BY ADAM SERRANO
LOS ANGELES — Chandler Hoffman can't stop scoring and thanks to the junior forward's incredible run of form, UCLA sits just one win away from the College Cup.
Hoffman tallied two goals, making his total 18 on the year, as UCLA defeated Rutgers, 3-0, at Drake Stadium in the NCAA Round of 16 on Sunday night. Hoffman scored his first 44 seconds into the match, helping the Bruins extend a seven-game winning streak.
The victory sets up a tantalizing rematch of last year's thrilling 5-4 quarterfinal match against the Louisville Cardinals, a match that saw the Bruins fall amid a Kentucky blizzard.
"We played well and scoring the goal in the opening minute was huge," said Hoffman. "Last week we let Delaware hang around way too long and put us under pressure so tonight, we wanted to finish and put them away early."
Hoffman scored his first of the night just 42 seconds into the match when midfielder Ryan Hollingshead broke through the Rutgers defense laying the ball over to the streaking Patrick Matchett. The right back then connected with Hoffman, who fired it in from close range past Rutgers goalkeeper Kevin McMullen.
UCLA's star striker bagged his second of the night, in the 49th minute of play, when Hollingshead and midfielder Kelyn Rowe connected with Hoffman. The talented forward received the pass and then connected on a one-time volley effectively putting the match out of reach.
Although Hoffman put the Bruins up early, it was the Scarlet Knights, who controlled much of the action the first half. Led by the play of freshman midfield stalwart Juan Pablo Correa, Rutgers dominated possession in the early stages of the match.
Despite the Scarlett Knight's pressure, the Bruins doubled their lead just before halftime in the 44th minute. Once again, it was Hoffman's influence that would spark the goal as the forward looped in a pass into Kelyn Rowe, who fired a shot from six yards out that was saved by McMullen. The deflection fell kindly to Victor Chavez, who tapped in his third goal of the season and the second goal of the night for the Bruins.
"To give up a goal that early against anybody is basically giving them the game and with the second goal, we just didn't defend with urgency," said Rutgers head coach Dan Donigan, who guided the Scarlet Knights to their first round of 16 appearance since 2001. "We didn't make the next play difficult for them and a team like UCLA is going to make you pay…They were the better team and they deserved to move on and we don't."
Late in the match, Rutgers attempted to will themselves back into the contest, but the Bruins defense remained resolute. In the 74th minute of play, the Scarlet Knights had their best opportunity of the night when Correa cut through the Bruins defense, firing a laser into the hands of UCLA goalkeeper Brian Rowe.
Rutgers' frustrations eventually manifested itself in the 83rd minute of play when midfielder Nathan Bruccoleri was red carded for a harsh challenge on Rowe. With a man advantage late, the Bruins peppered the Scarlet Knights goal, but were unable to find their fourth of the night.
Now the Bruins will prepare to face old nemesis Louisville. Not only did the Cardinals defeat the Bruins last season in the NCAA quarterfinals, but also defeated UCLA, 2-0, in the season opener.
With the memories of the defeats at the hands of the Cardinals in their mind, the Bruins believe that they have improved enough to finally best their old adversaries.
"Our first game of the season was at Louisville, I put my hand up, I didn’t do a good job of preparing our team," admitted UCLA head coach Jorge Salcedo. "But fast forward to where we are now, we’re a much better team and a team that’s equipped to go on the road. And we plan to go out and play and get a result there.
His Bruins may have improved since the start of the season, but has Salcedo looked up the forecast for Louisville in December?
"I’m afraid to do that. We’ll see, we’ve had inclement weather, we had hot weather when we were there in August, we’ll play them in a barn, we’ll play them anywhere," said Salcedo. "We’re just excited about a chance to play a good team."