By the time Cal goalkeeper Alex Mangels dove toward a loose ball in the 28th minute, it was already too late.
Seconds earlier, Bruin forward Abu Danladi had snatched possession from the Bears and sent the ball rolling languidly in the direction of the goalpost. To both teams’ disbelief, it passed right through the legs of Mangels, who turned around and dove in a desperate attempt to stop the slow-paced shot. But reacting several moments too late, all he could do was watch as it meandered into the back of the net.
The haphazard goal — UCLA’s third of the night — would come to define the remainder of a disastrous outing for Cal in Westwood, California, on Monday. Finishing with a 6-0 beatdown of the Bears, UCLA (8-6-0, 3-2-0 Pac-12) looked to remind the NCAA committee why it was ranked No. 1 in the preseason coaches’ poll. Meanwhile, Cal (5-5-2, 0-3-2 Pac-12) heads back North with some serious questions to answer to that same committee as it extends its scoreless streak to three games.
“Everything was going right for them, and nothing was going right for us,” said Cal head coach Kevin Grimes. “It’s just one of those days that you just try and forget about as quickly as you can.”
Despite the Bruins’ dominance, the game’s opening minutes were far from explosive. Until a shot from UCLA midfielder Grady Howe missed from outside the box in the 10th minute, the game was defined mostly by sloppy defense and four fouls in the first nine minutes.
Danladi would be the first to spark the Bruins’ offense, dishing a pass to midfielder Jordan Vale in the 16th minute from inside the box. Vale sent the shot ricocheting straight off the left post — then a bounce off Cal defender Joshua Morton gave the Bruins a corner kick. Defender Javan Torre capitalized on the opportunity as he headed a goal straight past Mangels.
The goal would mark the beginning of an unrelenting performance by the Bruins. In the 24th minute, UCLA would double its lead with another impressive play from Danladi. Near his team’s 18-yard box, the sophomore broke away to drive the ball down the full length of the field with three Cal defenders in his path. After a one-on-one face-off with Mangels, Danladi finished with a clean shot to give UCLA a decisive lead. His goal in the 28th minute would increase the already steep 2-0 margin even further to close out the half.
But while things already looked dismal for Cal, not many could have guessed what would ensue at the start of the next frame. In the 52nd minute, UCLA midfielder Jackson Yueill would register an easy goal after picking up a misdirected ball inside the Bears’ box. Less than a minute later, forward Seyi Adekoya would add to that tally with another goal for the Bruins. The ball would find the back of the net again just three minutes later, this time off midfielder Felix Vobejda. The 6-0 score would stand for the remainder of the match.
“We had difficulty defending their counterattack — I think that was the most obvious thing,” Grimes said. “They have a lot of speed up front, so you have to be aware of their ability to make a quick attacking play from one pass because of their speed up front.”
Dani Jo Coony covers men’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected].