The UCLA men’s soccer team was recognized as the best men’s team by the Daily Bruin this past year by assembling a surprising run deep into the NCAA Tournament after a rough start.
Although UCLA had one of the strongest recruiting classes in the nation and was polled to finish first in the Pac-10, the team unpredictably advanced to the quarterfinals only to fall to the top-seeded team in the nation, Louisville, in the snow.
The Bruins fell 5-1 to the Indiana Hoosiers in their second game of the season, casting doubts on the team’s youth as numerous freshmen received copious amounts of playing time. Then-freshman midfielder Kelyn Rowe, defenders Patrick Matchett and Joe Sofia and forwards Reed Williams and Victor Chavez, eventually hit their stride and contributed greatly to the Bruins, as they were often named starters.
UCLA finished second in the Pac-10 with an 8-2 record in conference and a 14-4-1 record heading into the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins received the eighth seed in the NCAA Tournament and were allowed to host Sacramento State in the second round at Drake Stadium. UCLA cruised past the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation champions with a 4-1 win, with all four goals accumulated in a 30-minute span in the second half.
The Bruins then advanced to the third round of the tournament, once again allowed to play host, but this time to the Dartmouth Big Green, which put up a much stronger fight. It took until the final moments of the game for UCLA to squeeze out a victory with then-junior midfielder Eder Arreola scoring the golden goal with a mere eight seconds left in double overtime.
The win set up a showdown against top-seeded Louisville. The Bruins traveled to Cardinal Park and took on the Cardinals in the snow. After a back-and-forth affair, in which the Bruins held a 3-1 lead, Louisville came back to win the game in an exciting finish with an unusually high-scoring finish of 5-4.
The UCLA run in the tournament concluded at this game. However, the team looks to rebound and advance further this coming year. Unlike the previous year, the Bruins are not losing any players to the MLS draft or other professional leagues and will only grow stronger.
Compiled by Chris Nguyen, Bruin Sports senior staff.