The Cal men’s soccer team’s outing Friday coincidentally portrayed how the United States is going through a period of uncertainty. The Bears couldn’t effectively play as a cohesive unit to put a damper on Stanford’s Pac-12 Championship celebrations. Cal head coach Kevin Grimes failed to inspire his side to believe in itself again and put aside the memory of its abysmal October results in order to help give his seniors a proper farewell on Senior Day.
“The seniors had great careers,” Grimes said. “They’ve influenced the program on different types of levels, some on the field and some of the field, some both.”
But the seniors couldn’t calm their younger teammates’ nerves in a 2-1 overtime loss against the powerful Cardinal. As a unit, the Bears played like shadows of their former selves. They often carelessly conceded possession through bad passes and defensive lapses on their side of the field.
Stanford didn’t let these pockets of opportunity pass it by as it took advantage of Cal’s struggles to take the lead in the eighth minute. The Cardinal’s Amir Bashti wonderfully nutmegged Bear defender Joshua Morton on the left flank to calmly dart into the 18-yard box, where he curled the ball toward goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann’s far post.
Conceding an early goal appeared to have demoralized Grimes’s men and put them in panic mode, giving Stanford the chance to efficiently control the tempo of the game by holding possession well and threading passes past Cal’s backline with pinpoint precision. Had it not been for Klinsmann’s solo efforts between the posts, the Bears would have likely lost by a much more staggering margin. Klinsmann made save after save in the face of danger to keep the opposition at bay, and his heroics didn’t go in vain.
Cal drew level in the 56th minute, thanks to junior Trevor Long. With only a few inches of grass left before the ball rolled out of bounds, Long instinctively tried to cross the ball into the heart of the box. The awkward angle worked in his favor. An incoming Stanford defender couldn’t react well enough to avoid shooting it into his own goal, putting the Bears level, 1-1.
The equalizer and Klinsmann’s individual performance, however, weren’t enough to slow down the Cardinal’s scintillating offensive game in regulation time and overtime. Stanford’s Foster Langsdorf notched the game winner with a header in the 98th minute, ruining Cal’s Senior Day.
Though the results were disheartening — a word that sums up the numerous times that Grimes’ side has come close to coming away with a decent result — senior defender and captain Nick Lima reflected on his last game and years with the Bears in a positive light.
“It’s been the pleasure of my life so far to fight every day with these guys and despite the tough losses, come back every time and keep standing back up and fighting.” Lima said. “I hope for their success in the future. I think it’ll come. They’re hard workers, they’re resilient, and they got great leadership here. I think positive things are coming in the future.”