Westwood, CA – Made the 45 minute journey on a free Sunday afternoon to catch the Bruins-Lions. From a soccer standpoint it was a disappointing 90 minutes. However, I got to see the only player on the 3four3 watch list that I had never seen. It was well worth the trip. Kelyn Rowe is a special player!
The game turned out to be a boring 2-1 victory for UCLA that neither team can take much from. A straight red card to Logan McDaniel in the 13th minute for an elbow to Rowe’s face altered the game completely.
UCLA – 4-4-2
GK: #19 Brian Rowe
Def: #23 Ryan Lee, #27 Joe Sofia, #6 Matt Wiet, #2 Shawn Singh
Mf: #10 Kelyn Rowe, #9 Fernando Monge, #5 Andy Rose, #12 Ryan Hollingshead
Forwards: #15 Zack Foxhoven, #17 Chandler Hoffman
Loyola Marymount 4-3-3
Gk: #1 Jack McCormack
Def: #19 Jonas Reiter, #2 Mitch Boland, #11 Roger Downes, #15 Logan McDaniel
Mf: #5 Fernando Barba, #13 Ryan Felix, #9 Artur Jozkowicz
Forwards: #3 Tyler Krumpe, #20 David Ponce, #7 Phil Da Silva
As usual, UCLA began the season ranked in the top 10. Pedigree of the players and last season’s Elite 8 along with returning every starter probably had much to do with that. Well, early season form saw them drop games to previous #1 ranked Louiseville and to the lowest of the low, UC Davis. They picked up an easy W against St Mary’s on Friday night so it was time to go evaluate the Bruins for myself.
Brian Rowe looked solid in the air but could not be evaluated in the match since he was rarely tested. LMU took a few shots, only 1 which required his intervention. He does seem quite secure under the pipes and has plenty of experience under his belt from last season.
The back row was also rarely tested since LMU virtually played the entire match with 1 less player, sacrificing an attacking player when they were reduced to 10 men to shore up their defense. Ryan Lee scored the 1st goal off a big mistake by the Lion’s Gk. He then suffered an injury of his own and didn’t get back in. The center back pairing of Sofia and Matt Wiet looked organized but received very little pressure. The left back Shawn Singh attempted to project forward, giving the attack width but lacked ideas in the final third. The jury is out on this group until Friday night when they face a stiff test in the UCSB gauchos.
The midfield four includes a tremendous player in Kelyn Rowe. WOW!!! I fell in love instantly. Defensively he covers the right side of midfield when the Bruins don’t have possession. Offensively he has complete freedom to roam. He oozes class with every touch. He is in a class of his own and is the only player on the field who is different. Many of you may point the finger and say: “good one Brian, you are talking about a u20 national team player.” But there is a massive difference here between Kelyn Rowe and say Michael Stevens (ex UCLA player, U20 World Cup players with pedigree, and currently on the Galaxy). IT’S NOT EVEN CLOSE! Like comparing Messi to Donovan. Rowe is that much better. Stevens has no awareness!!! No clue what he is going to do with the ball when he gets it! Rowe will be a GA signing but deserves so much better than MLS.
Back to the other mids. Hollingshead has no clue! He has zero quality and I have no clue why he is on the field. He later filled in at right back and was just as bad there. Why Jorge? The holding mids in Andy Rose and Fernando Monge are not bad. Monge is simple and effective. Rose holds onto the ball way too long for a top holding mid. He needs 5 or 6 touches when 1 or 2 will do. Every second is an eternity at the next level and his computer is too slow.
Up top Chandler Hoffman has good mobility and a quality left foot. Finished well on the only opportunity he had. Zack Foxhoven didn’t impress on the afternoon. But again, UCLA has little to no offensive spark. They rarely got to goal and were slow motion. The fact that LMU were reduced to 10 men was definately not capitalized.
Evan Raynr came on as a sub and showed some flashes of being the good youth player he was. He’s good at taking players on in 1 v 1 situations, but has the same problem as Rose: his computer is super slow. The spanish kid Munoz was a nightmare on the wing. Looked more like a robotic American than a Spaniard. Chavez, Williams, and Arreola didn’t play too big a part in the game. Like I said, we will see on Friday night vs UCSB what these players and team are capable of.
