Kick ‘em while they’re up: UCLA coach insists Bruins were ‘better team’

uva soccerThe “better team” lost on Sunday. That’s what UCLA men’s soccer coach Jorge Salcedo was selling after his Bruins fell to UVA in the national championship game on Sunday in penalty kicks.

“You’d like to sit here and really blast or lament the tactics of the game,” Salcedo said, “but at the end of the day, we’re in a business, and sports is whether you win or lose.”

Um, you know, Coach, you might have something there.

UVA coach George Gelnovatch outcoached Salcedo, which is putting it mildly. UCLA outshot the Cavs 15-9, had a modest advantage in corner kicks (7-5), and had possession in the Virginia end for long stretches in both halves and the two overtime periods.

But tbe Bruins never did generate a serious scoring opportunity with all that possession and all those corners and shots on goal.

Salcedo was hearing none of that.

“As disappointing as it was to have lost, I think most people today would say we were the better team. Ultimately, we didn’t find a way to score a goal, and that was our demise,” the coach said, by way of playing the role of sore loser to a tee.

Gelnovatch had his team in the role of Muhammad Ali, rope-a-doping the favored Bruins with an approach that put 10 defenders behind the ball to clog passing lanes with waves of defenders, with a strategy of giving the ‘Hoos a chance to counterattack.

After 110 minutes of scoreless soccer, the strategy paid off, in a manner of speaking, in penalty kicks, when Virginia converted four of its five chances, and the looming presence of 6’5” Cavs goalie Calle Brown led to two UCLA unforced errors on kicks that nicked the post and bounded back out toward the pitch.

“Of the College Cup teams that I’ve had, this ranks as one of the lowest in terms of talent,” Gelnovatch said, “but the team spirit and chemistry, and intelligence and adaptability to tactics are off the charts.”

“Better team”? To borrow from a coach from another sport called football, Bill Parcells, at the end of the day, you are what your record says you are.

On Sunday, UVA was 1-0; UCLA, 0-1.

– Column by Chris Graham


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