In a meeting between the nation’s two top-ranked public institutions, the UCLA Bruins (3-4, 0-1 Pac-12) lost 2-0 to the visiting the California Golden Bears (6-2, 1-0).
California entered its Pac-12 opener riding a four game win streak, in which the team was averaging 2.25 goals per game.
From the opening whistle, both sides applied high pressure that led to numerous counterattacks in the first 20 minutes.
The scoring seal was broken in the 13th minute when California junior midfielder Samuel Ebstein tallied his first goal of the season by taking advantage of a rebound off the goalie after a saved shot.
“The back four needed to do a better job of pressing towards the ball,” said UCLA freshman defender Brandon Terwege. “We need to follow that shot in and make sure we get that rebound.”
For the better part of the first half, the Bruins held much of the possession and had better scoring chances, despite the Golden Bears’ 3-2 shot advantage during the period.
In the waning minutes of the first half, UCLA’s junior midfielder Anderson Asiedu centered a threatening ball across the face of the California goal only to watch it sail out of bounds innocently.
Missed opportunities plagued the home side in its defeat.
“In games like this, chances won’t be all over the place,” Asiedu said. “If you get one, you bury it. If you bury one goal or two goals, it will open the game up for us.”
In the second half, UCLA maintained the same ball control and passing that allowed it to create various attacking movements.
“We showed a lot of urgency in the second half,” said coach Jorge Salcedo. “We showed a lot of fight to get one goal back so that we could be in a good spot to get the second one and build momentum.”
However, despite the advantage in possession, in the 57th minute, California junior midfielder Shinya Kadono redirected a cross from freshman defender Christopher Grey with a header into the near post, giving his side a 2-0 lead.
The Golden Bears did more with less.
Following the goal, the Bruins began to raise the intensity by pushing more bodies forward.
In the final five minutes, UCLA had its best look at the goal after a mistimed pass to the goalkeeper by a California defender. However, following two more saves by the Golden Bears, the Bruins were shut out.
The increased pressure created more chances but was not present during the rest of the match.
“Their body of work in a game can’t be in spells,” Salcedo said. “There was not enough sustained intensity for us to win that game. That’s the disappointing part.”
UCLA will face No. 11 Stanford (7-2, 1-0) at home in its second conference game of the season as it seeks to bounce back to an even record.
“We can’t ease our way into games in a way that creates a lull for us,” said Salcedo. “We have to be the aggressors. We have to be the ones that take the game to our opponent.”