It’s safe to say Fernando Monge of UCLA men’s soccer has been using his head this season.
The redshirt senior midfielder twice scored the team’s only goal over the weekend – both on headers. The goals helped No. 12 UCLA pick up an important 1-1 draw at No. 3 UC Santa Barbara on Friday and a 1-0 win at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Sunday.
Monge has now scored goals in three of the team’s last four games – each with his head – helping the Bruins to a 3-0-1 record during that time, while also setting his career-high for goals scored in a season.
It was Monge’s headed goal from sophomore midfielder Leo Stolz’s corner kick in the 46th minute Sunday that gave UCLA (5-1-2) the victory, extending the team’s current 12-game unbeaten streak on the road dating back to last season**.
“We stress getting the ball wide and trying to get crosses in and balls in the middle, and I’ve obviously been fortunate to end up being the goal-scorer in some of those situations,” Monge said of his scoring tear. “But really it just comes from good team play and everything, getting the ball wide and getting opportunities for these good crosses and finishes.”
On Friday, the Bruins faced off against the Gauchos and their frenzied crowd in Santa Barbara on Fox Soccer Channel’s “NSCAA College Game of the Week.” Monge gave UCLA the lead in the 11th minute, sneaking in behind a UCSB defender and a Bruin teammate on junior defender Joe Sofia’s long throw-in.
“It was a pretty awesome feeling,” Monge said of the goal. “We wanted to get off to a good start so I was fortunate to get a good throw-in by (Sofia) and honestly just happy it went in.”
The lead was short-lived, however, as the Gauchos scored a goal in the second half to tie the game and send it to overtime, but the two overtime periods yielded no golden goals.
Sofia said the Bruins relish games such as the one against the Gauchos, who he estimated had 7,000 supporters in attendance.
“Going into that environment there is really exciting. We knew it was a big game, we’ve been looking forward to this game for a really long time,” Sofia said of the match against UCSB.
UCLA has played its share of big games this season, including matchups earlier in the year against three nationally ranked opponents in New Mexico, Maryland and UC Irvine. Now, the Bruins head into Pac-12 play battle-tested and confident in their work so far.
“Playing these top 25 teams is going to prepare us very well for the Pac-12 conference and even going forward from here,” Sofia said. “I know if we do make the playoffs, we’re going to be facing some good teams. … (The coaches) put us in front of some hostile environments and it’s really prepared us for going up to Cal, Stanford, (Washington) and all these (conference) games.”
UCLA will try to keep its current unbeaten streak on the road in tact when the Bruins open conference play Friday at Stanford.
Compiled by Tyler Drohan, Bruin Sports senior staff.