In the final regular season game of the campaign, the Bruins secured a first-minute lead and never looked back.
Powered by the performance of sophomore defender Tommy Silva, UCLA men’s soccer (10-6-1, 5-4-1 Pac-12) scored two goals within the first 10 minutes en route to their 4-1 victory over San Diego State (8-7-2, 2-7-0). The Aztecs kept the offense coming all match long on Friday night, but the Bruins halted 15 of their opposition’s corner kicks and only conceded one goal from 13 chances.
On the other side of the field, the Bruins’ first of many successful chances was signaled by the opening whistle.
After a pass sent redshirt freshman forward Jose Contell wide down the right flank in the first minute, the Spaniard sent a cross through the penalty box. The pass missed the finishing touch of a few Bruins, but arriving from the left wing was Silva, who struck a shot into the bottom right corner to secure the early 1-0 lead.
Silva did not stop there, taking part in the next two goals as well.
The Bruins implemented a high press against the Aztecs throughout the night, and it paid off in the 10th minute. Redshirt freshman midfielder Tucker Lepley placed pressure on a San Diego State defender who was holding the ball near midfield, caused an error and grabbed the ball rushing down to the Aztecs’ penalty box.
Drawing both the defender and goalkeeper out of position, Lepley passed back to Silva, who slotted the ball in an empty net for a brace. The Bruins did not know it yet, but the 2-0 advantage would be all they needed to win in San Diego.
The Aztecs scored at the brink of halftime, but right as the second half began, the deficit jumped right back to two.
Contell and Silva had already teamed up for the first goal, and they did just the same on the third, only this instance with their goalscoring roles reversed.
Playing out from the back in the 51st minute, Aztecs goalkeeper Jacob Castro got forced into a mistake in front of his own goal by Silva. The first-half goalscorer tackled Castro and passed the ball to Contell, who struck the ball into the net. It looked as if the ball was cleared off the goal line at the last second, but the call was confirmed, giving the Bruins a lead of 3-1.
22 minutes later, Lepley wrapped up the match with a curling left-footed shot that evaded the diving effort of Castro, hitting the back of the net to join in on the fun. The 72nd-minute score would be the final one of the night, with the Bruins preventing attacks and keeping the Aztecs scoreless in the second half.
Freshman Goalkeeper Nate Crockford made his second start of the season Friday, saving six more shots than the week prior against Oregon State. The Northfield, Illinois, native saved eight shots and only conceded one goal.
UCLA awaits their opponent and an answer on if they received a tournament bid at the NCAA Men’s Soccer Selection Show, which will be streamed Monday at 10 a.m. on NCAA.com. The Bruins currently sit high enough in the RPI where they are expected to make it as an at-large after finishing third in the Pac-12 behind only No. 1 Oregon State and No. 3 Washington.