I took a trip to DC yesterday to watch the #12-ranked Georgetown Hoyas take on #1 UCLA, in what was a heated contest both on and off the field. Shaw Field, located directly on the Georgetown campus, was sold out, and the home crowd was absolutely electric. In terms of the weather, it felt like the sun was directly on top of everyone in attendance yesterday, and lets just say that there were probably more sweaty bodies in the crowd than there were on the field.
Both teams are coming off of tough losses from the weekend. UCLA, coming into the weekend ranked #1 in the country, suffered a 3-2 overtime defeat to the University of Maryland on Friday night in front of a record crowd at Ludwig field. Georgetown lost to an Akron team over the weekend which actually defeated Maryland last night. So, needless to say, both coaches would be doing all they could to come out of the weekend avoiding a pair of losses.
UCLA seemed to start off in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Georgetown Hoyas coach Brian Wiese favoring a 2-striker system with a 4-4-2 formation. Wiese got a ton of effort out of his entire team, especially up front through Senior striker Brandon Allen and Junior Alex Muyl. Allen is a big body, listed at 6’1″ but appearing much bigger on the field through his play. He was strong in hold up play, and worked his socks off throughout the match to make dangerous runs with and without the ball. Muyl, his striker partner, was no slouch either. His work rate and creativity, combined with his close touch in traffic, provided a number of opportunities against a UCLA defense that struggled to contain both forwards.
For UCLA sophomore forward Abu Danladi, who was voted the Gatorade National Player of the Year in his senior year of high school, was voted Freshman of the Year by Top Soccer last season, and looks poised to be a top draft pick if/when he enters the MLS Draft, absolutely terrorized the Georgetown defense throughout the match, especially in the second half. The Ghana-born striker was also strong in hold-up play, but also possesses the speed and strength that would have any defender in the country shaking in his boots once he’s coming at him. At 5’10”, 170 pounds, his physical presence and athletic attributes, combined with his excellent work rate, make him look like a combination of Obafemi Martins and Loic Remy. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but needless to say, I was impressed with the young man and expect big things from him once he takes the leap to the next level.
Anyway, on to the action, which started off with Alex Muyl for Georgetown finding himself behind the UCLA back line and going to goal, only to be fouled and taken down from behind by UCLA’s Michael Amick who was extremely lucky to escape with only a yellow card. Amick appeared to be the last man, and the referee’s decision to not asses a straight red wasn’t exactly met with open arms by the home student section. The free kick was taken by Georgetown’s Brendan McDonough, which was kicked directly into the wall.
I decided in the 20th minute to take my chances with the concession stand and go hunting for a bottle of water. After 20 minutes in line, only to find out that they ran out of water, I missed the first Georgetown goal which was scored by junior Brett Campbell. From what I gathered from my friend sitting next to me, it was a ball which bounced around the UCLA box, and put in by Campbell aka Johnny on the Spot. Either way, a goal is a goal, it just would have been nice to see it. Word on the street is that Georgetown is a pretty decent school, you would think they would have more than one person taking money at the concession stand, and that they’d have more water available during a holiday game against the #1 team in the country which felt like it was being played in Dubai somewhere, but what do I know.
I returned to my seat with 5 minutes left in the first half (yes, seriously) which ended without much to write about. Okay, I’m ready for an action-packed second half, let’s do this.
At some point in between my concession stand journey and the start of the second half, UCLA head coach Jorge Salcedo decided to switch to a 2-striker formation, which appeared to be a 4-4-2 from the naked eye. This is where Abu Danladi was at his most dangerous, and he absolutely gave the Georgetown defense nightmares in the second half.
While the weather may have cooled off a bit in the second half, the play on the field was more heated than before.
Georgetown was able to get a quick goal in the 46th minute when they were awarded a free kick in the middle of the field from 30+ yards out. With the free kick being in the middle of the field, and a right-footed Brandon Allen taking the kick, it didn’t appear to be a dangerous situation. However, the UCLA defense was unable to deal with a ball played directly in the middle of their box, and Georgetown sophomore Arun Basuljevic, who was voted Big Ten Freshman of the Year last season, got on the end of Allen’s free kick and played a looping header over 5’11” UCLA goalkeeper Juan Cervantes who watched the ball sail into his net.
UCLA came out firing after the second goal, desperate to keep working for a result. In the 48th minute, UCLA’s Jackson Yueill, who is a member of the USMNT U-18 team and who was dangerous throughout the match, found himself with an opportunity in Georgetown’s box, only for his shot to find the outside of the net for a goal kick. A few minutes later, Danladi had an open shot at the top of the Georgetown box, only for his shot to find the hands of Georgetown freshman goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski, who is also a member of the U-18 National Team pool. Needless to say, there was talent on display at all positions on the field, in a heated #1 vs #14 matchup.
