SportsWomen's Soccer

Pac-12 Analyst JB Long weighs in on Oregon soccer’s matchup with UCLA

Oregon women’s soccer will begin Pac-12 play with a tough road trip. It will be heading down south this Friday to face off against perennial powerhouse UCLA.

Though entering the season as the two-time defending conference champions, the Bruins (4-4) haven’t been as dominant of late, struggling to reload after talented graduating class departed. They have had a tough time stopping opponents from scoring, allowing 10 goals on the season.

On the other side, Oregon (3-5) is coming into the match riding a two-game winning streak, including a dramatic 1-0 victory over Portland State last week. The last two matches for the Ducks resulted in shutouts.

Pac-12 Networks analyst JB Long took the time to weigh in on the matchup with the Emerald.

Looking at Oregon, what do you make of their season so far?

I think Kat Mertz did a nice job of challenging her Ducks early. Oregon had to find itself a little bit through their nonconference schedule, but they seem to have figured it out. What a birthday win it was for Kat over Portland State last weekend. Having that second clean sheet in a row heading into conference play is a huge indicator for them.

Who are some of the impact players for the Ducks so far?

They seem to have settled into Halla Hinriksdottir, their sophomore keeper from Iceland. I think it’s really important for the defenders to have a consistent voice behind them, and know and anticipate what their keeper wants from them. And I can’t stress this enough: I know what Caitlyn Wong, their redshirt sophomore center back, means to this program. You saw her impact in her debut at Portland State, assisting on the game winner. I still think she has a way to go in terms of getting up to full fitness and playing a full 90, but I think that Kat will deploy her strategically.

This feels like a Duck team on the rise.

It’s a combination of many things, including going back to recruiting. Kat, now in her third season, has more and more players that she and her staff have identified as being matches for the style they want to play. Oregon is going to be prepared to compete in the Pac-12. Now, are they going to be top-3 in the league? Probably not yet. But when you look at the Pac-12 women’s soccer as a whole, you see the teams like Oregon becoming more competitive and more dangerous.

Not the best start for UCLA this season, what can Duck fans expect from them on Friday?

You look at their record of 4-4 and you think, ‘gosh, they’ve underachieved.’ What they have lost is nine starters to graduation, including the Pac-12 player of the year, the defensive player of the year and the goalkeeper of the year. Seven of those players they graduated are playing professionally in some capacity. So, they essentially graduated not just an all-conference roster, they graduated a full professional side — which is just staggering.

Sounds like Oregon is coming in at a good time against UCLA.

It would be a huge resounding statement. If they could get a result, even a draw, in Westwood I think college soccer would react by saying ‘woah, UCLA is struggling to replace that class.’ But more regionally in the Pac-12, you might get the reaction along the lines of ‘hey, Kat is really starting to get this thing going up in Eugene.’ I know it is always special for her to go back to UCLA because of what she accomplished there.

Oregon and UCLA will kickoff Friday, September 25 at 8 p.m.

Follow Christopher Keizur on Twitter @chriskeizur

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Christopher Keizur

Christopher Keizur

Christopher is a senior sports reporter for the Emerald. His work has been published by the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, KVAL and Lane Today. He is a Tabletop games aficionado and amateur ghost hunter.