UCLA midfielder/forward Fernando Monge received a long pass and took one touch on the run with his left foot before swiping at the ball with his right foot as he slid on the grass, sending the shot straight up into the top of the net.
The redshirt senior’s goal gave UCLA men’s soccer a 2-1 double overtime victory over Stanford Thursday, setting them up for a chance to clinch the Pac-12 conference title with a win against Cal Sunday.
On Sunday, once again in double overtime, Monge hurled a shot on goal but it was punched away by Cal’s goalkeeper. With a few minutes to play, Monge again tried to put the game away, but his chip to the far post went wide and the Bruins finished with a 1-1 draw.
Now, the team finds itself with one more opportunity to clinch the conference title, against San Diego State at home on Friday. What would have been essentially a meaningless game for the Bruins had they converted Sunday has now become anything but.
“That’s just the way soccer goes sometimes,” Monge said following the draw on Sunday. “Sometimes it goes in and other times it doesn’t. Unfortunately, today wasn’t our day in terms of finishing those chances, but hopefully by next time we’ll have it fixed.”
The draw means the Bruins (12-2-3, 7-1-1 Pac-12) will now have to prepare both physically and mentally for the match against the Aztecs, something which may benefit the team heading into postseason play.
“I think sometimes when you don’t have to, like if we were to win it (Sunday), we would’ve had a very relaxed week and sometimes that can hurt teams like if they have too much of a break … you lose your momentum, lose your focus so I think it is good,” said junior forward Reed Williams.
Struggling to create chances early on in Sunday’s match, UCLA coach Jorge Salcedo brought in senior forward/midfielder Evan Raynr to start the second half.
The move paid off right away for the Bruins as Raynr, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury, came on and assisted on Williams’ goal in the 54th minute that tied the game at 1.
Raynr played 33 minutes in the second half and all of both overtimes in helping UCLA outshoot Cal 21-8 during that time.
“He was really good tonight, really sharp and made a lot of dangerous plays for us and created a lot of goal-scoring opportunities,” Salcedo said of Raynr following the match.
On Tuesday, the conference announced that Monge, who scored the game-winner against Stanford, is the Pac-12 Player of the Week.
The weekly honor is Monge’s first, and he is the fourth UCLA player to be named Pac-12 Player of the Week this season.
Although the Bruins were unable to produce a winning goal, they did outshoot the Bears by 17 shots and created numerous chances on offense.
The lone goal-scorer for UCLA, Williams, was happy with the team’s attack-minded approach in the match.
“We sometimes get too comfortable just holding onto the ball and not getting shots, not getting opportunities, so to get that many opportunities … if we were just a little sharper, we could have had five goals tonight,” Williams said.