UCLA men’s soccer faces 1st shutout loss of season to Portland
Sophomore goalkeeper Nate Crockford readies to clear the ball. Crockford logged a season-high four saves in the Bruins’ loss against Portland on Saturday night. (August Suchecki/Daily Bruin)
|No. 15 UCLA||0|
By Lauryn Wang
Sept. 13, 2022 3:39 p.m.
The Bruins endured their first shutout of the season as the Pilots flew to the finish line.
No. 25 UCLA men’s soccer (3-2) fell to Portland (3-0-2) by a score of 2-0 on Saturday night in its first road game of the season. After a 3-0 start to the year, the Bruins have dropped their last two games. The contest marked the Pilots’ second straight regular season win against the Bruins.
Saturday night’s matchup was also UCLA’s last test before conference play. More than 1,600 spectators packed Merlo Field, almost three times the average attendance at Wallis Annenberg Stadium this season.
Sophomore goalkeeper Nate Crockford said the environment in Portland was a healthy challenge for UCLA ahead of its first Pac-12 games against Stanford and California next week.
“It’s hard to go out to Portland,” Crockford said. “They have a different surface, and they have a lot of good fans that come out to the game. I think it was a really good test for us that gets us ready for the Pac-12.”
Early on, the Pilots pressured the Bruins on defense while containing the opposing midfield. The home team ultimately outperformed UCLA on the stat sheet in the first half, posting four shots to two and two shots on goal to one.
Portland also logged four corner kicks to the Bruins’ three in the first 45 minutes. On its fourth corner kick in the 25th minute, the Portland offense executed a set-piece goal to assume a 1-0 lead.
Despite the early Portland lead, sophomore defender Aaron Edwards said his team wasn’t fazed and kept to its usual strategy.
“Our team has faith in how we play, and we know that we’re usually capable of coming back in those types of situations,” Edwards said. “We held our head high still, and we tried to play out the back. We did what we wanted to do, we tried to stick to our usual tactics (and) nothing really changed.”
When the game resumed at the half, UCLA began to control the tempo in the offensive third, notching opportunities for center strikers and opening up the pitch for junior defenders Tommy Silva and Pablo Greenlee. The blue and gold also maintained possession and found more success in disrupting the Portland offense.
Yet, the Bruins couldn’t keep the Pilots at bay.
A Portland strike in the 59th minute by midfielder Brandon Cambridge – the leading scorer in the West Coast Conference – sealed the deal for the Pilots, who kept the Bruins off the board for the remainder of the contest.
Edwards said the contest was physical and competitive, leading to stoppages because of fouls and frequent calls by the referees.
“Competitive fouls are always annoying, but I thought the ref handled it well,” Edwards said. “Physical teams love to go at it. It brings competitiveness from both teams – we love it, (and) they like it.”
UCLA recorded clean sheets for its first two games of the season – shutouts against UC Irvine and Virginia Tech – and came away with a victory against Liberty despite allowing four shots on goal. The blue and gold rocketed to the No. 4 team in the nation after the three wins.
However, the Bruins have begun to trend in the opposite direction, allowing five shots on goal in a 3-2 loss against Grand Canyon on Sept. 5 before giving up six on Saturday. The back-to-back losses have dropped UCLA to No. 25 in the country.
Crockford said ahead of the first two conference games of the season, the Bruins are committing to their game plan and trust that it will produce wins.
“I think our biggest threat is getting away from our main plan,” Crockford said. “If we’re disciplined and stay focused, then we should definitely have some good results.”
UCLA will face No. 2 Stanford on Thursday at 6 p.m.