At long last, the most extensive home stand of the season has come to an end.
The No. 8 UCLA men’s soccer team (3-1-1) has been in LA for over two and a half weeks, but their stay ended Monday with a 4-0 victory against CSU Northridge.
The Bruins were riding high after taking down the then-No. 1 Akron Zips last week 6-1, and had a long while to prepare for the Matadors after having two games on each of the past two weekends.
Like the women’s team the day prior, coach Jorge Salcedo evenly distributed minutes to a number of his reserves.
Sophomore defender Malcolm Jones and senior midfielder Willie Raygoza, who until Monday’s game had only 20 minutes and 111 minutes of playing time, respectively, both got starts while junior forward Seyi Adekoya got the night off, and more regulars saw reduced minutes.
“Our reserves all know what to do, they all know what positions to take up on the field, it was a good team understanding of what our concepts are,” Salcedo said.
Even with a mixed lineup, results came early.
In the 10th minute, the Bruins pushed the ball to redshirt junior midfielder Brian Illoski, who passed diagonally through a tightly packed box to a cutting Jose Hernandez. Defenders immediately crashed down on the sophomore midfielder, but he weaved around them and relayed it across to Raygoza, who finished it off for his first goal of the season.
“I think it was a great build up,” Raygoza said. “I’ve been waiting, I’ve been hurt for a while so it’s good to finally get a first goal, and I hope to keep rolling and keep performing well.”
Then in the 24th minute, Illoski put another precise touch on the ball. He lofted a soaring pass from outside the box to redshirt freshman midfielder Matthew Powell, who fielded it off his chest at the line of the six-yard box.
His first shot rebounded right back to him, but he was close enough that his defender and CSUN’s goalie couldn’t stop his next. Like Raygoza, it was Powell’s first goal of the season, and also the first of his UCLA career.
UCLA spent most of the first half on the attack in the final third of the field. After the goal, the Matadors kept more of their midfielders back, and the Bruins wouldn’t score for the rest of the half.
“We’re really starting to click in the final third of the field,” Powell said. “We were creating a lot of opportunities in the beginning of the season, but we’re starting to execute and find the final pass and slot them away and score a lot of goals.”
With the performance tonight, Salcedo’s team has scored 10 goals in the last two games after averaging just two in its first three.
The final two came in the second half, courtesy of junior forward Abu Danladi and redshirt freshman forward Blayne Martinez.
Danladi, after making his first appearance against Akron last week, similarly came in at the beginning of the second half.
He didn’t have the two-goals-in-eleven-seconds impact he had then, but in the 74th minute found himself close to the goal line on the right side. It was a poor angle, but he grounded it strongly across the goal to the lower left corner which put the Bruins up 3-0.
Martinez’ came with less than a minute to go. Junior forward Christian Chavez deflected Raygoza’s cross, and the ball found him with the goalie out of position.
The UCLA defense, which is averaging less than one goal allowed per game so far this season, held the Matadors to no goals for the Bruins’ second shutout of the year thanks to three saves from redshirt senior goalie Juan Cervantes and an acrobatic play from senior defender Michael Amick in the first half.
A scorcher from the left side of the box got by Cervantes, but Amick was inside the goal, and jumped in the air to kick it out.
“We know this team has goals, and when we post a shutout and score goals, it’s the best of all worlds,” Salcedo said.