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So let me come straight out and be honest. I had Duke winning this match even though I am a HUGE fan of Jessie Fleming. I thought the experience and the upperclassmen would take the match from the young UCLA team. I was wrong. Happy to say that, but now its onto Stanford. 

UCLA started their now regular roster. Hailie Mace and Ashley Sanchez up top. Jessie Fleming, Annika Rodriguez, Olivia Athens and Viviana Villacorta in the midfield. Kaiya McCullough, Karina Rodriguez, Mackenzie Cerda and Zoey Goralski in the back. 

Through out much of the game, especially in the first half, UCLA controlled the ball and possessed it for long periods at the time. Linking 10 to 15 passes in a row as they built into the Duke side of the field. Duke in return were playing with 5 players in the back. Julie Foudy was getting more and more agitated seeing Taylor Racioppi play in the 5 back set because Racioppi would have to run 100 yards to join up in any counter. By the second half Racioppi was completely spent and couldn't do much to help Duke in the build up. 

Duke were keeping Kayla McCoy as the long high forward pinning the 2 defenders of UCLA back. But the rest of the team were playing very compact and were clogging up the middle against UCLA. The Bruins would try and try to penetrate the middle but as I pointed out in the past, they have problems with teams that clog the middle like Duke did today. 

They simply could break that down because Hailie Mace who would receive a lot of balls up top, could only go direct and not play with her back to goal. You need to create combination plays like 1-2 combos where the player with the ball would feed the forward up high and then the forward playing with her back to goal would force the defender to commit to mark her and then play a one touch pass to the player that sent the ball to her in the first place on the run. You create space and open up room to take shots or actually move into the box. These actions never materialized for UCLA and so they were stuck trying to go direct up the middle or try to beat the defenders on the wings and get crosses in. 

And Duke in return playing so many people back, waited for turn overs and tried to counter off them by launching long balls to McCoy with the help of Imani Dorsey, were able to get some looks on goal because UCLA would have only 2 defenders defending in the back. In fact Dorsey nearly had a break away but Kaiya McCullough barely was able to knock the ball out in the box. 

The second half Duke would create more chances as players became more tired, more turn overs from both sides would happen but in the end the game would go into overtime and Duke sat back for the most part. Whether its due to their team having to chase after UCLA all game long, they looked tired out. 

With no score in overtime, it went to penalty kicks and I think Duke were confident that they had the better keeper and I would say they did. EJ Proctor is a good keeper and her save on Cerda when Cerda fired her shot up the middle, nearly catching Proctor off guard. Proctor was able to lean back and get a hand and stop the shot. 

Teagan Micah for her part was able to make a very easy save on a poorly taken shot by Kat McDonald that would clinch it when Marley Canales would slot her PK goal in to win the penalty kick shoot out. 

Over all, UCLA looked dominant on possession but trying to break a team that wants to bunker is going to be questionable since Mace has problems playing with her back to goal. But against Stanford, UCLA won't need to worry about that, Stanford love to play with the ball and won't bunker in. It should be a very back and forth match for the National Championship.

Players of the match. 

Kaiya McCullough. Even though I question her speed because she isn't a fast player. She for the most part kept McCoy in check and stopped the most dangerous chance by Dorsey on her near break away. 

Zoey Goralski had a great game as well, able to attack and rush back to defend. 

Jessie Fleming. Was marked by Rebecca Quinn all game long and Fleming won that battle. if UCLA had a forward that could hold up and play with their back to goal, I'm sure Fleming could of combined and set up a goal for UCLA. Fleming was constantly sitting outside the box moving the ball around. She had the ball quite a lot which is good to see. For me Fleming is a very special player. Her comfort on the ball really shows and the fact that she was still able to direct the attack against Duke effectively with Quinn constantly marking shows her technical ability and her drive to win. 

If I find the game on Youtube I will post it here asap. 

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UCLA Women's SoccerVerified account @UCLAWSoccer 40m40 minutes ago   11' | 0-0 Jessie Fleming springs Hailie Mace forward with a long ball towards goal, but Stanford's D gets in position and kicks the ball out of harm's way.

UCLA Women's SoccerVerified account @UCLAWSoccer 1m1 minute ago   HALF: Stanford 2, UCLA 0 Shots: Stanford 8, UCLA 2 Corners: UCLA 3, Stanford 2 Saves: UCLA 4, Stanford 1

UCLA Women's SoccerVerified account @UCLAWSoccer 49s50 seconds ago  PENALTY KICK! Zoey Gorlaski got completely upended by the keeper. Jessie Fleming takes the PK ...

UCLA Women's SoccerVerified account @UCLAWSoccer 38s39 seconds ago  GOALLLLLL UCLA! Jessie Fleming scores on the PK in the 55th minute to cut Stanford's lead in half! Down by just 1, 2-1.

- UCLA Women's SoccerVerified account @UCLAWSoccer 35s35 seconds ago    GOALLLLLLLLL UCLA! @DelanieSheehan ties it up on a header after a corner! NEW BALL GAME! 2-2

- UCLA Women's SoccerVerified account @UCLAWSoccer 13s13 seconds ago   Jaye Boissiere with an incredible shot from distance puts Stanford up 3-2 in the 67th minute.

UCLA Women's SoccerVerified account @UCLAWSoccer 44s44 seconds ago

FINAL: Stanford 3, UCLA 2 We are always #BruinProud of this young team, especially coming back from two goals down at the half.

 

Edited by tc-in-bc

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Stanford wins the final 3-2 over UCLA. 

Goals by Jessie Fleming from the PK and Delanie Sheehan off a corner kick. 

Stanford would have Kyra Carusa, Andi Sullivan and Jaye Boissiere


Whether UCLA were still feeling from the effects of Friday's game, UCLA looked slower on the pitch. Doesn't make any excuses for the mistakes that were made on the pitch and Stanford also played on Friday. But they looked much fresher then the Bruins. 

Stanford would probably have over 60 percent of the possession. UCLA had to do a lot of running after Stanford for balls. And so shots of course would be very telling with Stanford have the lion's share of the shots. 15-5 and 10 on frame to UCLA's 4. And by the first half, it looked like Stanford were going to steam roll UCLA. They just looked fresher and their combination play were much superior. They were constantly building between midfield to forwards with all the Stanford forwards being able to play with their back to goal. Something that UCLA doesn't do really because of Hailie Mace. This allowed Stanford a lot of time in the box of UCLA and the Cardinals showed clinical precision on how to break down defense by creating 1-2 combination plays to create open looks on goal. Something I hope UCLA takes note of in the future. 

The goals scored by Stanford in the first half, were either by a goal keeping mistake by Tegan Micah when she tried to come off her line to take a ball on the hop and missed timed the bouncing ball and the ball would go over her hands and allowed an open look on goal by Carusa. The second goal was another mistake by Kaiya McCullough who didn't mark Andi Sullivan's run and Sullivan was on a 1v1 against Micah and here again Micah could of stopped the ball since Sullivan only had the near post to shoot at and the shot went under Micah into goal which was stoppable sadly. 

The second half, it would be better for UCLA. UCLA created more attacks and Julia Hernadez would play a fair number of minutes in place of Ashley Sanchez who was relatively quiet this match. Zoey Goralski would create an opportunity when she would get a through ball and her run into the box, she would get taken down by the Stanford Keeper Alison Jahansouz and Jessie Fleming would take the spot kick and score for the goal. 2 minutes later, UCLA would get a corner kick and off the corner, Delanie Sheehan would head the ball in to tie it up. Sadly it wouldn't last as Stanford would create more pressure into the UCLA box and off a scramble, the ball would come out of the box onto Jaye Boissiere feet and she would fire a laser past Teagan Micah who had no chance on the save. 

Stanford would then play keep away and knock the ball around forcing UCLA to chase and they did look very tired out there running after the ball all game long. 

If we break down the issues for UCLA in this match. 
 
1) Kaiya McCullough had a horrible game. Her slow speed got exposed badly in this game. The second goal was a direct result of her missed mark on Andi Sullivan. But the build up to that goal was sublime on the Cardinals part because they do what the UCLA can't do. Play with their back to goal. The forward had Rodriguez on their back and she knocked the ball back to a Macario and Macario then sent a through ball past McCullough that sprung Sullivan for the 1v1 on Tegan Micah. Its how you break defenses down, without needing to go direct all the time. Combination plays and Stanford showed this again again this match.

McCullough also struggled against Madison Haley She would get burnt by Haley several times in one instance, Haley with McCullough on her back, would turn on McCullough and then speed into the box and get a clean shot off on goal. McCullough was completely left behind and couldn't recover. McCullough likes to sit on the forward's back and mark them that way which is fine. But if they have speed, you have to give them some respect and even play off them if they can turn on you and McCullough just got destroyed out there. Plus McCullough also had a very obvious hand ball that wasn't called by the referee but it was balanced out by the no call on Julia Hernadez's take down in the Stanford box. 

