Men’s soccer draws UCLA in season opener

San+Diego+State+men%27s+soccer+then-freshman+midfielder+Blake+Bowen+competes+during+a+game+in+2019.

Courtesy of SDSU Athletics

San Diego State men’s soccer then-freshman midfielder Blake Bowen competes during a game in 2019.

by Juan Daniel Avila, Contributor

In his head coaching debut, San Diego State men’s soccer head coach Ryan Hopkins led the Aztecs (0-0-1) to a 1-1 draw against UCLA, which ended in extra time at the Bruins’ (1-1-1) home field in Los Angeles on Feb. 20. 

The game was scoreless until the 73rd minute when UCLA sophomore forward Ollie de Visser found the back of the net. It only took five minutes for SDSU sophomore winger Blake Bowen to equalize via a free-kick from freshman midfielder Iñigo Villaldea’s right foot. 

Throughout the game, SDSU showed dominance against UCLA’s shot ratio, with the Aztecs’ racking up 15 shots on goal compared to UCLA’s eight. In the first half alone, the Aztecs were up 8-1 in shots. 

“I thought we should have won the game,” Hopkins said of the Aztecs’ performance. “The next level for us to really elevate this program … where we want to go and where our goals and ambitions are is that you have to win that game and you have to cash in on all your chances.”

The Aztecs’ fast game pace and high press was a factor in creating chances. In just 18 minutes, the Aztecs had four shots on goal while the Bruins struggled to create a single chance. It wasn’t until the very end of the first half that UCLA got a shot on goal, which never made it on frame.

“I think overall from the guys executing the game plan and executing our attacking and defending identities, I couldn’t be happier with how they came out and performed,” Hopkins said. “Results in soccer, in a lot of ways are outside our control. All we can control is our process and how we put out our performances and if we keep putting out performances like Saturday, we will get a lot of wins.”

The Aztecs’ lone goal came from a free-kick 30 yards on the right side of the pitch. Bowen was able to connect on Villaldea’s service to make the score 1-1.

“Iñigo had really good services and we kind of just threw guys in the box and we knew he would get it in a good spot for us to do what we had to do,” Bowen said of his goal. “I think the other team flicked the ball, but I was just in the right place at the right time.”

Villaldea, the former player of Spain’s Sporting de Gijon, was one of four freshmen who started against the Bruins. Villaldea said he was happy with the level of team play the Aztecs showed in his collegiate debut.

“I was really excited for this match since we had not played in a very long time,” Villaldea said. “I think we deserved the win but it was still a good result for us. I would say the whole team played really good — I think that’s the reason we played so well because we all play as a team.”

With both teams’ level at the end of regulation, the game went into an extra time period. In the last few minutes, SDSU sophomore forward Austin Wehner had an offside goal disallowed that could have given the Aztecs the lead.

Hopkins said despite the draw, it was important to see how his players gelled with each other in the team’s first match.

“I think it was a big eye-opening experience for the guys to see the culture we are trying to go for,” Hopkins said. “The difference between us and UCLA, who really didn’t have a team culture, they have a lot of individuals that are good players. But I think we have a lot of good players that really want to fight for each other and that can be a really powerful thing.”

This upcoming Saturday, the Aztecs face Stanford (2-0-0), the No. 1-ranked team in the country at the SDSU Sports Deck.

The team was initially supposed to play its home opener against Dixie State on Feb. 11, but that match was canceled due to COVID-19 complications within the Bisons’ program.

At this point, Hopkins said although he will miss having fans in attendance, he is grateful the Scarlet and Black are able to play at home.

“We really wish the fans would be there to fuel us on Saturday,” Hopkins said. “I think The Show is one of the best student sections in the country that I have been around, and I’ve been in some pretty good places. I really want to thank our administration — we’ve had so many challenges across the department and we wouldn’t be here playing games if it wasn’t for a lot of people in our administration.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email