The Cal men’s soccer team just cannot catch a break.
A difficult 2-1 loss to Pac-12 foe San Diego State Sunday afternoon at SDSU Sports Deck completed a weekend of almosts and could-have-beens.
“We just weren’t on the lucky side this weekend,” freshman goalkeeper Kevin Peach said.
After a tough 1-0 overtime loss at the hands of UCLA on Friday night, the Bears (3-4-2) were in despair, looking for any way to bring them back into the Pac-12 fold.
But their weekend had not quite reached its conclusion. Cal had a match on Sunday, giving the downtrodden Bears a prime opportunity to get back in the swing of things with their first conference victory.
Their prospects appeared slim at the commencement of the contest, with the first half ending without much occurring on either side save for a corner kick or two.
Peach made three saves and the defense held strong, but the offense was unusually lackluster, creating only three shots and making two detrimental offside penalties that hindered legitimate goal scoring opportunities.
The second half began unfavorably for the Bears, as the San Diego State offense came firing on all cylinders with a barrage of shots within a span of the first 10 minutes.
In the 57th minute, the relentless Aztecs (7-1-2) squad finally reached that breakthrough. A through-ball and some skillful dribbling allowed redshirt sophomore Jordan Ongaro to score his third goal of the season, putting the San Diego State squad up a goal with about 30 minutes remaining.
But just as the tide seemed to be shifting in the Aztecs’ direction, a goal by freshman Omid Jalali in the 70th minute evened the scoring at 1-1. Jalali, who had come in as a sub just five minutes prior, was making just his sixth appearance this year.
“I usually get shorter minutes, but we had a game on Friday and a couple of the guys needed to rest their legs, so I was given the opportunity,” Jalali said. “I took a nice ball from Seth, took a touch with my left and put it in.”
The Bears seemed destined for another thrilling overtime contest. Ongaro, however, had other thoughts.
A goal on a beautiful shot to the far post in the 85th minute sealed the deal for the Aztec victory and gave Ongaro his second goal of the match.
“This one took a lot out of us as a team,” Peach said.
This loss puts Cal in a precarious position. An 0-2 start in conference schedule surely does not bode well for its hopes to win the Pac-12, let alone make the postseason that the Bears reached last year. But the emergence of the young players does give Cal a reason to believe its chances will improve in the near future.
“The young guys have been stepping in to take those starting spots and they’re coming up big,” Peach said.
Despite their current state of despair, the Bears still have some semblance of hope. And that has to count for something.