Abu Danladi continued to assert himself on the match in the 52nd minute when he was involved in some hold-up play in the box, laying it off to a teammate whose shot resulted in a UCLA corner. A few minutes later, Danladi had another opportunity of his own, a wide open header in the Georgetown box which was another easy save for Georgetown keeper JT Marcinkowski. UCLA was starting to threaten, against a Georgetown back line which looked a bit shaky.
It is worth noting, actually, that both back lines looked shaky in possession throughout the match. There were a number of unforced turnovers, bad passes, and both goalkeepers were guilty of kicking the ball out of bounds in back to back possessions despite not being put under pressure.
Anyway, back to the action, and guess who? In the words of Marc Jackson, “momma there goes that man again”, Abu Danladi finds the ball in the 56th minute and runs directly at the Georgetown back line, only for the ball to be cleared away. It’s only 11 minutes into the second half, and I already need another water break. Oh wait, I didn’t get the first water break. Well hopefully these guys are staying hydrated when they have the chance, because the pace of play is electric, thanks mainly to the Georgetown students and fans who lined the field and provided an excellent atmosphere.
Danladi was given another opportunity on goal, this time being set up by strike partner and fellow Ghanaian Abdullah Adam, but Georgetown keeper JT Marcinkowski was once again cool under pressure.
UCLA’s freshman sensation Jackson Yueill was once again able to assert himself on the match in the 68th minute when the ball was crossed to the left side of the Georgetown box. Yueill’s teammate found him on the top of the 18, and Yueill was able to take a touch and set himself up for a right-footed shot which deflected off of a Georgetown defender and smashed off of the crossbar, with Georgetown keeper JT Marcinkowski this time appearing to be beaten. The ball stayed in play, and Marcinkowski was forced to make a save directly in front of the left side of his goal, which resulted in a UCLA corner kick. Needless to say, UCLA was pounding on the door.
Following the corner kick, Georgetrown strikers Alex Muyl and Brandon Allen were given a much-needed break, with both of them working hard to keep the ball and work extremely hard in the severe heat.
From a tactical standpoint, both teams were able to get wide play out of their outside backs in the 4-4-2 formation. UCLA’s Chase Gasper, who is from Alexandria and attended Gonzaga College High School in Washington, DC, was able to make a darting run up the left side of the field in the 70th minute. The hometown sophomore’s run up the field resulted in UCLA winning a free kick from around 25 yards out. The free kick was taken by Jackson Yueill, which was initially cleared by Georgetown, but the ball eventually found its way to Abu Danladi, deflects and bounces in the Georgetown box, and is finished by Jackson Yueill to make it 2-1. UCLA grabs the ball out of the net, and game on.
Two minutes later, Abu Danladi is played in behind the Georgetown back line off of a punt from UCLA goalkeeper Juan Cervantes, but instead of going to goal himself, he opts for the unselfish option and lays it off for a teammate, who was ruled to be in an offside position.
Another two minutes go by, and somehow Abu Danladi is able to create yet another scoring chance, this one being probably the most important of the match. Danladi finds the ball outside of the box, runs into the heart of the Georgetown defense, and appears to be taken down for a UCLA penalty kick. No call, however, and the traveling UCLA fans go ballistic. Following the ensuing corner kick, play is stopped and UCLA head coach Jorge Salcedo is spoken to by the referee, with the head coach visibly upset at the referee’s decision. In all fairness, he did appear to have an argument, with this being a crucial point in the match which could have resulted in the game being tied.
With 15 minutes left, former Loyola player Larry Ndjock, now playing for UCLA in his senior season, has a ball sit up for him which he crushes on the volley, only for JT Marcinkowski to push it over the bar in an amazing reaction save.
With Georgetown strikers Brandon Allen and Alex Muyl being reintroduced to the match, things started to turn in favor of the Hoyas. UCLA goalkeeper Juan Cervantes was starting to be put under pressure, and not just by the Georgetown players. The fans behind his goal were harassing him throughout the second half, including a pretty clever Finding Nemo Seagulls chant of “Juan Juan Juan Juan”.
The rest of the game involves an impressive (and probably unnecessary) flip throw from UCLA’s Seyi Adekoya which ended up going out of bounds. This ends up being the last notable threat on the Georgetown goal, with the Hoyas’ back line and goalkeeper being put under pressure throughout the second half. UCLA actually appeared to have three forwards with 8 minutes remaining in the match, and possibly as a result, Georgetown ends up getting their third goal (and the proverbial “nail in the coffin”), with junior Brett Campbell getting his second goal of the match. Both Georgetown forwards who were reintroduced, and whose hard work and skillful play had such a positive impact on the match, were involved in the goal. Alex Muyl and Brandon Allen were both credited with assists on the goal.
Okay, now I really need a water break, time to find a 7-11. And to top it off, as the game is winding down, Georgetown fans serenade the UCLA players, coaches and fans with a chant that they’re sure to remember on their long trip back to the West Coast.