UCLA women’s soccer needed a win against Colorado to realistically stay in the hunt for the Pac-12 crown.
The No. 9 Bruins (12-4-1, 6-2-1 Pac-12), however, turned in a disappointing 90-minute performance against the No. 22 Buffaloes (14-4-0, 8-1-0) and came out with a 1-0 loss.
“It’s disheartening, for sure, because we were right in the thick of (the Pac-12 title race),” said coach Amanda Cromwell. “With two games left, this makes it less likely to win the conference.”
Chances to change the end result were there.
The Bruins dominated possession for the entire 90 minutes but couldn’t find a way to get the ball in the net.
Part of that could be attributed to bad luck.
“We hit the crossbar twice, so maybe (we were) a little unlucky,” Cromwell said.
UCLA’s inability to turn possession into a consistent threat rests on the team’s own shoulders.
For long stretches, the Bruins displayed almost no attacking creativity. The midfielders and forwards repeatedly tried to play the ball through the middle of Colorado’s compact defense, where little to no space existed.
“This was exactly the game we thought it was going to be,” Cromwell said. “They sat back, defended well, and was really organized. They’re not only a good team defensively, but very individually defensive. They made it hard to get shots off and they made it hard to get to the end line – we only had one corner kick the whole game.”
Still, UCLA’s minimized goal threat was not entirely due to a stingy opposing back line. Some of it was self-inflicted.
By halftime, UCLA had completed over 300 passes, but very few of those passes were anything more than interplay between midfielders.
[Related: UCLA’s midfielders key to team’s success]
“We could’ve been more intentional with our passes,” said senior midfielder Gabbi Miranda. “We could’ve been a lot more dangerous if we were more intentional with what we were doing.”
Colorado employed a game plan that was the total opposite of UCLA’s. The Buffaloes were content to concede possession and wait for opportunities to break on the counterattack.
After creating a couple of good opportunities in the first half, the Buffaloes got their goal in the 50th minute. Colorado forward Emily Bruder curled a shot into the top right corner from just outside of the box.
At this point, the Buffaloes retreated even further into their own end and bunkered in on defense.
Although more opportunities came, the Bruins continued to struggle in the attacking third.
“We really didn’t create that many chances,” said senior midfielder Annie Alvarado. “We needed to be hungrier.”
The game lacked attacking bravado.
Both teams’ marquee names – freshmen midfielders Jessie Fleming and Taylor Kornieck – were unable to make their usual impact.
Later on, UCLA made one final surge to salvage a goal.
Junior left fullback MacKenzie Cerda put a header on target in the 84th minute, though directly at the goalkeeper, and sophomore forward Julia Hernandez stung the crossbar moments later.
A positive result wasn’t to be. The Bruins couldn’t escape getting shut out for the first time all season.
“We have to take what we gave ourselves,” Miranda said. “We had this game in our hands and we didn’t execute it the way we wanted to, but we have to roll with the punches and take care of what’s next, which is Utah and USC.”