Behind goals from freshmen Gage Zerboni and Nathan Smith, and a season-high seven saves from junior Earl Edwards Jr., the third-ranked UCLA men’s soccer team defeated the Stanford Cardinal, 2-1, on Friday night in Stanford, Calif.
The Bruins are now 9-3-4 overall and 4-1-3 in Pac-12 play, moving them into sole possession of second in the conference with a showdown at Pac-12 leader California on Sunday. Stanford dropped to 7-5-2 overall and 1-4-1 in the conference with the loss.
The first 25 minutes did not see much action with both sides trading possession in the early going. In the 28th minute, UCLA put together a terrific run up the field with superb team passing, eventually culminating in a chance for Smith from just inside the box. The freshman sent a twisting ball towards the far post that just went wide, however, and the match stayed tied. Two minutes later Stanford would go ahead by a goal, when UCLA lost the ball at the top of its own box. Zach Batteer then sent a pass to Jordan Morris on the left side, who then slotted one to the far post past Edwards to put the Cardinal up 1-0.
Stanford had a chance to go up by two in the 38th minute when Bobby Edwards found himself one-on-one with Edwards on the right side of the box. But again UCLA’s Edwards did well to prevent a goal, rushing out to meet Stanford’s Edwards and closing down to the angle to make a key save. Then in the 40th minute, the Bruins found the equalizer when senior Victor Munoz gathered the ball after a scramble in the box and passed to a streaking Zerboni on the left side. Zerboni then slid and put the ball past Stanford keeper Drew Hutchins for his third of the year, leveling the match at 1-1.
UCLA grabbed the lead for good in the 47th minute, when Smith executed a terrific give-and-go with senior Victor Chavez for his first of the year to make it 2-1 Bruins. From there Edwards and the UCLA defense took over, continually thwarting the Cardinal attack. In the 61st minute, Stanford almost tied things up again when JJ Koval flicked the ball on goal off of a free kick. Edwards made a terrific diving save though, punching the ball out of the box in the process to preserve the lead. Three minutes later, Morris looked to have his second goal of the game when he sent a shot on net after Edwards got caught out of the goal. Junior Aaron Simmons was quick to run back to the line though and made an outstanding stop and clearance to deny Morris.
The Cardinal continued push forward for the final 25 minutes, but Edwards and the Bruin defense were up to task and UCLA held on for the one-goal victory.
Overall, UCLA recorded eight shots in the match while the Bruins made a total of nine saves (seven for Edwards, two for the team). Additionally, Munoz recorded his team-leading seventh assist of the year while Chavez added one of his own to tie him for the team lead in points with 17.The Bruins (9-3-4, 4-1-3) will return to the pitch on Sunday afternoon as they square off against No. 1 California (11-1-2, 5-0-1) in a top-five showdown. Kickoff will be at 1 p.m. and the match will be televised live by the Pac-12 Networks.
Watch Zerboni and Smith's Goals and Simmons' Game-Saving Stop