With just a one point lead in the Pac-12 standings over the likes of UCLA and California, the No. 23 Washington men’s soccer team needed to secure a win in Los Angeles to give itself a cushion at second place in the conference. Sunday, it did just that, earning a hard-fought 1-0 victory.
This game unfolded in typical UW fashion, as the Huskies (12-5-1, 5-3-1 Pac-12) and Bruins (7-6-1, 4-2-0 Pac-12) played a chippy contest and traded the ball frequently in midfield, with few good opportunities coming on goal as a result. This didn’t stop the two teams from testing the other’s goalkeeper at times. In the 19th minute, redshirt junior forward Kyle Coffee did just that. Seemingly fully recovered from his injury earlier on in the season, he attempted four shots in this match, including one from straight on outside the box that was saved by UCLA sophomore goalkeeper Kevin Silva.
However, the first half was defined by conservative offense on both sides. UW and UCLA each had stretches where the ball would hover around or inside the other team’s box, but neither squad really loaded up and made concentrated efforts to score, and many shots ended up being blocked by defenders or sailing high or wide.
In the second half, the game got a bit more lively. Three minutes in, redshirt junior forward Scott Menzies had an opportunity in the box with no defensive coverage to impede his progress, so he blasted a shot at Silva, who made the save and turned away the Huskies’ best chance to that point.
The only goal of the contest was scored in the 64th minute. Menzies passed the ball into sophomore midfielder Handwalla Bwana, who made his way into the box on the left side, took on four defenders and weaved a pass into the middle that found sophomore midfielder Jaret Townsend, who calmly used his right foot to get his shot past the keeper and into the bottom right corner of the net. This was Townsend’s first career goal.
In the 78th minute, the Huskies came extremely close to getting an insurance goal, when Bwana stepped up to take a free kick from 25 yards away to the left of the goal. He sent a beautiful shot towards goal, but the ball pinged off the crossbar and came within a yard of the goal line, but could not get across the line before the Bruins were on the ball to stop the Huskies from doubling up the lead.
UCLA’s best chance to knot up the score came late in the game in the 85th minute. Redshirt senior midfielder Brian Iloski beat three defenders to get the ball in the box. Once in the box, he gave it off to senior forward Christian Chavez on the right, and he quickly got off a shot that redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Saif Kerawala was not able to save. But junior defender Quentin Pearson came to his rescue, as he got behind Kerawala and slid to stop the goal from being scored, and preserved his team’s one goal lead until the end.
The UW will get almost two weeks of rest before playing its final match of the regular season against Oregon State on November 9.
Reach reporter Chris Angkico at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @chrisangkico