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Following slow start, UCLA men’s soccer displays versatility in LMU loss

Junior defender Pietro Grassi sends the ball up the field for UCLA men’s soccer. Grassi has returned to the starting lineup after missing time earlier in the season with an injury. (Stella Gray/Daily Bruin)

Men's Soccer

Loyola Marymount1

By Dylan Winward

Oct. 15, 2023 1:10 p.m.

This post was updated Oct. 15 at 10:56 p.m.

With a changing formation, a number of chances in the six-yard box and 12 shots on goal, the Bruins threw everything they could at the Lions.

However, it wasn’t enough to overcome an early lead.

UCLA men’s soccer (5-3-3, 2-0-2 Pac-12) fell 1-0 to Loyola Marymount (6-1-5, 1-0-1 WCC) at Wallis Annenberg Stadium on Saturday in the last nonconference game of the regular season for the Bruins.

LMU scored in the third minute after a scramble in the box on a corner kick. Coach Ryan Jorden said he felt the early goal from LMU made it difficult for the Bruins to play their way into the game.

“It’s hard when you have to chase a game,” Jorden said. “We put ourselves in that situation, so we’ll take responsibility for that.”

After the goal, LMU had more chances with shots in the 14th and 24th minutes. The Lions finished the first half with three more shots than the Bruins.

Jorden said the early momentum from LMU followed mistakes the Bruins made trying to pass out of the box. Junior defender Pietro Grassi, who has started the last three games after being injured at the start of the season, said he felt the slow start caused problems for the team in the first half.

“We came out a little too slow, and we were not prepared,” Grassi said. “It’s such a bad start for us, and it puts the game in such a downhill position for us to go back and be aggressive.”

In the second half of the game, LMU set up more defensively, leading to Jorden making a number of changes to his team.

Sophomore Tarun Karumanchi played part of the second half of the game at central defense, despite normally being positioned as a midfielder. Jorden said Karumanchi’s ability to play out of position allowed his team to change formations without making substitutions.

Grassi also said the versatility of Karumanchi – who has started 10 of 11 games this season – allowed the team to pass around pressing attackers more effectively.

“It’s such an important player for us, and it doesn’t really matter where he plays – at the back or not,” Grassi said. “He’s really good on the ball, so credit to him for being able to adjust and be available for coaches.”

Graduate student midfielder Sean Karani also played out of position for part of the game, playing in central midfield rather than as a conventional winger.

Karani, who has scored three goals this season, said the versatility in the team allowed them to get energy in the middle of the pitch.

“I’m a winger, but this team, we have a lot of fluidity, so going in midfield is comfortable for me,” Karani said. “Really, anybody on this team can play anywhere – everyone’s good on the ball.”

In the second half of the game, the Bruins had the majority of the chances, taking nine shots to LMU’s two. Shots in the final 15 minutes from redshirt junior forward Jose Contell, graduate student forward Jack Sarkos and Karani all failed to find the back of the net.

Grassi said he was disappointed in the result and the team’s effort offensively.

“We got bored and complacent in the final third of the field,” Grassi said.

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Dylan Winward | Features and student life editor
Winward is the 2023-2024 features and student life editor. He was previously a News reporter for campus politics and features and student life. He is also a second-year English literature and statistics student.
Winward is the 2023-2024 features and student life editor. He was previously a News reporter for campus politics and features and student life. He is also a second-year English literature and statistics student.
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