Freshman midfielder James Moberg reacts after the UW's last scoring chance came up short. Photo by Joshua Bessex
The Washington men’s soccer team proved an old sports adage true Monday: You really can’t win them all.
After an impressive run of nine consecutive games without a loss, the No. 24 Huskies were finally toppled 1-0 by No. 7 UCLA in a key Pac-12 matchup. Going forward, the UW will now need serious help, in the form of Bruin losses, to win the conference title.
The loss is the Huskies’ first in conference play and first since falling 4-3 to Brown in overtime Sept. 21. They are now 11-4-3 overall and 6-1-2 in Pac-12 play.
“It was a good effort,” head coach Jamie Clark said. “We should take a lot of belief out of this game. It showed that against a top-five team, while we didn’t beat them, we can actually be a better team, which we were today.”
In a reverse of the Huskies’ 2-1 upset win in Los Angeles in October, the Bruins jumped out to an early lead Monday night and were then forced to hold on as the UW relentlessly attacked in the second half. Despite outplaying the Bruins over the final 45 minutes, the Huskies weren’t able to find a late goal.
“They hung on and got a victory out of it,” Clark said. “Good teams do that, and we’re a good team, but we just couldn’t quite get that goal to push it into overtime.”
UCLA got on the board in the 12th minute. After a series of passes, UCLA’s Reed Williams played a short, over-the-top through ball that Ryan Hollingshead met with a volley into the bottom left corner of the goal, just past diving UW keeper Spencer Richey.
Thanks to a lot of short, quick passing, the Bruins had a wide edge in possession in the first half. They were able to muster four shots, with Richey saving one and two going wide.
The Huskies weren’t able to get much going in the first half. Their two best opportunities in the first 45 minutes came off flip throw-ins into the box by Michael Harris. UCLA keeper Earl Edwards was unable to corral the ball either time, but in each instance, the Bruins’ defense was able to clear.
After the break, however, the run of play was firmly in the Huskies’ favor, as the UW sent eight shots in the direction of the UCLA goal.
The UW was extremely dangerous on set pieces throughout the final 45 minutes. Seven corner kicks and multiple flip throws from Harris provided the Huskies with chances to attack, but they repeatedly came up empty. The Huskies also sent multiple free kicks toward the UCLA goal but weren’t able to sneak any past Edwards.
Despite the loss, Clark felt that his team played well and told them as much after the game.
“I told them that I learned we can make an NCAA tournament run,” Clark said. “If we can do it against them, we can do it against anyone.”
While they haven’t been eliminated from Pac-12 title contention, the Huskies will need help. UCLA has three remaining conference games left to the Huskies’ one. UCLA trails the Huskies by just two points at the top of the conference table, which means that the Bruins need only to gain five points — a win and two draws — out of their last three games to be guaranteed at least a tie for the conference title.
Reach reporter Daniel Rubens at email@example.com. Twitter: @drubens12
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