Things finally went the Bruins’ way.
After spending back-to-back weekends falling just shy of two upset bids over No. 4 Stanford, No. 25 UCLA men’s soccer pulled off its biggest upset of the 2015 season in a 4-2 victory over No. 6 Akron Sunday morning.
All of the offense came from the team’s steady trio of producers. Sophomore forward Seyi Adekoya and freshman midfielder Jose Hernandez scored a pair of goals apiece, giving the underclassmen their league-leading 10th and 11th goals. Sophomore forward Abu Danladi added three assists.
Even the one goal not assisted by Danladi was still set up by the sophomore – he drew an 82nd-minute foul in the box, opening the door for Hernandez to tally the Bruins’ fourth goal with a penalty kick.
Adekoya started the scoring early, slotting a back-heel pass to the left of the keeper only seven minutes into the game. The Bruins took a 2-1 first half lead, continuing the trend of early scoring that was largely non-existent over the course of the season’s
opening month. In their opening 12 games, only three of 22 goals came before halftime. In the team’s past four games, however, eight of its 15 goals have been scored early.
The Zips played resiliently, tying the game twice, but the Bruin attack was even more relentless.
“That’s a huge win for team morale,” Adekoya said. “I know some people have doubted us for a really long time and we know we’re a really good team, and think we proved it today with a commanding win over Akron.”
The Zips (12-3-2, 3-0-1 Mid-American Conference) came into the game without a loss since their Sept. 22 game against the No. 2 Wake Forest Demon Deacons. That defeat was their only one at home until the Bruins (8-7-1, 3-3-1 Pac-12) tacked on another.
UCLA was trending the other direction before Sunday, having won just once in its past four games. Despite the losses, coach Jorge Salcedo said that the team’s Oct. 23 draw with Stanford was its best game of the season, and the Bruins took it one step further in Ohio.
“We scored four goals on the road against a very good Akron team, one of the top four teams in the RPI,” Salcedo said. “Maybe in some ways things could have gone even better for us, but … to find a way to win 4-2 speaks volumes about the character of the group.”
That confidence and character was the prevailing takeaway for a UCLA squad that has endured a great number of ups and downs in 2015.
“We’ve known the whole time that we have the players, the team, the coaches to be a top program,” said sophomore defender Chase Gasper. “We had some slipups earlier in the season, some things we needed to correct, and I think we’ve fixed those in recent games. Everyone’s on the same page about what we need to do, how we’re playing, so I think we’re just looking forward.”
Despite the positive result, Salcedo is still looking for more consistency from his team heading into the final three games of the regular season.
“We need to do a much better job of defending the flank and not allowing them to penetrate from the flank and get crosses off,” Salcedo said. “When we’re dogged about the way we defend the wide channels we do a great job overall. Today was another example of when we don’t do a good job we get exploited.”
The Bruins will have a week of practices before hosting a pair of unranked conference foes next weekend at Drake Stadium. UCLA will face Oregon State and Washington Friday afternoon and Sunday evening respectively.