early-season GAA of 0.75.

Three Notes to Know:

  1. They’ve played each other for the national title: UCSB defeated UCLA 2-1 to win its only national championship in men’s soccer in 2006, denying UCLA what would have been its 100th national championship as an athletic department.
  2. Biggest crowd: According to the UCSB game notes, the Gauchos and Bruins played in front of the largest crowd for a men’s soccer game since 1980 when 15,896 showed up to watch the sides do battle on Sept. 24, 2010.
  3. Ghanaian Connection: UCLA forward Abdullah Adam and UCSB forward Geoffrey Acheampong both hail from Accra, Ghana. Additionally, Acheampong played on the same club team (Santa Barbara Soccer Club) as UCLA forward Abu Danladi, who is from Takoradi, Ghana.
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