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Scouting Report: UCLA men’s soccer vs. Loyola Marymount

By Matthew Royer

Nov. 19, 2023 11:28 a.m.

No. 13 seed UCLA men’s soccer (9-3-5, 6-0-4 Pac-12) will face off against crosstown foe Loyola Marymount (8-4-6, 2-3-2 West Coast Conference) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday at 5 p.m. The Bruins lost to the Lions back in October and need to avoid a repeat of history to advance one step closer to the College Cup. Here is the scouting report from Sports senior staff Matthew Royer – who hopes he can get enough studying done for his last midterm in order to attend the game in person.

Loyola Marymount
Goals per game: 1.28
Goals allowed per game: 1
X-factor: forward Tyger Smalls

When LMU defeated UCLA, it was the middle of October. Now, only a month and change later, the Lions will take on the Bruins at Wallis Annenberg Stadium once again, this time on the grandest stage in college soccer – the NCAA Tournament.

Since upending UCLA, the road for LMU has not been as sweet as the victory was then. The Lions have struggled, only winning one other game in their last five regular season matches and going scoreless in three of them.

However, as destiny would have it, LMU secured a bid – and a victory – in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, defeating UC Irvine on Thursday and setting the stage for a rematch against UCLA.

Its first-round match had plenty of theatrics. While the Lions led 2-0 in the 60th minute, the Anteaters staged a comeback, scoring two goals to tie the match going into the final ten minutes. Despite the defensive collapse, Smalls clutched up, scoring a pair of goals in the last two minutes to ice the game.

LMU’s attack, starring Smalls and forward Ryan Kingsford – who have scored six and five goals, respectively, this season – is a strength for the roster. However, when the two teams matched up last, the Bruins’ defense held the Lions’ offense scoreless for 87 minutes after they went up in the third minute. The goal scorer in that game – midfielder/forward Lewis Clutton, who remains the Lions’ third-highest scorer – is out for the season with a leg injury.

While the attack will be key if the Lions seek to upset the Bruins’ defense – led by defenders in senior Tommy Silva and junior Pietro Grassi – LMU’s focus will also have to turn toward UCLA’s prolific goal scorers in graduate students forward Jack Sarkos, midfielder Ryan Becher and midfielder Sean Karani.

If they do, it will be because of the efforts of goalkeeper Massimo Oedekoven Pomponi.

Oedekoven Pomponi – who has six shutouts on the season and a save percentage of .793 – is in his fourth season at LMU but is in his first NCAA tournament. The Oregon local won WCC Defensive Player of the Week earlier in the season after securing his first-ever clean sheet.

In front of Oedekoven Pomponi is defender Nathan Rodrigues in his first year alongside two transfers, defender Callum Stretch and midfielder Christian Ortiz, who transferred from the University of Denver and Oregon State, respectively. The Lions’ defense has conceded 1.20 goals per game in their last five matches.

UCLA, led by Coach Ryan Jorden, is heading into the matchup on a hot streak, so LMU will have its work cut out if it hopes to defeat the Bruins on Sunday.

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Matthew Royer | News and Sports senior staff
Royer is a senior staff reporter for the News and Sports sections of the Bruin. He was previously the 2022-2023 assistant News editor for the city and crime beat.
Royer is a senior staff reporter for the News and Sports sections of the Bruin. He was previously the 2022-2023 assistant News editor for the city and crime beat.
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