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This is a repost of what I wrote at the soccerforums for the UCLA team. To talk more about Jessie Fleming. She was magical on the pitch as usual. She would deke players that would try to tackle her and out of all the players on the pitch. she would consistently keep the ball dribbling while anyone else turn overs would happen. So when UCLA pushed forward, they were combining and moving the ball forward. It was a joy to watch. 

I don't know how serious Fleming's injury is. She came off limping but she looked like she wanted to return in the second half since she was standing and bandaging her leg that got hurt. But Amanda Cromwell the coach for UCLA kept her out for the second half which I thought was a good plan. Next week when Canada has their friendly against Brazil we will find out if she plays. 

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________


UCLA wins 2-1 over Penn State. 


Goals by UCLA. Ashley Sanchez (1st), Delanie Sheehan (1st)

Still trying to figure out the formation that UCLA used today. It looked like a 4-4-2 but could of easily been a 4-3-3. 

Starters: Kaiya McCullough, Karina Rodriguez, Sunny Dunphy as right back and Jacey Pederson as left back, Jessie Fleming, Annika Rodriguez, Marley Canales in the midfield. They used Hernadez, Villacorta and Sheehan up top I think. 

The way UCLA presses, the forwards move up and press the ball carrier so it was hard to figure out what formation UCLA was using since Sanchez and Mace didn't start. 

UCLA right of the bat would have much of the possession in the first half. They did a lot of combining, creating over lapping runs and setting up triangles which made me happy to see. This was a totally different UCLA squad then I was used to seeing from last season. Then the casters clued me in why this was the case. Hailie Mace was off with the USWNT training. 

You can tell how a single player overshadow the way a team plays when you see them play with the player and without. When Mace was in the Long Beach game, I only saw 30 minutes of it, but when Mace got the ball, she would turn and go direct and not combine with her team mates. That in turn made the game very one dimensional and frustrating to watch UCLA try to break the Long Beach bunker.

Despite Mace's heroics in scoring that last second goal. That style of game won't win championships. Not against Stanford that has forwards that will combine with their midfield. 

About 20 minutes into the game. UCLA would sub in Ashley Sanchez who was returning from the U20's and she would poach and steal a bad pass from a Penn State center back and have a free shot on goal 1v1 against the Penn State keeper and score. Beautiful individual effort on her part. 

Penn State would turn that around and tie it up on a foul in the box. I can't remember who dragged the Penn State player down in the UCLA box and was awarded the penalty kick and scored to tie it up.

Near the end of the half. Jessie Fleming who was having another good game got tangled up and went down with another player and she came up limping. When I saw her last, she was bandaging her leg herself trying to get back into the second half but I think Amanda Cromwell was going to play safe and keep her out of the match since Fleming had a friendly against Brazil next week that she will be playing. Which was a good move on Cromwell's part. 

Hopefully for UCLA's sake the injury is only minor since Fleming was actually bandaging herself and looked like she wanted to come and play the second half.

In the second half and even in the first half. Penn State were trying to punish the UCLA back line of McCullough and Rodriguez since they play a high line to compact the playing area. So Penn State were sending long balls over them and trying to send runners to beat the defense. They did have their moments since McCullough and Rodriguez are not quick, so the counters were actually dangerous and forced Micah to make some stops. Micah played well, but I still can't forgive those 2 bad goals she gave up in the NCAA Championship to really give her a fair shake. She will need to keep proving that she belongs in that spot by playing consistent for me. 

The game winning goal came off a play that if your a Penn State supporter will dispute since it was a judgement call. Sheehan sent a long ball into the air, at this point Sheehan was playing right back who replaced Sunny Dunphy who I thought had a bad game. The long ball was about 30 yards out and the Penn State keeper had to track it and the ball came just under the cross bar. Amanda Denis the Penn State keeper caught the ball just outside the goal line but her momentum pushed her inside the goal and this is where the controversy starts. She kept the ball stretched out of her hands to keep it out of the goal line but the side line referee called it a goal saying the ball was dragged into goal. They had the ability to see the replay and through out the ESPN broadcast, they showed 3 different angles and I couldn't see it being over turned. It looked like the ball was dragged into goal. So the call stood after replay. 

