Tuesday, February 18

Men’s soccer ends disappointing season in three straight 1-0 losses

UCLA men’s soccer failed to advance past the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year under coach Jorge Salcedo. The Bruins owned the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation last year. (Liz Ketcham/Assistant Photo editor)

The Bruins took 56 shots in their final three games of the 2018 season but could not score a goal.

UCLA men’s soccer’s (10-9, 5-5 Pac-12) season ended Thursday with its third straight 1-0 loss, falling to Portland in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Bruins outshot their opponents by 25 in their last three games, but missed the mark on every attempt.

“These were games that we absolutely should have won,” said coach Jorge Salcedo. “We have to look at why we weren’t able to execute better in moments where it was all that was needed to be done for us to win the game. We created a lot of chances but for one reason or another we weren’t able to finish them.”

The loss was UCLA’s fifth in six games after going 4-1 in the first half of Pac-12 play. The Bruins averaged almost five more shots per game in their six games after the halfway point, but their shot percentage fell from .111 to .04.

“It’s been the story over the past two or three years, where we just can’t find that goal when we need it,” said sophomore forward Milan Iloski. “It can’t be due to luck for three years.”

Last year, UCLA went 3-2 in the first half of Pac-12 play before losing four games in a row to miss the postseason. This year’s team tallied three more wins overall and made the playoff cut, but still finished fourth in the conference for the third straight year.

The Bruins have gone 13-16-1 against Pac-12 opponents since 2016.

“This isn’t good enough,” Iloski said. “UCLA as a program is slowly turning from one of the best in the country to, now, we aren’t a top program anymore. The last few years have been embarrassing. Something has to change.”

One change the Bruins will face is the loss of five seniors who played a total of 5,380 minutes this season. The graduating class includes senior defender Erik Holt, who started every game, and redshirt senior midfielder Joab Santoyo, who started 18 of 19 games.

Santoyo described there being a mix of emotions as the team headed off the field for the last time.

“We should be clean-sheeting these teams but we put ourselves in a bad situation where we gave ourselves out,” Santoyo said. “It’s unfortunate our season ended like that, but I played with all of my heart and I know a lot of the seniors walked out with their heads held up high.”

UCLA will retain a number of high-usage players from this year – including its two leading scorers, junior forward Mohammed Kamara and freshman midfielder Matt Hundley – and a pair of defenders who started every game, redshirt junior Matthew Powell and sophomore Brandon Terwege.

Salcedo said the group of returning players will reflect on what went wrong this season, including their struggles to convert scoring opportunities, and address them moving forward.

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Sports staff

Kenney is currently a Sports staff writer on the softball beat. He was previously a contributor on the baseball, men's soccer, women's soccer, track and field and cross country beats.

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