San Diego State
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Adjacent to the field where UCLA men’s soccer practice had just concluded, the players spread out for stretching and conditioning.
While players chatted with one another before Wednesday’s post-practice exercise started, an imposing figure in dark blue attire started cranking out push-ups.
Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Earl Edwards continued the impressive display for a little while before the team commenced with stretching led by an assistant coach.
After missing time early in the season because of injury, Edwards appears to have regained his strength as both his post-practice push-ups and Pac-12 conference-leading .821 save percentage would suggest.
“I’m confident right now. We’ve had our ups and downs as a team, but I still feel that our back four, my back four, has been real solid for me,” Edwards said.
“I credit them with a lot of the shutouts and the limited goals that I’ve taken. I think they have a lot to do with that.”
Wednesday’s practice was the first for UCLA (8-2-2, 3-1-0 Pac-12) since its Monday night loss to Washington, the team’s first in conference play since 2010. The loss also snapped a 10-game unbeaten streak for the Bruins dating back to the season opener.
“It’s a process for us to become the team we want to be at the end of the year,” said coach Jorge Salcedo.
“While we’ve had some little hiccups here and there, obviously, we’re having a good year and the other night doesn’t mean the end of the world. It just means we need to be a little bit sharper and a little bit better.”
Junior forward Victor Chavez, who has scored two goals since the start of conference play, echoed Salcedo’s sentiments when talking about how the team needs to move on from the loss.
“It’s a learning process. So, we lost, it happened,” Chavez said. “The best thing we can do is to learn from it. That’s how the coaches look at it and that’s how we look at it.”
No. 5 UCLA will try to rebound with a game at San Diego State (4-5-2, 0-3-1) tonight. Despite struggling to finish in front of goal this season, Salcedo is confident that the Bruins can continue to play their brand of possession-oriented soccer.
“People have asked questions as to why we aren’t more direct, or why aren’t we more forceful with the ball and just trying to take the game to them with territorial possession, but we’re not going to change the way we play,” Salcedo said.
“We’re going to play the same way, we just have to be better at it.”
The Bruins have not lost to the Aztecs since 2007, and Edwards is hoping to help extend UCLA’s dominance within the conference.
“Going on the road in conference games we always come to play,” Edwards said.
“We enjoy dominating and winning the conference as much as we can so when we go on the road we take a great deal of pride in that.”