UCLA men’s soccer to face three games it must win to qualify for the NCAA
Junior midfielder Andrew Paoli has started 11 games for UCLA men’s soccer, tallying two assists and three shots over the 2019 season. Paoli started just twice in 2018, posting 176 minutes in his five total appearances. (Liz Ketcham/Photo editor)
Thursday, 4 p.m.
No. 5 Stanford
Sunday, 3 p.m.
By Marcus Veal
Oct. 31, 2019 1:25 a.m.
Facing their two Bay Area conference foes three weeks ago, the Bruins couldn’t pick up a home win against either.
UCLA men’s soccer (5-8-2, 1-5-1 Pac-12) is booked for a two-game road trip which will feature the Bruins second meetings with California (6-4-2, 2-2-1) on Thursday and No. 5 Stanford (10-1-2, 3-1-1) on Sunday.
“This will be exciting because it’s like the NCAA tournament for us,” said coach Ryan Jorden. “If we win on Thursday, it’s like being in the tournament, you get to keep playing for the postseason.”
If UCLA wins its last three games, it will have a shot at earning an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament.
When the Bruins hosted the Cardinal on Oct. 10, UCLA held Stanford scoreless until the game-winning goal was scored by Stanford in the 81st minute. Three days later, the Bruins and the Golden Bears duked it out to a 3-3 draw – the second game of a five-game winless streak for UCLA.
This Bruins will be on the road this weekend for the first time since the end of September, after playing an eight-game homestand – their longest home stretch since 1980. The order in which UCLA will play the Bears and Cardinal is flipped as well, meaning a different apprach for the Bruins’ preparation, according to sophomore goalkeeper Justin Garces.
“(California) will be more of a game where it’ll be back and forth to see who outplays who, while Stanford is much more patient and will try to outwork us through physicality for 90 minutes,” Garces said. “We have to come in with a strong foot at the start of the games because we know it won’t be easy to go up there and play them at their house.”
The win over UCLA was the start of a three-game win streak for Stanford. In their last two games, the Cardinal posted back-to-back shutout wins over San Diego State and San Francisco.
The Bears have played in one game since their first matchup with the Bruins, suffering a 2-1 loss to Portland.
The weekend matchups in the Bay Area will also feature players who have cracked the conference leaderboards in goals scored and assists.
UCLA junior forward Milan Iloski leads the conference with 16 goals. California forward Jonathan Estrada and Stanford forward Zach Ryan will enter this weekend with five goals each, tied for fifth in the Pac-12. In assists, Bruin sophomore midfielder Riley Ferch paces the conference with eight. California forward Alonzo Del Mundo is third on the list with six assists.
If the Bruins lose or draw one of their three games left, then their season is over on Nov. 16 against San Diego State. Teams must have a winning percentage of at least .500 to qualify for the postseason, and junior midfielder Andrew Paoli said its win or go home for UCLA this weekend.
“These are must win games for us, but we can only focus on the game on Thursday,” Paoli said. “If we don’t win that, then nothing else matters. We just have to stay positive because I think these are winnable games, but again, we have to treat every game like it’s our last.”