Cal men’s soccer drubs Sacramento State but struggles in scoreless snoozefest against UC Riverside

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Whether it’s at the youth, collegiate or professional level, consistency is one of the most difficult parts of soccer to master. For the Cal men’s soccer team, the ability to put two well-played games together remains an issue.

After easily taking care of Sacramento State on Thursday, winning 6-2, the Bears struggled throughout much of Sunday’s game against UC Riverside and walked away with a scoreless draw.

On Thursday, the Bears headed down to Avaya Stadium, the MLS home of the San Jose Earthquakes, to take on Sacramento State. Through Cal’s first three matches, the team has looked impressive in most aspects of its game, with the exception being in the attacking third. Against a weaker opposition in the Hornets, the Bears aimed to break out of its offensive rut and put a drubbing on the Hornets.

In what can best be characterized as a physical match that saw 31 total fouls, four yellow cards and four penalty kicks, Cal was able to prevail. While the Bears were impressive from start to finish, the hero of the game was senior midfielder Shinya Kadono, who recorded four goals on the evening, bringing his total tally up to five goals this season.

From the onset, the Bears were the aggressors and dictated possession. The Bears found their early breakthrough when a costly error by a Hornets player gifted possession to redshirt freshman Alonzo Del Mondo. The attacking left midfielder didn’t waste the opportunity and calmly slotted the ball over the goalkeeper to give the Bears a 1-0 advantage.

Only a few minutes later, the Bears doubled their advantage when a beautiful cross from junior forward Simon Lekressner was met by a strong Kadono header.

The Hornets would get on the scoreboard after senior midfielder Dominic Scotti converted a penalty kick to cut the Bears’ lead in half. Cal would rebound quickly, however, and regain its two-goal cushion when Kadono scored his second goal of the game via an assist from sophomore defender Christopher Grey just before halftime.

The second half saw the Bears maintain a stranglehold over the game. In the 53rd minute, Kadono recorded his hat trick after a calm penalty kick. Two minutes later, Hornets freshman forward Benji Kikanovic converted from the spot after a yellow card was shown to Cal’s junior goalkeeper Drake Callender.

The Bears would add two more goals in the second half, with Kadono’s fourth score of the match and a solid effort by freshman midfielder Taylor Davila.

All in all, Cal took care of business in a dominant and clinical exhibition. UC Riverside on Sunday, however, was a different story.

While Friday’s game saw the Bears take advantage of their numerous opportunities, Sunday’s affair was a pure dogfight. Although the Highlanders came into the game winless in their first four games, UC Riverside dug into the midfield and caused problems for Cal throughout the entire game. Seemingly every time Cal was in a threatening position, the Highlanders would park the bus and halt the Bears’ attack.

At the end of regulation, the game was knotted at zero apiece.

In the overtime period, Cal came out aggressively, and it looked as if the Bears would break the deadlock. It was not to be, however, as the game ended 0-0 when the final whistle blew.

“The defensive effort and the battling was great, but the quality in the final third was very low compared to just three nights ago when we scored six goals and had wonderful crosses and great shots on frame,” said Cal head coach Kevin Grimes.

With a robust 3-1-1 record, the Bears will now regroup and get ready for their next matches against Delaware and UMass Lowell next weekend in Berkeley.

Praveen Kuruppu covers men’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].