Three in a row.
UCLA men’s soccer team (6-5, 3-2 Pac-12) is riding its first three-game winning streak of their 2017 campaign.
The Bruins beat the Oregon State Beavers (4-9, 1-4), No. 21 Washington Huskies (9-4-1, 2-2-1) and most recently the San Diego State Aztecs (4-9, 0-5) in a span of 10 days. They won all three games by a slim one-goal margin, with two of their victories coming in the overtime period.
After digging itself a 3-5 hole in the record column to start the season, UCLA has more wins than losses for the first time since its opening day victory.
“It’s one of those things where momentum is so huge in sports,” said coach Jorge Salcedo. “Guys feel like they can win because they’ve won a couple in a row.”
The team now sits 4 points behind first place No. 8 Stanford (10-2-1, 4-0-1) in the Pac-12 conference, compared to last place three games ago.
“We are determined to win games now,” said freshman midfielder Eric Iloski. “We need to demand the most out of ourselves and keep playing the way we know how to play.”
Coming off a single home game, the Bruins are on the road for a two-game stretch.
The team’s road trip begins Wednesday night against New Mexico (8-3-1, 3-1-1 Conference USA).
New Mexico is on its second four-game winning streak of its season and boasts the nation’s 19th best offense, averaging exactly two goals per game.
The team’s high-volume attack also produces an average of 14 shots per game.
The Lobos balance their offensive firepower with a defense that allows just .92 goals per game, compared to UCLA’s 1.36.
The hosts have only had one loss at home, but the Bruins have demonstrated that they can win away from Drake Stadium.
Following Wednesday’s tilt, UCLA will take on San Diego (7-3-2, 2-0-1 West Coast Conference) on Sunday evening. The Toreros only have one loss on home turf.
San Diego averages 1.33 goals per game compared to UCLA’s 1.27.
The Bruins will be tested on both sides of the ball, facing an offensive juggernaut and a stout backline. The Toreros have only allowed .83 goals per game on average, which is good for 23rd best in the nation.
Despite their current winning ways, the Bruins believe they still have room to improve, especially as postseason play looms.
“Our procedure this year has been taking it one game at a time,” said junior midfielder Anderson Asiedu. “We go to practice and learn about our little mistakes and details, and we grow off it.”
With the first half of conference play under UCLA’s belt, these next two nonconference games offer the Bruins a chance to evaluate themselves against a more national landscape.
“Creating momentum in this part of the season is huge,” Salcedo said. “We are halfway through the Pac-12 conference, and we have a really important second stretch ahead of us.”
Despite its bumpy start, Salcedo said UCLA now has a chance to maintain to its high level of play against quality opponents this upcoming week as it embarks upon the final leg of its campaign.
“We’ve seen every team in the Pac-12,” Salcedo said. “We firmly believe we can beat every team. I’m extremely bullish on what the prospects look like for this crew.”