2) Tegan Micah. I would blame her for the first two goals. She made a horrible gaffe on the first goal, misjudged the bounce and it bounced over her head and the net was wide open for the easy goal. The second goal. Sullivan only had the near post to shoot at since McCullough was slightly behind Sullivan and covering the center box. Micah had to go down and stop that shot but the shot got under Micah and past her for the goal. It should of been saved. 

Micah also does A LOT of shouting behind her back line. But sometimes when you shout that much. Your back line stops listening to you. If the ball is in the area, Micah was shouting "Get it out" over and over. Your back line knows this, you don't need to tell them that, what you do need to tell them is to mark players and tell them if there is a forward on their blind side. Stuff that Micah isn't doing. 

3) The lack of balls to Jessie Fleming. Fleming had very little of the ball. And I blame a lot of this on two issues. One is the team's need to get the ball to Hailie Mace and let her run direct on the ball. Over and over the ball was getting sent to Mace either from up top or through balls. So Fleming was getting by passed by the midfield or the back line were launching long balls. Sometimes I think Fleming needs to be very assertive and say, give me the damn ball, instead of this hopeful balls up top to Mace. And Viviana Villacorta didn't help this situation either. Since as a holding mid, its fine that she will sometimes go on the attack. But she was doing this too often and ignore the build up. Ignoring Fleming and not getting the ball to Fleming. Its like they forgot what won them the game against Duke with all the possession and decided to take matters into their own hands. The midfield was a mess for UCLA and too many individual efforts by the players. Trying to dribble at players to beat them and not looking to pass or wait for support when they did have the ball. Too often you would see Annika Rodriguez trying to dribble at a defender alone without waiting for over lapping players and then would lose the ball. 

4) Haile Mace. The Mace effect for UCLA. She has dramatically changed how UCLA played from last year. There when you had Darian Jenkins, you had the team trying to combine and use 1-2 combination plays. Its rare to see that this year because of how Mace plays. She can't play with her back to goal and she can't dribble at defenders because she has poor footwork. So for Mace to really succeed, she has to use her blistering speed to beat defenders and she can do this often. But against good defensive clubs, she gets shut down and then for UCLA, its like there is no answer to figure out another solution since UCLA can't play with their back to goal. Rodriguez, Sanchez all prefer to dribble at the defender and try to beat them direct. Today, what did you see Stanford do? They rarely tried to do that but instead combined and worked to break down the defense as a team and that is what separated Stanford and UCLA today. 

Quality of chances and looks on goal were far superior from Stanford. This is how you break defenses down by combining and playing with your back to goal. Its why I think UCLA should actually look at playing Fleming up top in a 4-2-3-1 formation because she will hold up, and use her soccer brain to develop the play in front of her. You need a player like that as your center striker. And UCLA doesn't have that player. They just don't. 

Credit to Stanford, they looked like the superior side today. UCLA did make it close and maybe if those mistakes by Micah and McCullough didn't happen, this could of been a different game for UCLA. But Stanford looked the better possession team and the better attacking team. They deserved this win.

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That post above was from the big soccer forum I posted there. 

On about Jessie Fleming. She was very frustrated about the lack of combining from her team. She was calling for the ball constantly and not getting the ball. UCLA seemed to have forgotten what worked in the Duke game and Fleming was ignored quite a lot of the time. 

A lot of the blame is this feed the ball to Hailie Mace which I pointed out already why I don't see that working and Villacorta not combining with Fleming much. Later in the game Claire Winter would sub in for Villacorta but by then the UCLA team were very tired from running after Stanford all game long. 

I really do hope Amanda Cromwell learns from this match and sees what she needs to teach in her forwards. Too many of them are looking to direct and dribble at their defender. It didn't work, good defenders will stop those attacks and force turn overs and UCLA struggled to build up in this game. 

Edited by Forgedias

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I didn't see the game, but I have to say that UCLA losing 3-2 to Stanford for the cup is a damn good season.  Fleming and the team did really well, especially considering how many frosh and sophomores were on the team.  I didn't think their defense was good enough to get that far, but it was.  I'm going to be disappointed if they don't get back to the cup final again over the next couple of years.

Edited by rkomar
Changed junior to sophomore, duh!

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