Los Angeles Soccer: David Opoku
The Bruins got everything they wished for Sunday, romping to a 3-0 third-round triumph over visiting Rutgers to set up a quarterfinal showdown with Louisville, which kept them from the College Cup final four last year and won a season-opening showdown in August.
Chandler Hoffman netted his 17th and 18th goals of the season, the first just 42 seconds after kickoff, and fourth-ranked UCLA (17-4-1) advanced to the elite eight for the third straight year with an emphatic victory at Drake Stadium in front of an audience that included former Rutgers star Alexi Lalas and Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid and technical director Chris Henderson, both of whom have UCLA roots.
Victor Chavez (Fontana/A.B. Miller HS) tallied just before halftime, knocking home the rebound after Scarlet Knights goalkeeper Kevin McMullen parried a sizzling Kelyn Rowe shot from an abrupt angle, and Hoffman completed his fourth multigoal game of the campaign with a volley four minutes into the second half.
“I thought that we played well,” said Hoffman, who will be heading home to Birmingham, Ala., for the College Cup final four with a victory Saturday night at Louisville (14-6-2). “Scoring that goal in the opening munute was huge. Last week, we let Delaware hang around for way too long [in a 1-0 second-round victory], put us under a lot of pressure. So tonight we wanted to put them away early.”
Hoffman did that with his first touch, clinically finishing Patrick Matchett's ball across the box after a Ryan Hollingshead run from midfield. Hoffman also played the ball to Rowe to set up Chavez's 44th-minute goal, and Rowe and Hollingshead had assists on Hoffman's finale.
“[Hoffman has] a huge desire to put the team on his back and get us to College Cup and his hometown. What more can you ask for?” UCLA coach Jorge Salcedo said. “The goals that he scores, his hold-up play, his intelligence on the field have all be extremely helpful. ... He's in a great moment right now.”
UC Irvine struck at the start, doubled its advantage after a half-hour Wednesday night and coasted into the Big West Conference tournament title game, where it will get a rematch with fellow power UC Santa Barbara.
Freshman Cameron Iwasa headed home a cross from Marco Franco (Chino Hills/Chino Hills HS) just 35 seconds into the game, and Tarek Morad (Chino Hills/Chino Hills HS and Mt. San Antonio College) finished a feed from Christian Hernandez (Palmdale/Palmdale HS) in the 31st minute as the 11th-ranked Anteaters (15-5-1) toppled UC Riverside, 2-0.
No. 15 UC Santa Barbara (14-5-1) advanced to Saturday's final with a 2-0 victory over visiting UC Davis.
Irvine, which won its second straight Big West regular-season title, will want to win at home Saturday night to clinch an NCAA berth after it was controversially left out of the field last year after an upset loss in the conference semifinals.
UC Riverside (9-6-4) likely completed a superb campaign that included two victories over UC Santa Barbara and another over UCI. The Highlanders are the Big West's best bet for a third NCAA invitation.
Sam Garza gave UCSB a 17th-minute lead, then fed Ghanaian sophomore David Opoku for a two-goal advantage 16 minutes into the second half. Dan Reese scored for UC Davis with 10½ minutes to go.
UCI won the regular-season meeting with the Gauchos, pulling out a 2-0 win Oct. 1 in Goleta on second-half goals by Miguel Ibarra (Lancaster/Lancaster HS) and Lester Hayes III.
In other men's action:
- Conor McFadden scored 8½ minutes in, and San Diego held on for a 1-0 West Coast Conference victory in a defensive struggle at Loyola Marymount (7-11-1), which dropped three points behind the first-place Toreros with one game to go.
Christian Hernandez and Christian Santana each contributed a goal and an assist as No. 7 UC Irvine pulled three points ahead in the Big West Conference men's soccer race with a 5-1 romp Wednesday night at UC Riverside.
Miguel Ibarra (Lancaster/Lancaster HS), Hernandez (Palmdale/Palmdale HS) and Norby Rodriguez (Thousand Oaks/Thousand Oaks HS) scored first-half goals for the Anteaters (12-2-0), and an own goal 2½ minutes into the second half made it 4-0. Santana netted Irvine's finale 10 minutes later.
The Anteaters have won four in a row since opening Big West play with a 1-0 loss to Cal Poly and lead Cal State Northridge, which is 3-1-0, by three points. UC Santa Barbara, Cal Poly and UC Davis have six points from four games.
UC Riverside (6-5-1) has stumbled badly since its Big West opener, an upset of UC Santa Barbara, losing three in a row -- including a 5-0 decision against Cal Poly in its previous match.
In other men's action:
- No. 13 UC Santa Barbara (9-3-1) throttled visiting Cal State Fullerton (6-4-2), romping to a 6-0 Big West triumph Tuesday as Luis Silva (Los Angeles/Salesian HS) and David Opoku each scored twice. The shot total was close: 16-13 for the Gauchos. Fullerton lost its third in a row.
- Cal State Northridge (6-5-1) is 3-1 in the Big West after a 2-0 victory Tuesday at Cal Poly. Thomas Ramos and Brian Behrad (Woodland Hills/Taft HS) netted the goals.
UC Riverside, taking its first real steps forward in men's soccer, posted the biggest victory in program history Wednesday night -- and in front the largest home crowd ever to see the Highlanders play.
