It was a tale of two goalkeepers for 87 minutes of UCLA men’s soccer’s second-straight game against an unruly, unranked opponent.
A stretch of 12 seconds in the final minutes, though, spelled doom for the No. 9 Bruins (1-1-1), as one shot decided the game 1-0 in favor of the Duke Blue Devils (2-0-1) in Drake Stadium.
Redshirt senior Juan Cervantes didn’t get much action in the first half, but Duke’s Robert Moewes blocked two up-close shots from redshirt freshman forward Blayne Martinez.
In the 34th minute, Moewes charged out to improve his angle when Martinez was on a counter. The goalie jumped towards the ball when he was within about eight feet, and the shot deflected off his hands.
Three minutes later, Martinez received a needle-threading pass that split through Duke’s back two defenders only for a similar result.
“I just have to put those away, those are good chances,” Martinez said. “We had the opportunities we just have to put them away, which comes with practice.”
Moewes would go on to stop six other opportunities the Bruins had in the second half – including redshirt freshman midfielder Matthew Powell’s strong header off a corner kick and two hard shots from outside the box the Blue Devil was able to bat down.
Cervantes mirroed his counterpart’s performance with his own acrobatics in the second half. He saved a one-on-one shot from Colby Agu on the right side of the goal and dove to his left to absorb a rocket that made its way through a crowded box, but his best came within a dozen seconds halfway through the period.
The corner kick found a Duke forward posted on the left side of the cage, which Cervantes blocked with a wave of his arms. The ball was still just feet away from the goal line, and Duke lasered the rebound only to find a diving Cervantes in the way.
“It was an unexpected spontaneous shot, I reacted my best for that,” Cervantes said. “Unfortunately it fell down right to his leg again, and he swung again … we started to scramble out but it was a good reaction save from everyone.”
Cervantes would finish with five saves, and while a dozen seconds of goalkeeping saved the Bruins, a dozen seconds would also be all it took to decide the game in the end.
With two minutes and five seconds to go until UCLA would have to play its third-straight overtime game, the Blue Devils’ Brian White fired a liner from outside the box that barred in off the left post.
The entire Duke squad stormed the field to meet White in the nearby corner.
“The goal was a fantastic strike and finish,” said UCLA coach Jorge Salcedo. “It was a game that I thought in the middle of the second half that we had absolute control and we just didn’t sense the moments where we could have put the game away.”
The clearest example was a penalty kick in the opening minutes of the second half. Redshirt junior midfielder Brian Iloski – who only four days ago won a game in overtime with a PK – sent a dribbler wide right of the goal.
UCLA had 14 shots in the game overall, 10 alone in the second half, but could not convert any of then. In its three games so far this season, the Bruins have managed just two goals.
“We need to get better with the great goal-scoring opportunities that we create and to convert more than we have,” Salcedo said. “That’’s something we need to get better at, and we will. I have supreme confidence in this group, and we are still early on in the season and we are only going to get better.”
They’ll try to make the progress come as quickly as possible – No. 1 Akron comes to Westwood on Monday.
“The anger and the power that we have after this loss, them celebrating on our home field like that,” Martinez said. “We have to channel that into a win against Akron on Monday.”