It was disappointing to see the Lions reduced to 10 men after only 13 minutes. That action defeated the purpose of evaluating them at full strength. In modern day soccer, it is very difficult to produce in 10 v 11 situations especially when you’re up against a superior opponent (on paper). So, defensively we saw a compact LMU team that pretty much held the UCLA offense at bay for most of the afternoon. Offensively they relied on a couple of counter attacks or set pieces…corners or long throw ins.
The GK position was shared between Jack McCormack and Max Young. Ironically neither had much work despite the Bruins having that extra man. I thought at least we’d get to evaluate the Lions GK situation. That was not the case. McCormack’s early blunder off a diagonal ball across the box led to UCLA opening up the scoring just after the red card. He could do nothing on the 2nd goal since he was left 1 v 1 with Hoffman who found the corner. Young didn’t see much action, he had one good save midway through the second half to deny Arreola.
The back row suffered very little pressure. I wanted to spotlight Roger Downes to see what he brought to the table as a Hermann Trophy “watch list” nominee. He seemed like a good leader from the back. Organized his defense, was aware of his surroundings, employed good shoulder to shoulder challenges and won the battles in the air. Again, I was thinking this would be the perfect game to see him under immense pressure and that didn’t materialize. He passed his test on a relatively easy afternoon. Mitch Boland and Jonas Reiter complemented Downes well. Logan McDaniel’s stupid red, catching Rowe with an elbow to the face left his side with 10 and was irresponsible. Those types of actions lead to losses and the senior should know better. Tyler Krumpe moved back to left back to cover his loss and did well.
The midfield trio that started the game had Felix and Barba sharing the destructive role with goal scorer Jozkowicz pulling the strings in front of them. Felix was a physical force, tackled well and played simple. He did what a solid defensive mid should do. Not complicate things, just tackle and touch. Sean Sears also came on and was a bruiser. Getting tangled with Rowe on several occasions. He needs to be careful not to get caught in that stuff, as he could also have seen red for slapping Rowe in the face right in front of the referee.
The forward line suffered the most, with the lack of support playing with one less. It appears that they attempt to play a 4-3-3 with two wide players that give width in attack and back track to cover the outsides when defending. David Ponce was the target man and saw really little of the ball. Phil Da Silva and Krumpe started on the wings but they altered the formation in the 13th minute. Little to no offense out of the Lions in the game.
The Bruins came out with intent to right the ship. Their adverse results to date in a season where they are supposed to be National Championship contenders should be enough motivation. They had the foot on the gas and were circulating the ball well. A soft cross from Hollingshead coupled with a slip up from GK McCormack led to and easy tap in from Ryan Lee in the 13th minute. Then came the incident I cited a couple hundred times above … the red card.
It became and entirely different game after that. UCLA doubled their lead in the 26th minute off an easy finish inside the box from Chandler Hoffman on a slipped ball by Evan Raynr. The game was slow paced with UCLA monopolizing possession in their own half without creating any clear goal scoring opportunities.
LMU made things interesting early in the 2nd half from the PK spot. Jozkowicz calmly slotted in for the final 2-1 scoreline.
UCLA looks unorganized. They look like a youth all star team on the field with very little tactical work. Eleven individuals thrown on the field and told to figure it out and work hard. They will win some games because of the deep and talented roster they possess. But do not look to see them in the picture late in the NCAA tournament this season. I won’t get tired of hyping Kelyn Rowe! He is the real deal and needs a team with structure in order to show his complete arsenal. We will see what the Bruins are truly made of this Friday night in their clash with UCSB.
LMU could not be assessed like I would have liked. However, they do seem to be an organized group by college standards. Their conference isn’t the best, so I see them having some success. A tough road game at New Mexico next week will show what they are made of.
Stay tuned for a true battle in Westwood this Friday evening. UCSB Gauchos @ UCLA Bruins is the heavyweight battle of the weekend.
Also, catch New Mexico @ Akron on Fox Soccer Channel at 4 pm Pacific Time this Friday if you want to see quality soccer.