Bears to be tested on the road early

The Cal men’s soccer team journeyed across the bay against the University of San Francisco last week to open the season.

This week, the team treks across the country to Bridgeview, Ill., to face Northwestern.

After the No. 7 Bears finish Thursday night after a 5 p.m. tilt at Toyota Park,  the following matchup sends them to Connecticut, and it won’t be until Sept. 9 that Cal returns to Edwards Stadium in Berkeley.

“It’s a lot of traveling, especially so early on,” junior Tony Salciccia said. “But I like it, it pushes us more to ensure we get that win.”

In addition to the unfamiliarity of the field, Cal (1-0-0) also comes into the match with no prior experience against Northwestern. According to the Bears, however, a lack of experience against a particular opponent will not hurt their chances.

“We try to go into each game with an open mindset,” forward John Fitzpatrick said. “So this game we won’t even have worry about anything other than the game at hand.”

Northwestern lost its season opener in overtime, 2-1, against Eastern Illinois. Both the Wildcats and the Bears are facing off in only the second games of their early campaign.

Cal’s true test will come in its next game the same weekend. The squad travels to Joseph J. Morrone Stadium in Storrs, Conn., to take on No. 4 UConn with a 4:30 p.m. kick off time.

The Huskies (1-0-0), led by Southern California native Carlos Alvarez, won their first game against St. Francis with a 2-0 victory.

In this meeting, the Bears will have to contend with more than just the Huskies. The weather and field conditions might be a factor, given the recent battering of Hurricane Irene.

Weather has already proven to be an issue, as UConn’s match today was moved up two and a half hours due to a lack of power around the stadium.

The presence of Fitzpatrick, Cal’s top returning goal scorer, with seven in 2010, will be key to another victory away from home, along with co-captain Salciccia in the midfield.

The juniors already teamed up together to get their team the winning mark with a goal and an assist, respectively, for the 1-0 win in San Francisco.

In the net, junior Robby Gogatz will look to maintain his clean sheet after getting the shutout in the Bears’ first match.

Gogatz redshirted his sophomore year, with his last minutes coming as a true freshman.

“It feels great to be back there on the field,” Gogatz said. “I’ve just been staying patient and doing my best to improve every time I step out.”

The younger players on the squad might find it a challenge to deal with all the changing scenery as they have hit the road every week since starting their collegiate careers.

“It’s not easy, there are a lot of fans right on top of you,” sophomore Alec Sundly said. “But it’s extra special to get a good result in a different environment.”

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Cal won’t return to Edwards Stadium until Sept. 16. In fact, Cal hosts the Cal Legacy Classic on Sept. 9 and Sept. 11 at Edwards Stadium.

A previous version of this article also incorrectly stated that Cal and Connecticut last met in the second round of the 2010 NCAA College Cup and Cal emerged victorious. In fact, Cal did not play Connecticut in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.