Men's Soccer Game of the Week preview: UCLA at No. 15 Washington
Who: UCLA at No. 15 Washington
When: Sunday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. PT on the Pac-12 Networks with JB Long (go Bells) and Cobi Jones on the call.
The first weekend of conference play in men’s soccer wraps up in Seattle with Washington looking to get off to a 2-0-0 start in league action and UCLA trying to salvage its trip to the Pacific Northwest.
The Story so Far: UCLA (4-5-0, 0-1-0 Pac-12)
It’s tough to call the second conference match of the season a must-win, but for a team that was predicted to contend for a national championship and is now under .500, the Bruins need some sort of result to stay in the conference and postseason conversation. Granted, the preseason No. 1 team in the nation did have a nice recent offensive explosion, scoring 12 goals in a four-game span that saw UCLA go 3-1-0. Included in that stretch was a thrilling 4-3 overtime comeback victory over UC Irvine in a game in which the Bruins fell behind 3-0 and were playing down a man pretty much the whole match. But winning conference games on the road is never an easy task, and the Bruins came up on the wrong end of a 1-0 double-OT decision at Oregon State Friday afternoon after the lethal Timmy Mueller popped one over the keeper despite UCLA controlling much of the second half.
A draw would be a positive against a top-15 team on the road for head coach Jorge Salcedo and Friends; a win would be huge in trying to turn things around ahead of a three-game homestand against the other California schools in the Pac-12 (San Diego State, Stanford and Cal).
The Story so Far: No. 15 Washington (5-1-3, 1-0-0 Pac-12)
Let’s get the bad news out of the way – Washington has scored a Pac-12 worst 10 goals this season. But now the good news – Washington has conceded just four times this year (tied for the least allowed with Stanford entering play Sunday), shutting out six of its opponents in the process (including its last two). Now, the Huskies have yet to play a ranked opponent and squared off with just one that went to the 2014 NCAA tournament, but the Dawgs’ back line has been nearly impenetrable this year, and keeper Ryan Herman has been able to clean up nearly every mess that is left behind. If only the Dawgs could have found that final touch more often in the nonconference, UW could be looking at a six- or seven-win season so far and a top-10 ranking.
Maybe the 1-0 win over San Diego State in the conference opener did the trick. After going 408 minutes and change (great number, by the way) without a non-penalty kick goal, the Dawgs broke through in the 82nd minute off perhaps the best service of the season. Czech out the Pac-12 Networks highlights on this one, as Beau Blanchard somehow found Danny Gavin for a diving header that better be on #12Best on “Pac-12 Sports Report” or I’m quitting (don’t hold me to that statement just in case though).
Three Players to Watch: UCLA
- #18 Jose Hernandez (Midfielder, Freshman)- Meet the man who rescued the Bruins against the Anteaters last Sunday. The frosh from Mexico City forced extra time with a goal with 10 seconds remaining in regulation and then put the finishing touches on UC Irvine off a through ball in the 98th. Remember, UCLA played the final 84:49 of the game a man down after a Malcolm Jones red card sent him packing in the 13th minute and then fell behind 3-0 in the 67th minute. He’s not the biggest guy (5’6’’, 140), but Hernandez knows how to make his presence felt.
- #17 Seyi Adekoya (Forward, Sophomore)- All Seyi Adekoya does is score goals in bunches. Tied for the Pac-12 lead with six goals alongside Oregon State’s Mueller, Adekoya scored all of his tallies in a four-match stretch before the loss to Oregon State. Dude does two things very well that all premier goal-scorers do – provide murderous set pieces and poach at the net.
- #15 Jackson Yueill (Midfielder, Freshman)- The Minnesotan has come on to form a nice tandem with fellow rook Hernandez, as Yueill was the one who threaded the game-winning feed to Hernandez against UC Irvine, flicking it ahead on a nice turn to No. 18 with the outside of his right foot.
Three Players to Watch: Washington
- #0 Ryan Herman (Goalkeeper, Redshirt Senior)- While the Washington back line has done its thing this year, Herman hasn’t exactly been able to coast in cage, as he leads the Pac-12 with 32 saves. Returning to the starting role after backing up Spencer Richey (now in the Whitecaps FC organization) last year, the 6’7’’ keeper was a big reason why the Dawgs reached the Elite Eight in 2013 (first time in program history), when he started 17 games for an injured Richey. His 14 career shutouts put him four clean sheets away from cracking the UW career top five.
- #23 Henry Wingo (Midfielder, Sophomore)- Wingo has stepped in for table-setter and leading goal scorer James Moberg, who has missed the last three games with a knee injury. Moberg is still out, so it’ll be on Wingo to play a major role in distribution and setting up the attack (Moberg has 21 assists over the course of his now-four-year UW career, tied for 10th all-time on Montlake).
- #33 Quentin Pearson (Defender, Freshman)- Yeah, he’s a defender, but watch out for this dude on set pieces. He scored two goals against Dartmouth on headers off corners to propel the Dawgs to a 3-2 win over the Big Green.
Three Notes to Know
- Lotta shots, not a lotta goals: While the Huskies haven’t had much success finding the back of the net, it’s not for a lack of effort. Entering the weekend, the Huskies led the Pac-12 in shots per game but were last in the conference in goals per game. Earlier in the season, Washington played to a goalless draw against Portland despite uncorking an unreal 32 shots on the Pilot cage.
- Approaching No. 150: With a record of 148-58-38 in Westwood, UCLA head coach Jorge Salcedo is two wins away from reaching the 150-win plateau. He is set to become the third Bruin head honcho to reach the 150 mark, following in the footsteps of Sigi Schmid (322 wins) and Ed “Jock” Stewart (194).
- Young'uns vs. Veterans: Freshmen and sophomores have scored 13 of the 16 UCLA goals so far this year, while eight of Washington’s 10 goals have come from players who are at least in their third year of college.