UCLA is in a slump.
It has been two weeks since the Bruins last won a match and since then, their three straight conference losses have knocked them down to fourth place in the Pac-12 standings and out of the national rankings.
Essentially out of the running for the Pac-12 conference title, UCLA men’s soccer (7-6-1, 3-4-0 Pac-12) still has an opportunity to turn things around Saturday when it takes on Coastal Carolina (6-5-3, 2-1-1 Sun Belt) in a mid-season conference break.
The Chanticleers’ conference campaign has fared better than the Bruins’ this season. After joining the Sun Belt in July, CCU has risen to the top of the standings after recent wins over Howard (1-13-3, 0-3) and Appalachian State (5-7-3, 1-2-1).
Much of the Chanticleers’ success can be attributed to strong defense and goaltending. Junior goalkeeper Braulio Linares-Ortiz has 40 saves in 11 games, and accumulated a .851 save percentage. His .552 goals-against average is ranked ninth in the nation.
UCLA’s defense, on the other hand, has struggled recently – the Bruins have given up three goals in three of their past four games. Freshman goalkeeper Kevin Silva has allowed 11 goals in his six starts this year, and his save percentage is only .694.
Redshirt senior Juan Cervantes, who started in goal for UCLA’s first eight games of the season and the last three of 2015, has not made an appearance since the team’s 4-0 blowout loss against No. 16 Washington in late September.
The Bruins’ defense has allowed 41 shots over the past three games, largely a result of an aggressive game plan that pushes players forward and leaves holes in the backfield.
Offensively though, UCLA has been somewhat consistent. Aside from getting shut out by Stanford two weeks ago, their goal scorers have been productive.
With a goal in each of the past two games, senior midfielder Felix Vobejda has been a breakout star for the Bruin offense. He currently leads the team with a .375 shooting percentage. Redshirt junior midfielder Brian Iloski scored his fifth goal of the season last Sunday against Stanford, and has now amassed 14 points.
While CCU’s offense has helped the team generate a winning record, it has been much less explosive than UCLA’s. The Chanticleers have only scored 12 goals this season, half of the Bruins’ total.
UCLA will attempt to capitalize on this late-season breather from Pac-12 play, which will resume Thursday when the Bruins take on the Huskies (10-4, 6-1) in Washington.
Kickoff against CCU is Saturday, 7 p.m. at Drake Stadium.