An Oregon Duck soccer team already decimated by injuries was forced to play with only 10 players for more than 60 minutes against #1-ranked UCLA Thursday night. In the 29th minute Oregon goalkeeper Leah Freeman charged out on a ball toward Oregon’s 18-yard box, collided with a UCLA player and was given a “straight Red” card. The ejection of Freeman left Oregon a player short for the remainder of the game, but the Ducks impressed by playing the Bruins even for the rest of the game, ultimately falling 3 - 1.
The difference in skill between the teams was most pronounced over the first 30 minutes of the game. UCLA had little trouble controlling the action with precision passing and outstanding player movement to open areas off the ball. Oregon was content early to play defensively, bringing all 11 of its players into its defensive half and conceding possession to the Bruins. It’s a legitimate strategy, frequently seen at the highest levels of soccer. Teams will sit back and absorb pressure, and then try to break out on a counterattack to challenge the opponent’s goal.
With the game at 0-0, Oregon tried to make the strategy pay off through the 21st minute. The Bruins showed their skill level, however, with former Duck Ally Cook and Sofia Cook working the ball back-and-forth down the center of the Duck’s defensive end until Sofia Cook got a shot off under pressure past Freeman and into the right side of the Oregon Goal.
With the Bruins now leading 1 - 0, Oregon ramped up its pressure on UCLA players to try and find an equalizer. A nice steal by Zoe Hasenauer in midfield eventually led to a long upfield pass for Oregon forward Ajanae Respass. Respass couldn’t quite control the pass, took a heavy touch and the ball rolled to the UCLA goalkeeper. Less than a minute later, another long Duck pass was also too heavy and the ball went over the endline for a UCLA goal kick.
The key point in the game took place just after this Duck thrust in the 29th minute as a long UCLA pass to just outside the Ducks penalty area brought Freeman charging out to the collision that saw her sent off. An ejected player cannot be substituted for, meaning Oregon now had to play with just 10 players. Since Freeman is the Oregon goalkeeper, someone else now had to play in goal, and Oregon freshman goalkeeper Julia Richards came on the pitch. The Bruins had earned a free kick just outside the Oregon 18-yard box on Freeman’s foul, and before Richards had much of a chance to adjust to being in the game, the ball was in the back of the net for UCLA again, giving the Bruins a 2 - 0 lead.
The level of challenge faced in coming back from a 2 - 0 deficit against the nation’s top team is obvious. But the Ducks now had to do it with one fewer player. UCLA began liberally substituting after their 2nd goal, including what looked like 9 or 10 players at the same time in the 37th minute. Oregon continued to take the fight to the Bruins and the score remained 2 - 0 at the half. The Bruins enjoyed a 64 percent - 36 percent possession advantage in the half and outshooting Oregon 10 - 0.
The action in the second half was much more of a back-and-forth game, with Oregon working hard to get back in the game. The last thing the Ducks needed was for UCLA to have more room to pass the ball around, but with 10 players, Oregon could cover less field than usual. Nevertheless, the Ducks gave as good as they got, but had difficulty connecting the last pass they needed to get off a good shot or putting a cross where it needed to be.
Oregon finally broke through the Bruin defense in the 63rd minute, scoring a short-handed goal. The scoring play began with a Respass steal from a Bruin player and passing the ball down the left side for Hasenauer to run onto. Hasenauer struck a left-footed cross low through the UCLA penalty area where midfielder Alice Barbieri was waiting to blast a right-footed drive into the left side of the UCLA goal. Hasenauer’s assist tied her for the career record at Oregon (18), and the Ducks now trailed just 2 - 1.
Not only did Oregon cut the lead in half on this goal by @aalicebbarbieri, @zoehasenauer tied the all-time UO record with her 18th career assist.— Oregon Ducks Soccer (@OregonSoccer) September 30, 2022
64' | UCLA 2, Ducks 1#GoDucks pic.twitter.com/PtANQ3PVrM
With under 30 minutes to play, Oregon continued to press the Bruins up and down the field and tried to free Respass or another player for the tying goal. Oregon had quite a bit of success in pressuring the Bruins, stepping in front of numerous passes and taking the ball off the feet of UCLA players. Richards continued to turn away all challenges until the Bruins again broke through with just 10 minutes to play on a shot from the left side just outside Oregon’s penalty area. The Bruins now led 3 - 1, which ended up being the final score.
Some terrific work from Julia Richards in her first match as a Duck - like this breakaway save - but UCLA adds a late score.— Oregon Ducks Soccer (@OregonSoccer) September 30, 2022
86' | UCLA 3, Ducks 1#GoDucks pic.twitter.com/ZPnJgTHrLu
After UCLA scored its 2nd goal, Oregon played the Bruins even (1-1) despite being a player down for more than 2⁄3 of the game. For the game, UCLA (10-0-0) outshot Oregon 25 - 2 and had 7 corner kicks to Oregon’s 1. Richards made 4 saves in goal for the Ducks.
Oregon (3-3-4) (W-L-T) is back on the pitch this coming Sunday, when they will face USC in Eugene at Noon. Due to tonight’s Red Card, Leah Freeman will have to sit out that game.