The Bruins needed a rebound.
That’s exactly what UCLA men’s soccer (7-6-1, 4-2 Pac-12) got Thursday evening in a 5-0 rout of visiting Oregon State (5-11, 2-6).
After coming off a winless road trip, the Bruins, in the first match of their final homestand of the season, logged both their fourth consecutive conference win and their fourth shutout of the season.
“I think it’s the mentality,” said freshman forward Santiago Herrera. “We just get out on the field with a winner’s mentality and (are) aggressive.”
Both teams have struggled to produce offensively. Coming into the matchup, UCLA was averaging 1.23 goals per game and while OSU averaged .93. The low averages rank well outside of the top 100 offenses nationally.
The Bruins’ aggressiveness, particularly to start games, and their inability to maintain it through 90 minutes have been lingering issues during the 2017 campaign.
That was not the case tonight, as UCLA scored five goals, a feat that has not been accomplished in 13 games; it last scored five goals in its 5-3 season-opening victory against the San Francisco (4-8, 1-1 West Coast Conference).
“Our attacking intensity has been one of our struggles,” said sophomore defender Alex Knox. “And that was ferocious tonight, and as you can see, it paid off.”
In the eighth minute, freshman forward Milan Iloski gave the Bruins an early 1-0 lead with a strike from 35 yards out as he caught the Beavers’ goalkeeper off his line.
UCLA doubled its lead in the 20th minute after Herrera redirected a well-placed cross by Knox into the back of the net.
Knox’s name would appear again on the scoresheet when he gave his side a 3-0 advantage. This time he would be the one scoring, placing a low shot past the near post of the frame in the 32nd minute, for his inaugural goal of the season.
At the end of the half, the Bruins held an 8-4 advantage in shots, although Oregon State had its opportunities.
In the 13th minute, Beavers’ forward Don Tchilao shot the ball past sophomore goalkeeper Kevin Silva only to have his attempt deflect off both posts before being retrieved.
Fostering a healthy lead heading into the break, the Bruins did not let down in the second period.
“I think that we shouldn’t get complacent,” Knox said. “The moment we relax is the moment that we stop having success. We need to put our heads down and stay hungry.”
Knox added his second goal of the night in the 72nd minute, and sophomore midfielder Roman Martin capped the night off with a 85th-minute shot from outside of the 18-yard box, making it 5-0.
In tonight’s victory, the team not only scored a plethora of goals, but also did so in efficient fashion. The Bruins more than tripled their season average in goals per shots from .098 to .360.
“I’m a true believer, it’s just hard work during the week,” Herrera said. “It’s important for us to be efficient and gain some confidence.”
Defensively, the team was able to win possession in critical points of the field and then quickly distribute the ball to the offense.
Despite the win, coach Jorge Salcedo still believes that there is room to improve.
“When we were up one to zero, our intensity level dropped a little bit,” Salcedo said. “And they almost scored just from us being lackadaisical, so that’s really my biggest concern after tonight’s game.”
UCLA will look to maintain its offensive consistency and defensive mindset when it hosts No. 23 Washington (11-5-1, 4-3-1).
“This puts us at four wins in a row in the conference,” Salcedo said. “It puts us in a good spot to prepare for a big game Sunday. It puts us in a position to end our regular season at home on a good note.”