Though if your a Penn State supporter, you would dispute this call. And I sympathize with you.

Good game over all. Penn State had a clear plan to try to expose the back line of Penn State's and UCLA wanted to keep possession and try to score on it. Both worked to a degree though not to how each team planned it out. I think UCLA would of liked more combining near the box instead of the many long shots they took on goal. Penn State just needed more possession to pressure the back line of UCLA which is their weakness since they play so high up and are a pretty slow duo. 

Thought Kennedy Faulknor had a good game. She actually stood out in the second half since Fleming was out with injury. She played left back in the first half and left wing midfield in the second half and was dangerous on numerous attacking runs she attempted. 

Sunny Dunphy had a bad game. I didn't like her decision making. Her poor tackling and her attempts to send long balls which went no where. Her positioning on the right side was constantly getting exposed by Penn State as they were attacking that side when she was there. But I don't blame her too much since right back is something she isn't used to playing.

UCLA also needs to figure out who are the right and left back pairings since both players from last season graduated. Jacey Pederson seems to have locked up the left side. She played well today. Cromwell will still need to figure out the right side.

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I thought Teagan Micah played really well.  She is much improved over last year, and I think it's time to wipe that slate clean.  She has worked on her weaknesses, and we should judge her on this season's performances.  I don't think she will disappoint.

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She has played well so far. She also played well last year until that last match which was the Championship game. It sucked that she had those 2 bad goals happen during that match. So disappointment aside, I will try and hope things are better for the squad this year. 

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Posted (edited)

I watched Stanford vs U. of San Francisco, and Stanford looks so good again.  As if they didn't have enough firepower up front, they recruited Sophia Smith this year.  UCLA just doesn't have the ability to penetrate defenses the way Stanford does.  UCLA _is_ good at keeping possession, so maybe they can slow down Stanford's scoring by keeping the ball away from them.  I look forward to that rematch in about a month, to see how UCLA tries to cope with Stanford.  I wonder if that's the game that Stanford most misses Sullivan this year, for matching up against Fleming.

Edited by rkomar

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Stanford will probably continue to be the favorite to win the NCAA championship this year and for the foreseeable future. They keep recruiting the best classes year in and out and when a school does that, its very hard to stop that kind of steam roll. 

One thing that I admire about the Cardinals is that they teach their players possession football. Keep the ball at your feet, avoid too many long balls and use your forwards to create space to attack into the box. 

By this I mean having their forwards play back to goal so they can 1-2 with their midfielder sitting behind them so they can launch runs into the box. Stanford like UCLA have to constantly deal with teams trying to bunker against them. Like the Long Beach game earlier on for UCLA, it took until a last second goal to finally break that bunker and only because the ball was in the UCLA end and UCLA launched a long ball forward and caught the Long beach defense flat footed. Did UCLA finally score.

What Stanford does is impressive. They don't care if you bunker, they deconstruct your defense down and break it open by scoring an early goal by attacking the box. There by forcing the other team to open up to try to even the score and this leads to more goals. The games that Stanford played were 5-0 and 5-1. They score a ton of goals. Something UCLA has a hard time doing because the forwards on UCLA won't activate the midfield and prefer to go direct and try to score on their own. 

Its annoying to watch since UCLA did not play this way when Fleming first played her freshman season. They had  forwards that could play back to goal. Darian Jenkins and Amber Munderlyn. Both graduated and last year Coach Cromwell brought in Ashley Sanchez and moved Hailie Mace from center back to forward. Sanchez has a ton of talent but loves to try to dribble at defenders even against 2 defenders and would frequently lose the ball. And Mace, all she does is turn for goal and try to score. Even if she doesn't have a shot, she still takes it instead of trying to send the ball back to midfield and setting up another run of play. 

Its painful watching Fleming get shut out of what she does best. Play make. Then you also have issues of Annika Rodriguez fighting Fleming for control of the midfield since Fleming took over the 10 role for UCLA away from Rodriguez who had it in the beginning of the year when Fleming first joined the team. Rodriguez would constantly try to hog the ball and make attacks and get to the end line and try to send crosses in or cut Fleming out of the picture by sending passes to the forwards instead of linking with Fleming. 

