“What goes around comes around” has become the mantra for the Cal men’s soccer team this season. On Sunday, the Bears defeated San Diego State 1-0, reversing the two one-goal losses they suffered at the hand of San Diego State last season and allowing them to start conference play at 2-0.
This, combined with Thursday’s win against UCLA, clearly expresses Cal’s marked improvements from last season, where it went 1-8-1 in conference play. The Bears’ 2-0 defeat of the Bruins could have initiated a period of relaxed play in the subsequent games, but Cal managed to keep its energy up, motivated by head coach Kevin Grimes’ constant striving to improve on the minute details.
“I think that’s important that we continue to try and bring to each match an enhancement of our good play… and not stay neutral,” Grimes said.
The triumph over the Aztecs indeed was not a particularly effortless task. At the SDSU Sports Deck, the score stayed tied 0-0 until the last 11 seconds of the game, when junior Shinya Kadono, assisted by senior Ugo Rebecchini, capitalized on a rebound for a buzzer-beating score. Rebecchini’s shot at 89:44 had bounced off the post and rolled back to Kadono who was able to knock it past a frazzled goalkeeper and generate Cal’s win.
Kadono, Cal’s leading goal scorer with 5 goals, has been pushed into a more crucial role on the team in the past few games, a surprising fact after only playing a maximum of 30 minutes per game in the 2016 season. Kadono is not the only one to have solidified his place on this season’s team.
There were six Cal athletes who played all 90 minutes of the matchup: Rebecchini, junior Samuel Ebstein, senior Jose Carrera-Garcia, redshirt freshman David Burns, freshman Christopher Grey and sophomore Drake Callender. Additionally, senior Joshua Morton played 89 minutes of the game.
These core midfielders and defenders act as the glue for the squad, as the Bears have been emphasizing ball control through the middle of the field as a means to switch the ball back and forth.
The Bears seem to benefit from their small number of substitutions, a tactic which allows them to develop a personalized flow of play complete with artful give-and-go’s and through-balls. The Aztecs leveled with this playing style for nearly 90 minutes, and it was only a defensive lapse in the final seconds that prevented overtime play.
“I didn’t think too much about whether it was a conference game or not,” Grimes said. “We knew it was going to be a difficult game, and the staff tried to prepare the team as seamlessly as we could as we have been doing all the other games. All the games we have on our schedule are really important.”
As Cal has been making up for past losses, it looks towards its looming faceoff against Stanford this coming weekend. While last season, the Bears were never able to come out on top of the Cardinal, their newfound confidence and rhythm should lend to an exciting matchup, after which they might be able to utilize their new team motto.
Lucy Schaefer covers men’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected]