Cal men’s soccer could not have asked for a better outcome when they left UCLA on Thursday night. The evening’s 2-0 victory not only opened up a two-game road trip favorably, but also kicked off the team’s conference schedule on the right foot.
Any troubles that Cal has had scoring early this season were non-evident on Thursday, as junior forward Samuel Ebstein knocked in his first goal of the season in just the 13th minute. Shortly after halftime, junior midfielder Shinya Kadono sealed the Bears’ second goal of the game. Kadono now leads the team in goals with four, including an impressive two-goal performance against USF earlier this season.
Cal has former Pac-12 Player of the Week and sophomore goalie Drake Callender to thank for the zero side of the 2-0 result, as his six saves led the team to its third shutout of the year.
“We had guys putting in great effort in terms of pure work rate and I think that was the big difference tonight,” said Cal head coach Kevin Grimes. “Several players on the team played well defensively. (Callender) had a really strong match as well so that was a big plus for tonight.”
With this singular win at UCLA, Cal has already matched its conference win total from last season. Its lone Pac-12 victory last season also came against the Bruins at Drake Stadium.
The Bears had been receiving votes in the United Soccer Coaches’ poll prior to Thursday, and there’s no doubt that the win against a powerhouse like UCLA, who was narrowly ranked second in the Pac-12 preseason poll, will be looked upon favorably.
Continuing their jaunt about Southern California, Cal will face SDSU on Sunday— in the first of two games they will play against the Aztecs this season.
In its opening half of the season, SDSU has logged an equal number of wins and losses with a record of 4-4 and curiously enough no matter the outcome, the game is always within two goals.
If we were looking at Cal’s team last season, it would be difficult to predict the outcome of this game, with both teams clearly struggling to finish, the matchup could have gone either way. And last year Cal lost both games to SDSU 1-0.
But not this season.
“Anything that has happened in the past is purely the past at this point,” Grimes said. “If we can maintain that mindset that we… know our opponents present a challenge to us, but we take care of our own issues and our own capabilities, we can feel like we are prepared for every game.”
The Bears who are now 6-2 (the best starting record they have enjoyed since the 2014 season) are poised to enter their matchup with the Aztecs with a level of confidence that is bound to enhance their style of play.
That said, SDSU will still pose a challenge as it boasts senior Jeroen Meefout a player from the Netherlands who is fourth in the Pac-12 for scoring, along with goalkeeper Adam Allmaras who lead the team to two shutouts in Texas.