Westwood, CA – Made another trip to Westwood to catch the NCAA 3rd round matchup between UCLA and Rutgers. Gary decided to tag along since watching UCLA meant seeing Kelyn Rowe parade his quality all over the field. He didn’t need much convincing when I extended the invite. Again, it was $10 dollars well spent as Rowe combined with Hoffman to an easy 3-0 victory.
Gk: Brian Rowe
Def: #29 Patrick Matchett, #27 Joe Sofia, #6 Matt Wiet, #2 Shawn Singh
Mf: #12 Ryan Hollingshead, #9 Fernando Monge, #5 Andy Rose, #7 Eder Arreola
Fw: #24 Reed Williams, #17 Chandler Hoffman
Gk: #28 Kevin McMullen
Def: #25 Dragan Naumoski, #2 Joe Satchell, #5 Andrew Cuevas, #16 Paulie Calafiore
Holding Mid: #8 Nathan Bruccoleri
Mf: #4 Nate Bourdeau, #18 Bryant Knibbs, #43 Juan Pablo Correa, #11 Sam Archer
Fw: #9 Ibrahim Kamara
The Bruins are playing their best soccer of the season at the right time. They are possessing the ball and patiently building up attacks out of the back and through their midfield. UCLA has a lethal duo in Kelyn Rowe and Chandler Hoffman that produce them quality goal scoring opportunities. A deep bench – likely the deepest in the tournament – doesn’t hurt either.
Once again Brian Rowe looks to be in a zone, and is focused on the few occasions he’s tested. The Bruins are riding a 7 game shut out streak and some of this has to do with security in the back. UCLA will need a monster game out of him to knock off Louisville on the road this Saturday.
The Bruin back line has plenty to do with the current shut out streak as well. Center backs Wiet and Sofia have been solid. I’m worried about Patrick Matchett on the right. He gave a ball away in the 83rd minute under very little pressure in his defensive third that was not taken advantage of by Rutgers. That type of mishap will lead to goals when playing the top level opposition left in the tournament. Singh is also a high level player getting forward but his defending leaves a lot to be desired. At this stage I’m concerned the Bruin back row will get exposed.
Kelyn Rowe is different! Don’t think I can stress it enough. The guy is at a different level. Mind-boggling to me how he hasn’t been starting the games as of late. Regardless, he has sure been finishing them! Rowe received a 40 yard diagonal ball from Andy Rose on the top left corner of the 18 yard box and crushed a one time volley with his left! It was too much for the keeper to handle and led to an easy tap in goal for Victor Chavez to go up 2-0 in the 43rd minute. Rowe wasted no time at the beginning of the 2nd half and decided it was time to put this game on ice. He combined on the left side of the Rutgers box, and again served up a perfectly placed ball with his left to the far post for Hoffman to bury in the 48th minute to make it 3-0. The other play that defined the type of player he is, took place in the 77th minute. UCLA was on a counter attack and Rowe made a 50 yard run but didn’t receive the ball which was turned over by a teammate. He turned around and transitioned back to his own half full sprint; while the rest of the midfielders that participated in that play lightly jogged back. Yes, he has complete class and is a cut above everyone, but the kid has incredible work rate to match! It was a shame to see him sitting the first 29 minutes of the game. I was about to hit the ticket booth to ask for my refund.
Andy Rose is coming along and moving the ball faster. That bodes well for this team in an attempt to win the College Cup. The wingers Eder Arreola and Ryan Hollingshead are working hard defensively and that is crucial for their team to triumph against Louisville. Fernando Monge is doing his thing in the middle of the park and keeping it simple. Evan Raynr comes off the bench to give the team a needed spark offensively, but defensively he offers very little; and that can hurt the Bruins in their next game.
Chandler Hoffman, Chandler Hoffman, and Chandler Hoffman! A heavy and consistent dosage of the Alabama native has carried the Bruins offensively all season. He continues to impress and I have been won over. I am a fan! The kid has work rate! That’s the first item I look for when scouting attacking players. I don’t want lazy sacks (of sh**) on any team of mine, and in modern day football, strikers need to work defensively as well. Chandler makes great runs off the ball to get himself in perfect scoring position – and the boy finishes! He bagged his 17th and 18th goals on Sunday night off clean finishes in the box. A man on a mission? You bet. His hometown is 10 miles from where the Final Four will be hosted. You can pretty much bet the farm that this will be one of the Generation Adidas signings.
The other forward that has been starting alongside Hoffman is Reed Williams. He’s got some pace to take people on 1 v 1, but usually has blinders on and doesn’t see the field or read the game well. Finishing? Forget about it. He has 0 goals on the year. Victor Chavez needs to be the guy playing next to Hoffman if the Bruins want to get to Alabama. He has work rate, can take players on, combine, and finishes on his fair share of occasions. His playing time has been limited all year but increasing as of late. I want to see him on the field at Louisville this weekend!
The Scarlet Knights season came crashing down 40 seconds into their 3rd round game on Sunday. Their game plan was to sit tight in the back, close down all gaps, and break on the counter with Correa and Kamara. It appeared there was no “plan B” so when your original scheme goes down the toilet in 40 seconds, there wasn’t much they could do to alter the run of play during the next 89 minutes.
McMullen didn’t have that bad of a game. He had very little to do in the 3 goals conceded. He actually somehow was alert enough to detain Rowe’s bomb in the 43rd minute. Unfortunately, his back line left Chavez alone for the tap in on off the rebound. Hoffman’s second came off a nice finish when the ball was played to the far post and one timed in.
On paper, Rutgers boasts an experienced back 4. It was unforgivable to give up a goal on the road in such an important match in the first minute of the match. That set the tone and they were a nightmare the rest of the way. Naumoski and Setchell are the two juniors that will be around next season and both of them have horrific technical ability and little tactical awareness. None of the back 4 has any professional aspirations after what I saw this weekend.
Juan Pablo Correa showed some flashes of being a high level player. Correa has good vision, technical ability, and decision making. Too bad he was on his own and most of his teammates were not on the same page. He is only a freshmen and was definitely the best player on the pitch for Rutgers. He will be one to keep an eye on in years to come. Brucolleri is the other player that made an impact on me. He tried to make the same impact on Kelyn Rowe in the 83rd minute. After being outclassed all night, he lunged at Rowe with a reckless tackle and earned himself a straight red card. Showed his frustration and personality in that play. He is also a freshmen and will be one to keep an eye on.
Ibrahim Kamara had a couple of good runs at the Bruin defense that led to good crosses. He took Sofia on 1 v 1 in the first half and left him for dead, but no teammates were in the box to finish off his work. He was fighting an uphill battle and chasing the game all alone up top.
UCLA jumped out early and never looked back. They looked great in possession, got their deep bench on the field, and had their top two players show their good form. The scoreline could have been bigger had Raynr, Arreola, and other subs finished quality chances created in last 15 minutes. I see this team hungry at the right time of year!
UCLA continues to get better with the run of games. Earlier this season they just didn’t have it! I did not like their sloppy approach and said they lacked a team identity. Now they possess with a purpose and have the nation’s best player, Kelyn Rowe, coming off the bench and pulling the strings. They have the hottest striker in college soccer in Chandler Hoffman. With those two, anything is possible. A tough battle awaits them in the rematch of last years elite 8 game (@ Louisville that ended in 5-4 loss). The weather shouldn’t be a problem this time around, so look for the Bruins to prevail and get to Alabama.
Rutgers made a nice run in getting to the final 16. They compete in a tough conference and are always battle tested. I wasn’t impressed with their soccer or many of their players. They will need a ton of work if they are to get back to this stage of the postseason next year.