By Tim Costner
Daily Bruin Senior Staff
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — If there is one way to describe how the UCLA men’s soccer team prevailed at the Adidas/MetLife Classic, that way would be – quite simply – in typical Bruin fashion.
The No. 10 Bruins won both games by the slimmest of margins, topping No. 25 St. John’s, 2-1, on Friday and edging out tournament host Rutgers, 1-0, on Sunday to clinch the title.
“It’s always tough when you go on the road,” UCLA head coach Sigi Schmid said. “We played in front of a big crowd against Rutgers and this game was very important for them. When you come out with a win, you’ve got to be happy.”
UCLA (8-1 overall) out-finessed the Scarlet Knights in the first half, with accurate passing and numerous steals on defense.
All in all, the Bruins have three legitimately dangerous shots on goal in the first half, but could convert none of them. The Scarlet Knights, on the other hand, had no real chances in the first half.
The second half was a nightmare for the Bruins, however. UCLA came out flat and had great difficulty string together passes.
“We played well in the first half and in the second half, we got tired,” Schmid said. “Right now, a couple of players who are turning into key players for us are still not fit.”
Although the Bruins had to fight fatigue, they did get one opportunity in the waning minutes of the second half.
UCLA midfielder Joe Christie sent a cross to Josh Keller for a header – and game winner – in the 84th minute.
“I’m real happy with the goal,” Keller said. “I’ll take what I can get. The opportunities present themselves, and I just try to finish them. I just happened to be in the right place.”
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On Friday evening, UCLA edged out St. John’s, 2-1, in the chilly confines of the Rutgers Soccer Stadium.
The Bruins broke a scoreless deadlock with the Redmen in the 41st minute, when Christie slipped pass his defender and dribbled into open space along the endline.
With forward Ante Razov running toward the goal, Christie placed a perfect cross in front of Razov, who one-touched the ball off the near post and into the goal.
“I saw Ante coming in from the top of the box,”Christie said. “So, I just tried to keep the ball low and hit him. He was able to get his foot on it and make a great goal.”
The Redmen equalized in the 49th minute, when St. John’s Ben Hickey got around UCLA sweeper Kenny Wright in the goal box for a close range shot on goal that tied the game 1-1.
But, like so many times this season, UCLA scored the winning goal late in the game – this time in the 77th minute of play.
UCLA midfielder Eddie Lewis set up the goal with his first assist of the season, sprinting down the left sideline and sending a cross to Keller.
As the Redmen goalie came off of his line, Keller went up high for a header and fired the ball passed the goalie to the far post.
“I saw Ed with the ball and just knew he was going to get the cross off,” Keller said. “I just backed off my man and that gave me the space I needed. I saw the keeper at near post, so I just placed it far post.”
For his two game-winning goals, Keller was named on the all-tournament team, along with fellow Bruins goalie Chris Snitko, defender Frankie Hejduk and Eddie Lewis.
As the Bruins try to recover from their 4-3 loss to UC Irvine in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation opener Sept. 25, Schmid remains optimistic.
“We get (Adam) Frye back next week,”Schmid said. “So that means
we’re 100 percent healthy as far as the rest of the season goes.”