Mustang News Staff Report
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The prospect of going on the road to play the No. 1-ranked team in the nation is always daunting.
The Cal Poly men’s soccer team (4-1-1) traveled to UCLA (3-1-2) on Sunday in a rematch of the Mustangs’ biggest win of 2013, when Cal Poly dismantled the Bruins 3-0.
And af 110 minutes of back-and-forth scoreless action, the teams ended in a 0-0 draw.
The first half was stale, with the Mustangs only able to conjure up two half-chances on goal from distance, neither challenging UCLA goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr.
Despite the anemic attack, Cal Poly’s defense held well, stifling the Bruins’ attack and giving up only six shots and no clear-cut chances.
In the second 45 minutes, the pace of the game picked up. Both teams veered away from their methodological approaches as they pushed more numbers forward.
Every shot the Bruins attempted seemed to be closed down and blocked well by a Cal Poly defender, while the Mustangs were a bit too impatient, settling for half-chances from distance rather than challenging the keeper.
As much as the Bruins dominated first-half play, the Mustangs reversed the flow in the second half, looking to be the stronger side.
Redshirt freshman Kaba Alkebulan had the best chance with five minutes to go in regulation after he was slipped through by sophomore forward John Chronopoulos, but Edwards came up huge, snagging the close-range shot.
The end of regulation came, and unlike in conference play, this game went to overtime.
The first 10-minute golden goal overtime period saw a huge save from Cal Poly’s junior goalkeeper Wade Hamilton, who used his big right paw to save a UCLA effort from six yards out. The save was nearly a copy of the save Edwards made on Alkebulan at the end of regulation.
In the final overtime session, both teams looked gassed. The weather was a factor, with temperatures at kickoff reaching nearly 100 degrees. The Bruins were also just two days removed from another double-overtime match on Friday against Santa Clara, and it showed. Neither were able to conjure a significant attempt on goal.
Cal Poly interim head coach Phil Ruskin decided to leave his starters in through most of the game, choosing to only bring in two additional players from the bench during the course of the game. Thirteen is the fewest number of players used in a game by the Mustangs this year.
Hamilton and Edwards were the standout performers, each recording huge saves, which kept their squads in the game.
As a unit, the Mustangs outshot the Bruins 15-12, and showed they belonged on the same pitch as the Pac-12 powerhouse.
Prior to the game, the Mustangs learned junior defender Kody Wakasa would be out for the season with a broken ankle. Without Wakasa anchoring the defensive midfield position as he has been, the Mustangs re-shuffled their midfield and brought in Alkebulan to start as the target forward, sliding sophomore forward Justin Dhillon to the wing.
Cal Poly returns to action Sept. 19 at 8 p.m. when they host San Francisco in Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
Nick Larson contributed to this report.