Against a team such at UCLA, which features four players that have been called up to their respective full national teams in addition to numerous others who have competed for various U.S. age-group national teams during their careers, the margin for error always is razor thin.
The Colorado soccer team's otherwise standout defense showed just a moment of vulnerability early in the second half Friday, and of course the Bruins took advantage.
Top-ranked UCLA broke open a scoreless match shortly after halftime, and plays such as a glaring no-call that didn't go the Buffaloes' way and a late strike that caromed off the crossbar essentially summed up the day for CU at Prentup Field, as the Bruins escaped with a 2-0 victory in the Pac-12 Conference opener for both squads.
"They're the No. 1 team in the country for a reason. You can see their quality on the ball and in the final third," CU coach Danny Sanchez said. "I felt up until we gave up the first goal in the 59th minute, we'd given up one shot on goal. I thought we were defending well. But once we gave up the goal and the game started to get stretched, you could see their quality as there was more space for them to operate.
"They competed, but like I told the team, it just wasn't our day."
CU's defense entered the game having allowed just four goals all season, with three of those occurring in a loss at Texas, which has since climbed to No. 17 in the country. But two of UCLA's national team-caliber players, Anika Rodriguez and Ashley Sanchez, took advantage of a rare Buffs defensive miscue in the 59th minute.
Rodriguez worked her way free along the left end line and still managed to maintain possession after an aggressive simultaneous kick on the ball with CU defender Hannah Cardenas. She then fed a pass across the goal mouth to Ashley Sanchez, whose second goal of the season put the Bruins ahead 1-0.
Buffs goalie Jalen Tompkins, who earlier made a brilliant stop on a UCLA penalty kick, had little chance to make the save after being forced to commit to Rodriguez's end line charge.
"UCLA is a great team. They make great runs and they do great movements," said Tompkins, who finished with seven saves. "Once you get out wide, that's where they're more dangerous."
CU's bench grew irate minutes later when a pair of no-calls — a takedown of Taylor Kornieck during a corner kick, and an apparent hand ball in the penalty box by UCLA — didn't go the Buffs way. Replays appeared to confirm the ball hit the hand of a UCLA defender, but it became a somewhat moot point in the 85th minute when a goal by Sunny Dunphy extended the Bruins' lead to 2-0.
Kornieck blasted a shot off the crossbar less than two minutes later, but that was the extent of the Buffs' late comeback bid.
"You kind of need things to go your way in a game like this, and unfortunately it didn't," Sanchez said. "Like I told the team, we'll never make the excuses of the officials. The better team usually wins. But the other thing I said to them is situations like this, those close calls, over 20 games tend to even out. Today we didn't get that call. Maybe another day we get that call. We didn't do enough to win the game at the end of the day."
No. 1 UCLA 2, Colorado 0
At Prentup FieldUCLA (8-0-1, 1-0-0)02—2Colorado (6-2-2, 0-1-0)00—0
Goals (assists) — UCLA: Sanchez (A. Rodriguez), 59th minute; UCLA: Dunphy (Sanchez), 85th minute.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — UCLA: Micah (90-0-1); CU: Tompkins (90-2-7).