In what will likely be the Bruins’ most challenging weekend of the year, UCLA men’s soccer (7-7-1, 4-3-0 Pac-12) will face two of the Pac-12′s top teams – No. 4 Stanford (12-2-1, 6-0-1) and unranked California (9-5-0, 4-3-0).
First they face the Cardinal. As the most dangerous team in the conference, Stanford has outscored its opponents 10-2 in its last five games alone – all of which have come against Pac-12 opponents.
UCLA, by comparison, has been defined by the quality of its defense so far this year, allowing more than two goals in losing matches on just three occasions.
“We know (Stanford) is going to come out … and expect us to break them down,” said freshman defender Brandon Terwege. “We played them earlier in the season and they didn’t do too much.”
Despite the Cardinal’s high-powered offense, UCLA held Stanford to just one goal in their 1-0 loss earlier this season.
Junior defender Erik Holt said this time the Bruins’ mentality will have a lot to do with how they perform over the weekend.
“Last time we played (Stanford) we kind of gave up an unlucky goal,” Holt said. “We’re just going to have a better mentality this week … our backs are up against the wall right now.”
The last two games UCLA played were both against Pac-12 opponents, and they split the series – winning the first match with a 5-0 blowout of Oregon State and dropping the second in a 1-0 loss to the University of Washington.
Coming off of those two very different offensive performances, the Bruins will have to find out who they are on offense in order to take home two important wins from Northern California.
The Golden Bears are the closest to the Bruins in terms of how their season has gone, occupying the third and fourth spots in the conference, respectively.
Freshman forward Milan Iloski said UCLA has to secure a win against Cal to ensure positive momentum as they move into the postseason.
“It’s kind of do or die for us,” Iloski said. “Playoffs kind of start tomorrow for us. … We’re going to have to keep a high level of intensity in order to make it to playoffs and have a deep playoff run.”
Iloski said, unlike Stanford, Cal plays an unorthodox brand of soccer as they are scattered on offense and disorganized defensively, which UCLA will have to take advantage of to secure a win Sunday night.