During Sunday’s contest against Utah, former star striker Alex Morgan returned to Berkeley for the first time since her successful World Cup campaign.
Against Colorado and the Utes, the Cal women’s soccer team direly needed a goalscorer like Morgan as the Bears (11-4-2, 4-2-2) produced a plethora of offensive chances to no avail.
The Bears’ offensive futility ultimately paved the way for a shocking 1-0 upset loss to the underperforming and undermanned Buffaloes squad (4-10-2, 1-6-1) on Friday at Edwards Stadium. Although the Bears rebounded for a 2-0 win against Utah, Cal coach Neil McGuire couldn’t help but wonder about the goal drought during the Colorado match.
“In evaluating our play on Friday, we had 33 good opportunities to create goal scoring opportunities,” McGuire said. “We simply have to execute better, and we need to get sharper.”
Friday’s tilt against the Buffaloes was by far the easiest home match for the Bears in their conference play. Ranked last in the Pac-12, Colorado had serious injury problems that were so severe that they had one healthy substitute against Oregon last weekend.
Despite mustering four more healthy reserves in time against Cal, the Buffaloes seemed doomed to give up a goal early in the game. The Bears came close to scoring in the first half when perfectly placed corner kicks by midfielder Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick and defender Thelma Eisnadottir sailed just wide of the net.
Unlike Cal, which produced tons of chances but no goals, Colorado capitalized on its only chance of the second half. In the 62nd minute, defender Hayley Hughes outran the defensive line and tapped the ball above goalkeeper Emily Kruger to give the Buffaloes the lead.
Despite the numerous frantic attempts by Cal to tie the score, Colorado held its line and kept the clean sheet. The Bears missed the best chances of the match in the 65th minute when defender Samantha Walker and forward Grace Leer’s shots both hit the goalpost.
“It was just one of those weekends where nothing would go in,” forward Lauren Battung said.
In the 44th minute against the Utes on Sunday, Cal finally ended its drought. Forward Mekenna DeBack scored her fifth goal of the season when she placed the ball into the bottom left corner.
“Betsy (Hassett) passed me the ball and I saw that open space in the low corner,” DeBack said. “I tried to keep the ball low because the goalkeeper was blocking everything that was going high.”
Throughout the match, Cal moved the ball seamlessly with quick passing, keeping the Utah defense on edge. In the 84th minute, the Bears’ fluid movement paid off in huge dividends when they earned a penalty kick.
In commemoration of senior weekend, McGuire assigned senior defender Danielle Brunache to take the penalty kick. With the majority of the crowd on its feet, the team captain placed the kick in the bottom left corner to double the lead.
“Danielle has been the stalwart of the defense for four years,” McGuire said. “We felt it was important that one of the seniors take the penalty today.”