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UCLA men’s soccer overcomes early deficit to draw against Oregon State

Graduate student midfielder Ryan Becher cuts the ball to his right. Becher has scored in three of UCLA men’s soccer’s Pac-12 games this season. (Emily Tang/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Men's Soccer

Oregon State2

By Anthony Aroyan

Oct. 7, 2023 3:12 p.m.

The Bruins were down 2-0 with only 30 minutes left to play.

Refusing to lie down, graduate student forward Jack Sarkos launched the ball into the back of the net.

Just seven minutes later, graduate student midfielder Ryan Becher did the same.

UCLA men’s soccer (4-2-3, 1-0-2 Pac-12) drew against Oregon State (5-3-2, 2-0-2) on Thursday. Despite conceding a goal less than a minute into the contest and another at the beginning of the second half, the Bruins netted two in quick succession starting in the 61st minute. But they were unable to complete the comeback.

The opener for Oregon State came just 37 seconds into the match, the fastest goal the Bruins have conceded this campaign. Dribbling into the box, Beaver midfielder Fabian Straudi took his shot. The ball was deflected off the leg of junior defender Pietro Grassi, sending sophomore goalkeeper Sam Joseph the wrong way.

Coach Ryan Jorden said he took pride in his players continuing to fight even after going down almost immediately.

“When we concede a goal as early as we did, it’s a bummer,” Jorden said. “And then to go down 2-0, really proud of the guys, it was a very good performance in light of those circumstances.”

UCLA started the match aggressive on the attack and despite the early setback took 19 shots on the night – tied for the most this season.

During the first half, the physicality of the game increased, with four yellow cards given out across the span of three minutes, two to each team. Across the match, UCLA had a season-high 15 fouls.

Senior defender Tommy Silva said Oregon State’s physicality was meant to disrupt UCLA.

“I think Oregon State knew what our style of play was going to be,” Silva said. “They wanted to break up our rhythm by getting into tackles and giving away a lot of fouls, but I think we’ve gotten used to that, and we expect it.”

After the teams came back out after halftime, it took the Beavers three minutes to get their second goal of the day, with forward Ellis Spikner beating Silva and slotting the ball in the lower right corner.

Throughout the match, the Bruins utilized many players and substitutions, with only senior defender Grayson Doody and redshirt junior midfielder Tucker Lepley playing the full 90 minutes in the outfield.

Jorden said rotating his players came as a result of the depth in the squad and a desire to keep everyone fit during the doubleheader.

“We’ve got two again this weekend. On the road, you’re just trying to keep a freshness in the team,” Jorden said. “The nice thing for our guys is that we have good depth and quality off the bench, and as a result we have guys that can impact the game in lots of ways coming on.”

(Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)
Graduate student midfielder Sean Karani dribbles. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

One bench player who contributed to the comeback was Sean Karani. The graduate student midfielder helped break down Oregon State’s defense with his speed, dribbling and ability to cut into the box from the wing.

Karani said his attacking style came from wanting to exploit the Beavers’ weaknesses defensively.

“Coach told me to go in and be dangerous,” Karani said. “I just exposed the weaknesses on the inside. The outside backs were our primary targets to attack and just go down the line. I was just doing my job and had fun doing it.”

Behind 2-0 and without a shot all game, Sarkos sprung into action. The forward took advantage of his size, wrestling the ball from a Beaver defender in space and rifling it into the net.

UCLA’s second goal came from a familiar spot: a corner kick. Silva stood over the ball for his seventh corner of the day, launching it into the box to eventually find the feet of Sarkos, whose shot was saved.

But on the rebound came reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week Ryan Becher, finding the equalizer for the Bruins as the team scored twice in eight minutes.

“We have been dangerous on set pieces this year. We have a lot of height and big guys who want to get into the box,” Silva said. “It was great for Ryan to pick up another goal – that’s his third in three games, so I hope he can keep it going.”

With 20 minutes left to play, neither team was able to break the deadlock, taking one point apiece.

“The team showed a lot of heart coming back. That’s what wins you tournaments and what wins you conference championships,” Karani said. “Performances like that, on the road against a top team, three (points) is what we wanted, but it’s a great result.”

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Anthony Aroyan
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