Things were finally looking up for the men’s soccer team.
With three straight victories and a date with last-place San Diego State for its regular season finale Saturday night, No. 16 UCLA appeared to be well on its way to a first-round bye and hosting privileges in the NCAA Tournament.
Then the offense went dormant, stopping the Bruins in their tracks and offering a harsh reminder that they haven’t fully outgrown the inconsistencies which hurt them earlier in the season.
Playing without injured sophomore forward Seyi Adekoya, UCLA (10-8-1, 6-4-1 Pac-12) was upset by unranked San Diego State (8-8-3, 2-7-1) in double overtime at the SDSU Sports Deck. The only goal on the night came two minutes and 19 seconds into the second extra period, when sophomore midfielder Brady Blackwell finally capitalized for the home team.
“One thing that we’ve been able to rely on the last 10 to 12 games was our goal-scoring and our ability to score goals, and that was missing tonight – some of it due to injuries, some of it due to lack of concentration and focus,” said coach Jorge Salcedo. “Really, really disappointing result. It was just one of those nights where we just couldn’t find a way.”
Although missing Adekoya, the team’s key playmaker, Salcedo said that the Bruins had a number of chances on which they couldn’t quite capitalize. Senior forward Larry Ndjock had a breakaway in the first half and sophomore forward Abu Danladi had a total of five shots.
After 102 minutes of opportunities, though, UCLA returned to Westwood empty-handed, stuck with the all-too-familiar taste of a disappointing loss.
For the first weeks of the 2015 season, the Bruins struggled to even play .500 ball, eventually escaping with a 4-4 record in nonconference games. As their play improved, players and coaches alike attributed many of the early struggles to injuries.
But, after a recent stretch of health and offensive revival, the team was once again forced to deal with injuries to Adekoya and Danladi, who played Saturday but didn’t train for much of the past week, according to Salcedo. The coach added that he expects Adekoya to return for the NCAA Tournament.
The upset loss, while not jeopardizing the Bruins’ chances of making the 48-team tournament, certainly casts doubts over the likelihood of a top-16 seeding. If the team does make the cut, it will get to rest for the first round and then host at least one game at Drake Stadium. The NCAA selection show will air online Monday morning.
Compiled by Tanner Walters, Bruin Sports senior staff.