No. 2 Bruins barely get by, blank Aztecs 1-0

by Patrick Carr, Staff Writer

One of the themes for the San Diego State men’s soccer team this season has been how young the team is, and how it hasn’t reached its full potential or played its best.

Head coach Lev Kirshner called Saturday’s game against the No. 2-ranked University of California, Los Angeles the best his squad has played all season. But that performance wasn’t enough to propel SDSU to an upset victory as UCLA snatched a 1-0 win with a late first-half goal.

“The football on the offensive side was our best, the defense and the tactics that we had employed were executed almost perfectly until the last two minutes of the first half,” Kirshner said.

Throughout the first half, the Aztecs matched the Bruins’ every stride—chasing defenders and working hard on defense with sophomore midfielder Casey Macias making UCLA players seemingly uncomfortable.

The two sides played a physical, gritty tug-of-war that ended with 37 fouls and numerous words between them. But when it was all said and done, SDSU wasn’t rewarded for its efforts.

The Aztecs were able to fashion some space many times down the left side as freshman midfielder Ozzie Ramos linked up with senior defender Casey Phillips on numerous occasions, but Phillips’ crosses weren’t able to find any of SDSU’s attacking players in the 18-yard box.

Phillips had the first chance of the night with a low dipping shot that was saved well by Bruins’ senior keeper Earl Edwards Jr.

UCLA’s senior midfielder Leo Stolz almost opened the scoring in the 24th minute from a free kick. Aztecs’ redshirt freshman keeper Adam Allmaras was up to the challenge, diving to his right to palm the low curling shot away.

Allmaras once again reacted brilliantly to keep the game scoreless in the 36th minute, holding on to freshman forward Abu Danladi’s low shot.

“Adam (Allmaras) had a great game, man of the match for my likings,” Kirshner said. “We’re very happy with a freshman playing like that.”

The Aztecs felt they should’ve had a free kick when freshman forward Donald Benamna was hauled down on the edge of the 18-yard box, but the referee waved away the complaints.

Soon after, the Bruins took the lead in the 44th minute. A defensive breakdown let sophomore midfielder Felix Vobejda race down the right side and send a low ball to junior forward Larry Ndjock who smashed home from five yards out.

The Aztecs had a solid chance in the second half when freshman forward David Olsen’s shot just missed the mark. They had another missed opportunity when sophomore forward Forrayah Bass had his close-range effort blocked to cries of handball that the referee waved away.

That would be the last of SDSU’s chances as the Bruins dominated the remainder of the half, condemning the Aztecs to their third loss in four games and outshooting SDSU 12-6 on the night.

“They move the ball a lot, they made us run a lot and we eventually fatigued,” Ramos said.

But Ramos wasn’t necessarily disappointed about losing to the No. 2 team in the nation.

“It was the first game of the Pac-12 and we definitely wanted to win it, but we’re just going to learn from this,” Ramos said.

Kirshner also managed to find a silver lining in the face of defeat.

“This is one of the better defensive teams in the conference, if not the country,” Kirshner said.  “They do very well with that and we did have some very good chances.”

The Aztecs travel to Palo Alto to take on Stanford University on Friday.