Urban legend says that the grizzly bear has an aversion to trees, and that myth definitely proved true in the Cal men’s soccer matchup against the Stanford last Sunday. Coming off a 3-0 loss at home, the Bears are seeking a more successful faceoff against their fellow temperate environment creature, the Oregon State Beavers, on Thursday at Edwards Stadium.
“We have had a good reaction after the losses earlier in the year, so I would hope and anticipate we have a good reaction for Thursday,” said Cal head coach Kevin Grimes.
Oregon State, despite an unimpressive 4-7 record, should not be underestimated. In order to secure a victory, Cal will need to clamp down on defense, as Oregon State boasts strong attacking players in seniors Timmy Mueller and Jordan Jones.
Jones has led the Beavers in scoring for the past two seasons and was named to the Pac-12 Second Team both years. Mueller, hailing from Idaho, is also a prominent contributor to Oregon State’s offensive efforts and has the second most shots on goal this fall. Cal’s defense will have to work hard to cover both of these forwards and could perhaps benefit from a more defensive mindset at the outset of the game before it gets a good sense of Oregon State’s playing style.
“(Mueller and Jones) are both good-sized guys. They are tall and strong in the air, and they can definitely cause some problems on set pieces or running play situations off crosses, too,” Grimes said. “They are strong on the attack.”
As they work to keep the ball away from the Cal’s bottom third of the field, senior defenders Joshua Morton and Ugo Rebecchini, as well as redshirt freshman David Burns, will be incredibly busy. They’ve all had to play 90 minutes in the past few games, and they will get no rest against Oregon State.
Aside from their forwards, the Beavers’ record reveals that their defense is far from impenetrable, which is good news for Cal, whose goal-scoring attempts were continually thwarted by the Cardinal’s strong defense Sunday.
Against Stanford, Cal’s problem was not creating offensive opportunities but ensuring shots on frame. The Bears and Cardinal tied with 12 shots each, but Stanford trumped Cal with eight shots on goal to Cal’s five. Greater accuracy will require persistence from Cal’s dominant forwards, such as junior Spencer Held and senior Paul Salcedo-Borrego. They’ve both had shining moments throughout the season but are generally inconsistent in terms of delivering shots on goal each game.
Last season, the Bears produced a 2-2 tie and a 1-0 loss against Oregon State, so Cal’s motivation to redeem itself adds an emotional component to the game — although the Bears have been trying to stay as methodical as possible while assessing their opponents.
While Stanford managed to shut down the Bears’ six-game win streak, Cal is looking to start it up again and bump the Beavers’ record even further down. To get the season back on track, it will have to stick to its strategy of simple ball movement to tire out its opponent while keeping a special eye out for Oregon State’s attacking lineup.
Lucy Schaefer covers men’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected]