Tuesday, February 25

Men’s soccer seeks to end pattern of conceding early goals before Stanford game

Junior defender Ruben Soria – a transfer out of Santa Monica College – has started nine of the Bruins' 10 games in 2019. Soria and the Bruins' backline have tallied only one shutout this season, against Northwestern away from home.(Liz Ketcham/Photo editor)

The Bruins offense surged Sunday night, courtesy of junior forward Milan Iloski’s record-setting performance.

But on the defensive side, the Bruins continued to concede goals.

UCLA men’s soccer (5-4-1, 1-2 Pac-12) has failed to tally a home shutout so far this season, allowing an average of 2.2 goals per game. Its only regular season shutout came in UCLA’s season-opener against Northwestern, when it won in overtime 1-0.

The Bruins’ 22 conceded goals is also the highest among Pac-12 teams.

“Shutouts are a big thing for defenders,” said junior defender Ruben Soria. “Just watching film, and starting off strong so we don’t let in an early goal, and starting with a high tempo (will be important for us) throughout the whole 90 minutes.”

In three of the Bruins’ 10 games, UCLA allowed a score within the first five minutes – all in conference play. When playing against Oregon State, the Beavers scored in the third minute, while Washington managed to break down UCLA before one minute had elapsed on the clock.

Most recently against San Diego State, UCLA’s backline allowed a goal in the second minute.

“Obviously the goal in the (second) minute is not a great goal for us to give away,” said coach Ryan Jorden. “The question is, ‘Can our level of concentration be good for the entirety of 90 minutes, and can we avoid having a moment where we concede because we just weren’t sharp enough collectively?’”

Two Bruin defenders – Soria and junior Ben Reveno – are new to the squad this fall. Soria, a transfer out of Santa Monica College, has started nine of the Bruins’ 10 games, and Reveno, a transfer from UC Irvine, has started every game for the Bruins.

Although the early goal against the Aztecs didn’t come back to haunt the team, Jorden said his squad will be searching for ways to end a trend of early goals.

“Whether that’s a problem with sharpness out of the gate, or a (lack of) ability to end early problems, we have to look at it,” Jorden said. “Because we saw it and still earned the result, we get to learn some lessons without suffering the penalty of losing.”

Iloski said strong possession in both the midfield and the attacking third is crucial in avoiding early chances on goal for the Bruins’ opponents.

“We need to hold the ball higher up the field,” Iloski said. “We shouldn’t be allowing shots in the first 10 minutes. We have to avoid putting ourselves in holes early, because it makes it more difficult, and it sucks to give goals early.”

UCLA will host No. 7 Stanford on Thursday, a matchup featuring the Pac-12’s most potent offense in the Cardinal versus the most porous defense – the Bruins.

The Cardinal are tied with the Huskies for most goals scored in the Pac-12 with 23. Stanford, which has played one fewer game than Washington, leads the conference in goals per game with 2.3.

Assistant Sports editor

Tay is currently an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, men's soccer, men's tennis, cross country and women's tennis beats. He was previously a reporter on the men's tennis beat.

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