And for Fleming? She isn't selfish, she plays for the team. She wants the team to win and doesn't care about points since she already is firmly with the national team. Mace and Rodriguez want to be noticed and now they are getting call ups to the USWNT for Mace and the U23 for Rodriguez. So their selfish play is getting them noticed.

Stanford on the other hand. They play the right way and in hindsight, their system would be a godsend for a player of Fleming's caliber. 

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I definitely remember Annika Rodriguez being that way, but something changed mid-season last year, and she is much more aware of where her teammates are now.  Perhaps she just needed to get better at dribbling without looking at the ball.  She went on a nice scoring run after that, and really helped UCLA make it to the finals.  She used to frustrate me so much, but now I look forward to her attacks.

As far as the Stanford attack goes, one of the announcers in that last match was pointing out that they would carry the ball in on the wings and then slash in diagonally through the defense (either dribbling or passing).  Since they're all very talented, they can read those plays well and play off each other very effectively, opening up holes in the defense.  Holding up the ball with back to goal was only the second phase of the attack, if the first slashing phase bogged down.  UCLA, like most teams, tends to cross the ball squarely from the wings, making it much easier to read by the defense.  Hence, the lower number of goals scored.

That said, UCLA is good at quickly pressing the other team in defense and recovering the ball, and if they can put the squeeze on the wingers quickly, maybe they can prevent a lot of those slashing attacks.  I'll be really interested in seeing if they can slow down Sophia Smith that way.  It won't be easy against her.

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UCLA will be playing Pepperdine today at 7pm Pacific time. Jessie Fleming did not play for Canada against Brazil in their friendly with her injury. Not sure how serious it is or if they were just keeping her out for safety reasons. In either case we'll find out where Fleming is if she plays or doesn't today.

Same link as before.

http://oklivetv.com/pac-12-los-angeles-live/

Over the last weekend UCLA played without Jessie Fleming and Hailie Mace and even without Mace they should of at least been ok since they had most of their team. The issue is that last weekend they got destroyed by Florida State 4-1 who are a good team but not one of the strongest teams in my opinion. Losing to Florida and getting a draw with the Florida Gators previously is exposing UCLA to some issues that I have talked about.

1) UCLA's defense is slow, but Karina Rodriguez and Kaiya McCullough do not have good foot speed and teams can expose them for this on counters since they play a high line. 

2) Jessie Fleming plays the linking midfield. She SHOULD be playing more as an attacking midfielder or even a 9 as a false 9 for UCLA to lead the attack but UCLA's forwards are very direct. They don't activate Fleming on the attack and when they get the ball, they prefer to go direct immediately instead of combining with the midfield. So when UCLA is without Fleming, the offense breaks down.

I actually was expecting this, didn't expect UCLA to get smashed 4-1 but I did expect them to struggle to score and its showing now. Coach Amanda Cromwell has to get her team to buy into giving the ball to Fleming and allowing her to lead the offense. Right now its try to be individualistic and score points so players like Hailie Mace, Annika Rodriguez can get noticed by their national teams and get call ups which is unproductive for the team as a whole. But hopefully these results for some changes. 
 

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No word from Forgedias, so I'll give a brief summary.  Jessie Fleming scored the first goal against Loyola Marymount U at about the 39 minute mark, after much possession and failed attacks by UCLA.  She was subbed off for the rest of the game after that.  UCLA had the game pretty much in hand from the start, and by about the 70 minute mark pretty much the whole bench was out on the pitch playing for UCLA.  They ended up winning 3-0.  Despite scoring, Fleming was a bit off, coughing up the ball quite often.  In fact, the rest of the team seemed to avoid her during the attacks.  Perhaps she's still feeling that twisted knee she got just before the international break.

On a different note, Gabrielle Carle was playing outside back for FSU when they beat UCLA.  She was pretty influential in the game in that position.  I was used to seeing her as a forward when playing for Canada, so it came as a bit of a surprise.  I wonder if she'll ever play outside back in the future for Canada, since Ashley Lawrence is usually in that position?  Anyway, it's good to see her playing such an important role on such a successful NCAA team.

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^^ Yes I thought Carle played well as well.  I also thought Carle and Faulknor had a real good battle out wide,  taking each other on throughout that FSU match! They know each other pretty well...  

