UCLA men’s soccer is focused on finishing this season, in more ways than one.
Not only are the Bruins concerned with finishing the season strong, they are also working on finishing off scoring opportunities within matches.
The better they are at the latter, the more likely the former will follow.
“The institution of men’s soccer is all about how you finish, not how you start,” said coach Jorge Salcedo.
This past weekend was a great start in terms of where the Bruins want to be. UCLA (7-1-2, 2-0 Pac-12) opened Pac-12 conference play with a pair of commanding 3-1 victories on the road, against Stanford and Cal ““ an improvement over its early season struggles to score.
“I think it’s been a long time coming. It hasn’t been for a lack of scoring opportunities,” Salcedo said. “It’s just we haven’t had maybe the best finishing and haven’t chosen the right surface to finish with. Sometimes, (we’ve) maybe been a little bit unlucky, but it hasn’t been through a lack of goal scoring opportunities as to why we haven’t scored.”
After scoring only one goal in five of the past six games before this weekend, No. 8 UCLA got the necessary insurance goals Friday and Sunday, racing out to comfortable leads of 2-0 against Stanford and 3-0 against Cal.
“This weekend, we took some of our chances and scored goals, but this team is capable of scoring two and three goals every game and we’ve talked about it. … Obviously it’s good we did what we did in training on the game field,” Salcedo said.
The breakthrough goal-scoring performances included a pair of juniors opening their goal-scoring accounts. Midfielder Victor Munoz and forward Victor Chavez each scored their first goal of the season in Sunday’s game.
“It was a tremendous performance. Guys really came through. … I think our team started to gel a little bit more and find a rhythm of almost reaching the potential where we know we can get to,” said senior forward/midfielder Evan Raynr. “It gives us a lot of hope for the future and what this team can do.”
Pac-ing some punch
Senior midfielder/forward Ryan Hollingshead punched in a goal and had a pair of assists over the weekend, helping lead the Bruin offense to their best showing of the season.
For his efforts, including an assist on a play that was close to being counted as his second goal before being credited to junior forward Reed Williams, Hollingshead was named the Pac-12 conference Player of the Week.
“It doesn’t mean too much, it’s a team effort and the whole team played amazing this weekend, getting two huge wins on the road, so it’s not like I just did something special,” Hollingshead said of the award.
“But my teammates made me look good and obviously it’s something you always shoot for. You always want to be the best player you can be for the team.”
Hollingshead now has three goals and three assists on the season, one goal shy of matching his career-high season goal total. The award was also the first of his career.
Continuing his torrid scoring pace, as well as his propensity for finishing with his head, redshirt senior midfielder/forward Fernando Monge scored the opening goal of the weekend on a header to the near post.
The goal was Monge’s fourth of the season ““ all of which have been headers ““ already matching his career total of goals scored coming into the year.
“He’s not a real tall player but he is someone that is really good in the air and his timing,” Salcedo said. “You have to give credit to (sophomore midfielder) Leo Stolz for his service and corner kicks, and Fernando does a good job of showing up in dangerous spots when the ball goes wide, whether it’s a corner kick, a wide free kick, a throw-in.”