With the NCAA soccer season still in its infancy, it is always good to see two high-ranking teams going head to head this early. Maryland came into the game ranked sixth in the nation and their opponents, UCLA, were ranked as the number ten team in the country. Maryland was coming in off of a 3-0 victory over top-ten ranked Louisville while UCLA were looking to rebound following a 3-2 heartbreaker against sixth ranked New Mexico. In order to remain in the top ten, both teams would need a victory. Both teams are relatively young, with neither team having more than 5 seniors on their 25 man squads, so the youth aspect of both teams shows a lot of future promise.
The UCLA Bruins were second in the nation starting the season, and they were hoping to use Maryland as a springboard to get back in the top few teams. However, it looked like Maryland was going to test UCLA’s freshman keeper early with a long range effort within the first twenty seconds of the match.
The early proceedings saw both teams struggling to possession with UCLA and Maryland preferring to try and use the long ball with little success. It also seemed like UCLA were attempting to embellish for the referee a little too often, causing the raucous Maryland crowd of almost 8000 to give them plenty of shtick during the opening exchanges of the game. Maryland tried several times to keep possession in the back four in order to settle the game down, but as soon as the ball entered the midfield, the possession would be lost.
Almost out of nowhere, UCLA snagged a goal right before the eighth minute. A long throw got knocked down for Reed Williams (#24) to slot inside the near post, taking advantage of some shoddy Maryland defending and some slack goalkeeping. Williams only scored one goal last season, so it will be a welcome site for the Bruins to see him get off the mark so early in the season. Then, with the players still seeming to be celebrating their goal, Maryland attacked quickly from the kick-off and a slow rolling cross on the ground found Dan Metzger (second goal this season), who was able to tap in the ball from six yards into an empty net- bringing the game level only a minute after the UCLA goal. A small amount of UCLA’s embellishment that we mentioned earlier factored into the goal, with a Bruins defender attempting to draw a foul instead of clearing out the ball right before the cross was played in, so you have to think that they will regret that when they go back and look at the film of the game.
Then, once again out of very little, UCLA took advantage of a quick attack and Senior Fernando Monge found Reed Williams alone around the penalty spot and he slotted into an empty net right around the thirteenth minute. Williams now had his second goal and had doubled his goal tally from the last season. UCLA seemed to try and be proving that their pre-season ranking was justified, and they were able to fashion a few very promising attacks after their second goal. Much like their two goals, the attacks came from very little possession and seemed to be a by-product of the 94 degree temperature that both teams had to deal with. The Maryland defense, including goalkeeper Cordona seemed to be treading water and hoping that he half-time whistle would arrive quickly.
Around the 25th minute, Maryland started to dominate possession and dictate the pace of the game allowing UCLA only a few brief spells of possession. Despite Maryland’s superior possession, UCLA’s back-line seemed well-prepared to deal with anything that was thrown at them. The half ended with very little actually coming from either teams attacks, and the frenetic pace that the game started with seemed to have dissipated as the half grew closer.
The second half started much the way that the first half did, with very little true possession but with UCLA seeming to be able to make the most of the quick attacks. It is impressive to say that, considering UCLA were up 2-1 despite Maryland taking eight shots to UCLA’s four, that Maryland were still somehow trailing and that a viewer of the game would have said that UCLA had seemed to be the superior team in the attacking third. Whenever Maryland did get a shot, UCLA’s defenders seemed to be able to block or deflect the shot to make sure that their freshman keeper remained safe.
The Terrapins started to show the pressure that comes with attempting to extend a 21 game home unbeaten streak and they were rewarded when an 18 yard box melee resulted in a Maryland penalty. Senior John Sterzer stepped forward and snuck the penalty under the Bruins keeper to tie the game up at 2-2. The next 20 minutes saw Maryland create several quality chances that all narrowly went outside either the crossbar or the post, with UCLA now seeming incapable of dealing with the Maryland defense and attack. We also saw the physicality increase in a game that had been officiated in a way that allowed it to be a little more physical.
It was not until the 85th minute that the first yellow card came out and was given to UCLA’s #7, Reed Mckenna. This came in the midst of more Maryland dominance and it was definitely a surprise to still see the game tied as regular time started to wind down, especially with the lack of UCLA attack in the second half. The Terrapins continued to press until the end of regulation, and the stat sheet showed that Maryland ended the game with 20 shots, while UCLA only fashioned two shots in the entirety of the second half.
In college soccer if a game is tied after regulation, a game has two overtime periods of ten minutes in a golden goal format. If, after those two periods, it still tied, it ends as a tie.
Maryland started off the overtime periods the brighter team, with a point blank shot in the 3rd minute was blocked instinctively by UCLA’s keeper, Cervantes. We also saw a flurry of yellow cards in the overtime periods, with most of them being handed out for transgressions that would have not been big deals during regulation. UCLA finally had a fantastic opportunity in the 8th minute when a ball was headed across the goal, but it was just behind the on-rushing attackers and it ended in a goal-kick. The last ten minutes showed how tired both squads were with little attacks being formed and many wayward passes and the game slowly worked towards a tie.
Maryland will be able to accept the comeback draw, but UCLA will have to hope that they can take advantage of another game in order to climb back into the top ten later in the season. It also seems like both teams need more of their strikers to threaten the goal as most of the shots came from midfielders that got into attacking positions. A great game adding to the greatness of the ongoing season.
Written by: Andrew McCole, soccerprose.com
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