LMU basically sat back and tried to clog the box throughout the game. It was just way too much pressure for them to absorb for a whole match. Going forward I feel that UCLA still has to find a way to get a little more savvy in the final third. As Forgedias suggested less individual play and more combination's, in and around the box is the ideal. In the second half, for a spell,  it seemed that they would just give the ball to Haile Mace and watch her run at LMU hahahaha    They do have some good set pieces on corners tho. . Fleming scored on the same set play that UCLA missed against Florida.   It was a great finish!  

Edited by Jamaicanadian

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I forgot to mention that LMU was tackling Fleming _hard_.  She got her legs cut out from under her a couple of times.  They didn't seem to go after anyone else with the same ferocity.  I wonder if teams watched the Florida games and decided that taking Fleming out was a good strategy?

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Sheesh that looks nasty. Always good to turn directly into two oncoming defenders.

Where they're both hunting her in slow motion it looks like one of those National Geographic predator clips from the savannah. Or the cheetah hunting clips from the movie Lucy.

76 people obviously disagree but I'm not sure how much pre-meditation there is in that. The defender is coming in hot and heavy and Davidson is running away from her and then at the last second from about 2-3m away awkwardly turns right into her. The defender commits her left leg to challenge for the ball about the same time as Davidson cuts it back. Had Davidson not cut back she takes the ball and not her leg. A good chance it's just out-of-control defending as opposed to intentional.

At the highest end of the professional game most injuries are intentional. Because athletes are in high control of their bodies. At lower ends where there is more of a lack of agility and control there are more injuries as players commit early and can't react to changes in the moment.

Regardless, just brutal. No one deserves that recklessness. 

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The announcers mentioned that Fleming wasn't playing in tonight's game against WSU because she had already joined Team Canada for WCQ training.  I guess that means we won't see her against Stanford next week, either.

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No Fleming or Mace or Rodriguez in the game against Oregon, but I thought I'd watch anyway.  I'm glad I did, because it was a pretty good game.  Oregon did not just bunker down, but pressed UCLA hard through the whole game, taking the attack into UCLA's half.  There was a lot of short passing in tight quarters by both sides.  The game ended up 2-1 for UCLA, but remained suspenseful right to the final second.

One of the center backs for Oregon was Hannah Taylor, who has been playing recently for the Canada Uxx teams.  She looked good out there, handling UCLA's pressure well.  I'm thinking that she's in a very good program for developing towards the senior Canadian team.

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Two games where UCLA outscored their opponents handily.  It's hard to say how good the team is, but they limited their opponents to very few scoring opportunities, so that's a good sign.

I have to say that Fleming hasn't been as dominant as I remember her being before.  Part of it may be that teams are getting better defensively against UCLA.  They are committed to putting in the effort and maintaining defensive structure under persistent attack.  I have to say that I am impressed with the coaching and players in that way.  But more importantly to this thread, it's been noticed that Fleming uses her right foot the majority of the time.  She has a great right foot, but defenders can limit her more effectively if they know that she's going to use it.  Maybe it's time for Fleming to broaden her repertoire.

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UCLA squeaked by Utah today 2-1.  Like many other teams, UCLA seem to be getting used to winning, only putting in the effort when absolutely required.  They are trusting the soccer gods to give them the win as they deserve, rather than working to earn it.  Mostly you get away with that, but sometimes the soccer gods laugh and leave you disillusioned.

That said, Fleming was working well all over the pitch in this game.  Utah seemed to go for the win and not just try to bunker down, leaving all sorts of space on the pitch.  That made me rethink my past comment about Fleming not being as dominant anymore.  Maybe part of that is teams bunkering down in their 18 yard box, compressing play into a small area that Fleming can't work her magic in.  When she was dominant in the past, it was in the middle of the field going one-on-one with other players.  The lesser teams don't even seem to bother to contest that space anymore.  They fall back, and defend in numbers just outside of easy shooting range.  If Fleming was more two-footed, it still wouldn't be easy cutting through that.  That said, it couldn't hurt Fleming to be more comfortable on her left foot.  That also goes for Sanchez, as well.

