The Bruins finished their postseason the same way they finished their regular season.
In the first round of the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Championship, Portland (12-3-3, 3-3-1 West Coast Conference) defeated UCLA men’s soccer (10-9, 5-5 Pac-12) by a score of 1-0 at Merlo Field on Thursday.
The Bruins, who earned a spot in the tournament through an at-large bid, came into the match fresh off back-to-back 1-0 losses to Stanford (11-3-4, 7-2-1) and San Diego State (7-10-1, 2-8-0) earlier this month.
UCLA began to control possession and create chances in the final third after Portland’s defense opened up in the second half. The Bruins posted 18 shots against the Pilots, rivaling their 21 shot total against Stanford and 17 shots against SDSU last week.
Coach Jorge Salcedo said he was disappointed with the team’s finishing, but is looking to rework tactics for next season’s squad.
“It’s a microcosm of the whole season really,” Salcedo said. “There were two games that we absolutely deserved to lose and the rest were games that we probably could’ve won. That’s just the reality of this 2018 team.”
Junior forward Mohammed Kamara led the Bruins with four shots and two on goal. Sophomore forward Milan Iloski also landed two shots on target.
The closest the Bruins came to an equalizer was in the 59th minute when Iloski struck a long shot that rattled off the crossbar and traveled 40 yards back into midfield.
“It’s been the story over the past two or three years, where we just can’t find that goal when we need it,” Iloski said. “We need to pay less attention to the stats and what the media is saying, and do what we are expected to do.”
Redshirt senior midfielder Joab Santoyo said that his last game as a Bruin was emotional, but that the seniors left the pitch with their heads held high.
“Right when that final whistle blew, I had a rush of different emotions,” Santoyo said. “Obviously, I didn’t want to go out that way. There were tears, but I was also thinking about the season and the guys moving forward.”
Portland forward Benji Michel scored the only goal of the game in the 31st minute following a misplaced pass from senior midfielder Anderson Asiedu. Michel, who finished the regular season with 10 goals and two assists, beat freshman goalkeeper Justin Garces at the near post.
The Bruins failed to qualify for the tournament last season, the first time in 15 seasons under Salcedo. In 2015 and 2016, UCLA made it out of the first round before falling to Seattle and Louisville, respectively.
“The last few years have been embarrassing,” Iloski said. “UCLA as a program is slowly turning from one of the best in the country to not a top program anymore.”
Salcedo said that the Bruins must work hard to have a strong start next season if they are to bounce back.
“When you lose, you have to regroup and take inventory of what has happened this season,” Salcedo said. “We have to identify ways to improve, to be a better team for next season.”