Aaron Long (Oak Hills/Serrano HS) and Richie Osborne netted second-half goals as Riverside (6-2-1) upset No. 10 UC Santa Barbara, 3-1, in a Big West Conference opener in front of 2,016 fans, more than triple the previous record.
Cesar Diaz Pizarro (Chino/Ayala HS) also tallied for the Highlanders, who went ahead in the 11th minute, then pulled away after halftime. David Opoku tallied for the Gauchos (6-2-1).
UC Riverside, which is unbeaten in its last six games, is four games above .500 for the first time since the move to Division I a decade ago. This was the third victory over a ranked opponent in that time.
In other men´s action:
- Patrick Sigler scored in the 53rd minute, and Cal Poly withstood a 57th-minute red card to hold off No. 7 UC Irvine, 1-0, in a Big West opener. The Anteaters (8-2-0) held an 18-3 shot advantage.
- Rafael Garcia (Canoga Park/Canoga Park HS) scored two goals as Cal State Northridge (4-4-1) recorded its second straight 3-0 triumph, winning its Big West opener at UC Davis.
- Loyola Marymount (2-7-0) lost its fifth in a row and sixth in seven games, falling, 2-0, at San Diego in a West Coast Conference opener.
- Cal State Fullerton (6-1-2) shut down Gyasi Zardes (Hawthorne/Leuzinger HS) in a 0-0 draw with visiting Cal State Bakersfield (4-0-4). Zardes scored 11 goals in the Roadrunners' first seven games.
The Gauchos (4-0-1) are No. 6 in the new National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll and UCLA (2-2-1) is unranked, but no matter. Both figure to be in the push for a national title come November (and maybe UCSB's Big West Conference rival UC Irvine, too).
Drake won't be quite so full, and it's not nearly as nice a place to see a game as is Harder: The track greatly separates the stands from the field, and its an increasingly distant view the higher up the loping concrete rows behind the benches.
But the quality ought to be exceptional. UCLA's slow start can't mask its talent, a sophomore-heavy group led by forward Chandler Hoffman (23 goals in his last 24 games, including with the Orange County Blue Star this summer) and midfielder Kelyn Rowe (on the Hermann Trophy watch list).
The Gauchos are led by Ghanaian forward David Opoku, the Big West's Freshman of the Year last season, who has a team-best four goals, and Hermann watch-lister Sam Garza, a Texan who led them with nine last year.
There's a big-name legacy on UCSB's roster, too: senior defender Tim Pontius (Yorba Linda/Servite HS), whose brother Chris, a (now-injured) winger for D.C. United, was an All-American for the Gauchos a few years ago.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: All-America forward Sydney Leroux scored three more goals -- her fourth, fifth and sixth of the season -- as UCLA (6-0-1) marched on, with victories over SMU and Fresno State. The Bruins jumped to fourth in the NSCAA poll and No. 2 in Soccer America's top 25.
UCLA doesn't look much like the title contender it might be destined to become -- not yet. The Bruins, ranked as high as fourth nationally, lost again Sunday, leaving them winless in three games.
Alex Henry's goal nearly 10 minutes into overtime carried UC Davis to a 2-1 home triumph, the Aggies' first victory over UCLA in program history.
“Our team executed our tactics perfectly today, and I knew that eventually we were going to get one on them,” UC Davis coach Dwayne Shaffer told his school's athletics website. “It's a huge win for our program, and it means a lot not only to our players, but to our entire athletics department.”
Chandler Hoffman scored from Kelyn Rowe's through ball in the 87th minute to give life to the Bruins, who were down to 10 men after Ryan Lee's red card four minutes earlier.
Goalkeeper Omar Zeenni (Arcadia/Crespi Carmelite HS) made eight saves for UC Davis (1-1-1).
UCLA (0-2-1) lost its opener at No. 1 Louisville and tied Santa Clara on Friday. The first home game is Friday night at Drake Stadium against St. Mary's.
In other men's action:
- Christian Hernandez (Palmdale/Palmdale HS) scored his third and fourth goals as No. 14 UC Irvine (4-0-0) topped visiting Drake, 2-1.
- David Opoku's 16th-minute goal gave No. 9 UC Santa Barbara (3-0-0) a Carolina sweep with a 1-0 victory at North Carolina State.
- Jake Dobkins and Omar Mata scored goals seven minutes apart to give Tulsa a 2-1 win over No. 25 Loyola Marymount (1-2-0).
- Nick Echeverry (Anaheim/Servite HS) scored just 19 seconds after kickoff, enough for Chapman (2-0-0) in a 1-0 win over Puget Sound.
- Cal Lutheran got its season off to a dream start -- Raul Yepez (Oxnard/Pacifica HS) scores twice in the first 29 minutes -- but Fontbonne, from St. Louis, rallied for a 3-2 victory.
- Matt Sykes' penalty kick in overtime carried Grand Canyon to a 2-1 win over Cal Poly Pomona (1-1-0).
THREE IN A ROW FOR USC: Courtney Garcia (Yorba Linda/Esperanza HS), just moments after coming off the bench, knocked home an overtime rebound, and USC (3-3-0) rallied for its third successive win, a 2-1 decision at Purdue.
Elizabeth Eddy (Newport Beach/Newport Harbor HS) scored an equalizer in the 63rd minute for USC, which beat No. 17 Illinois in Friday's opener at the Illini/Boilermaker Cup.