BY Tyler Drohan
Bruin Sports senior staff
The storyline is there.
The UCLA men’s soccer team suffered its first conference defeat in nearly two years at home earlier this month to Washington.
Now, the Bruins get a chance to redeem themselves with a trip to Seattle to face the Huskies again. Another streak is on the line ““ UCLA is undefeated in its last 15 road games, and the team will also try to regain its footing atop the Pac-12 conference standings.
But all of that will have to wait. First, No. 7 UCLA will travel to Corvallis, Ore. to face a traditionally tough Oregon State squad today. Each of the last three games between the Bruins and Beavers, including a 1-0 win earlier this month, has been decided by one goal ““ all in favor of the Bruins.
“We know they’re a good team, and when we played them down here, they gave us a tough match, and we’re expecting nothing less than that,” said redshirt senior midfielder and forward Fernando Monge. “We’re expecting a grind and we’re just going to try and get a result up there.”
Although it is only natural to look ahead to the match against Washington, which could ultimately decide the conference champion, UCLA coach Jorge Salcedo maintains today’s match is just as important.
“I’ve so often the past 10 days told the guys the most important game of the season (today) against Oregon State. We go up to the Northwest to play two games, and they are both vital games,” Salcedo said.
The Huskies (10-3-3, 5-0-2 Pac-12) currently sit atop the conference standings with five more points than the Bruins (9-2-2, 4-1-0 Pac-12), but they have also played two more Pac-12 games.
UCLA still controls its own destiny, however.
The math is simple: Win the final five games, and the team wins the Pac-12 conference title. The second half of the conference season begins today.
“Obviously, by winning (today), it makes the game on Monday night even more important,” Salcedo said. “Even though the obvious question has been, “˜Are we excited to play Washington?’ (and) “˜Are we ready to redeem ourselves?’ ““ we’ll be ready to answer those questions after the game (this evening).”
Junior defender Joe Sofia echoed his coach’s sentiment of taking things one game at a time, especially playing against a dangerous team in OSU.
“Oregon State’s a great team. They’ve got a really good offensive style and offensive forwards, so we just need to go out there, play our game and get the right result,” Sofia said.
With a win against the Beavers today, the Bruins would set themselves up for a colossal rematch with the Huskies on Monday.
“We’re trying to take it game by game, but obviously, by the end of the weekend, we want to get six points out of it, and that will put us in a good place going forward,” Sofia said.
After sweeping conference play last season and posting a perfect 10-0 record, UCLA finds itself in a different position this year with things still very much undecided in the Pac-12. Though the situation is unfamiliar for those who were around the team last year, it’s a position Monge said the team is happy to be in.
“Part of it is we’re in a good spot right now. We’re excited to be kind of in a position where we need to grind it out and get some wins,” Monge said.