Friday, April 19

Men’s soccer wins after slow first half

Senior player scores two points against UNLV, helps energize team for a 3-0 victory

Teammates congratulate senior midfielder Kyle Nakazawa after scoring a goal during UCLA's 3-0 win against UNLV Sunday.

Teammates congratulate senior midfielder Kyle Nakazawa after scoring a goal during UCLA's 3-0 win against UNLV Sunday. Kimberly Lajcik

As it turns out, all the UCLA men’s soccer team needed was a halftime adjustment.

The Bruins, tangled in a messy and scoreless tie at the half, seemed lethargic before heading to the locker room.

Sixth-year coach Jorge Salcedo said the team’s change was not systematic or structure-driven. Senior Kyle Nakazawa called it a shift in mentality.

Whatever it was, it paid dividends Sunday night as No. 10 UCLA scored three goals in a span of less than 10 minutes to ease to a 3-0 victory over visiting UNLV at Drake Stadium.

“We didn’t have the best performance in the first half,” Salcedo said. “We challenged the players in the locker room, and they responded.”

At the half, the Bruins (5-1) looked on their only blemish of the season ““ a 2-0 loss at Georgetown on Sept. 6 ““ to avoid the same result. That loss had come following the Bruins’ upset of top-ranked and defending national champion Maryland.

“We came out very flat on that Sunday,” Nakazawa said. “We couldn’t connect on passes and couldn’t keep the ball.”

At first, the Bruins failed to keep possession at the top of their formation. Suddenly, things began clicking offensively.

Nakazawa broke the scoreless tie seven minutes into the second half, and less than six minutes later, freshman forward Chandler Hoffman notched his third goal of the season. Nakazawa, the team leader in points with 10, added his second goal of the match with a left-footed shot from inside the box.

UCLA extended its winning streak to four games. Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Brian Rowe had another solid night at the net while filling in for standout senior Brian Perk.

But the night undoubtedly belonged to Nakazawa.

“He’s been fantastic for us from the middle of the field,” Salcedo said referring to Nakazawa. “That is absolutely wonderful production from your attacking midfielder.”

Salcedo added that he and Nakazawa have discussed the midfielder’s capacity to maximize his offensive skills. Nakazawa, who has contributed at least one point in each Bruin victory so far, said he set high goals for himself.

“I told myself that I wanted to have a goal or an assist in every game this season,” Nakazawa said.

The aspirations and even this season’s offensive output seemed like a stretch at this time last year, as injuries kept Nakazawa, a preseason M.A.C. Hermann Trophy watch list honoree, from making contributions.

“Looking back last year, it’s a lot of downs,” he said. “I’m just very, very fortunate to be able to step on the field. That’s one of the most positive things for me to think about right now.”

Nakazawa was in the right spot before capping Sunday’s scoring, as freshman Evan Raynr found him with a flawless crossing pass from the near side.

“That’s something I’ve been working on ““ getting in the right spots and being productive,” Nakazawa said. “It’s been lacking from my game. It’s that killer mindset of scoring goals or helping set up goals. I wanted to add that to my arsenal and improve my game in that way.”

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