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7 hours ago, rkomar said:

UCLA squeaked by Colorado today 2-1.  Like many other teams, UCLA seem to be getting used to winning, only putting in the effort when absolutely required.  They are trusting the soccer gods to give them the win as they deserve, rather than working to earn it.  Mostly you get away with that, but sometimes the soccer gods laugh and leave you disillusioned.

I see this differently. UCLA was playing at altitude after traveling and playing Thursday. They did seem tired at points in the match but adjusted their play accordingly. A sign of a good team is one that can win even when not playing their best. 

Colorado was a good physical and determined opponent. I liked the fact that UCLA  were able to "gut this one out:" 

Part of Colorado's game plan was clear as mud. Kick Jessie Fleming early and often. She was still able to do pretty well.  Others had to step up, which happened!   

 

 

 

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Yowza!  What a game between UCLA and USC!  UCLA had some luck to win this one.  USC dominated in the first half, leading 1-0 at halftime, but UCLA came back and played like they meant it in the second half, tying the game soon after the kick-off.  USC scored on the counter-attack with about 3 minutes to go, looking like they got their win to tie Stanford at the top of the PAC-12 conference.  But Hailey Mace scores 6 seconds later with a long range cruise missile that the goalkeeper had no chance on.  There were plenty of chances on both sides (including a missed penalty kick by USC), with defenders deflecting balls and goalkeepers making great saves.  In the second half of extra time, Fleming bounces the ball into free space in the penalty area and Olivia Athens heads it in just ahead of the goalkeeper.  UCLA wins 3-2, but it could have gone to either team.

Fleming had a very good game.  She was all over the field, collecting and distributing well.  I think she ended up with two assists on the night.  USC had DeMelo marking Fleming, and the play got pretty physical at times between them.  DeMelo is USA national team material, and bosses the midfield for USC the way that Fleming does for UCLA.  Both players accomplished a lot, which is a testament to how good they are in the big games.  I was a bit worried that Fleming was a bit off after her injury a while ago, but she seems to be back on form.  Not just her technique, but her fitness looks great, as well.

Faulknor also had a good game.  She kept her composure well under pressure, making good passes while the adrenaline was running high for both sides.  She was guilty on the penalty shot, but she had to come in late to try to clean up after the defending midfielder got hoodwinked.  It was just really good play by the forward, and I don't blame Faulknor much for the penalty.  The shooter missed high on the penalty shot, so the transgression can be easily forgiven.

I think that both teams are going to benefit from this game going into the playoffs. It gets them into full-on competitive mode, and they should be ready for the NCAA championships.  I expect that the PAC-12 conference is going to do some damage again this year.

Edited by rkomar
Correct spelling of DeMelo's name

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Agreed that it was a great game, especially the last half. Fleming was all over the place and made a key defensive run back near the end of game. She really was electrifying going forward. When UCLA's forward tried to combine with each other they produced some nice chances, but the first half they tried to go it alone mostly, especially Sanchez (who made some great passes in the 2nd). USC seemed a bit more creative in the attack, and I thought the better team overall. UCLA's back line looked a little slow (or disorganized) at times and I think that will prove to be their weakness going forward.  Nice to see they had around 10,000 in the stands, i think.

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Here are the brackets for the NCAA championships: brackets.  I don't much about teams outside of the Pac-12 and ACC, but I'm guessing that UCLA doesn't have any really difficult opponents until UNC in the quarter finals.  As long as they don't get too complacent, I think they have a good chance of getting to that game.

Edit: Looks like I was wrong.  Santa Clara is ranked 12th in the nation, so UCLA does have stiff competition before North Carolina.

Edited by rkomar

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Canadian championships start tomorrow in Ottawa. Mostly the usual suspects (Trinity Western, Montreal, Laval, Cape Breton, Ottawa) and some fresh-ish faces (McMaster, Calgary, Western) in the mix.

Montreal looking to repeat.  Laval has won two of the past four.  TWU has won four of the past 10.

All teams play Thursday and two or three games each of Friday - Sunday. 

Just checked the weather and they're calling for snow and rain and gusts of 50kph for the semi's on Saturday, high of 0 for the final. 

https://usports.ca/en/championships/soccer/f

Broadcast Schedule (different site)  $15 for all games or $10 for a day.  Link

 

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