In the first half of extra time during the match between Cal and the University of San Francisco, the referee had to stop the timer. Two Dons were lying in the middle of the pitch, writhing in pain for minutes after being knocked down by the Bears.
It was a common sight throughout the match. Both USF and the Cal men’s soccer team unleashed hard tackles for all 110 minutes. The physicality began to take its toll.
Thirty total fouls, five yellow cards and one ejection later, the final whistle blew on Sunday, the match ended in a sloppy 0-0 tie.
“It’s against USF — it’s always going to be a rough match,” defender Christian Dean said. “They like to come in hard, and we aren’t too bad at going in harder.”
Before Sunday afternoon, the Bears (3-2-1) expected a physically rugged match against the Dons. As perennial opponents, both sides came in mentally prepared for the battle.
“All our guys know all their guys,” Cal assistant coach Pieter Lehrer said. “Whether it’s USF, Santa Clara, or Stanford, any local rivalry is always physical.”
Both Cal and USF shot 32 total shots, but very few shots threatened the goalpost and the goalkeeper. While Bears goalkeeper Kevin Peach recorded eight saves this match, most of his saves were non-threatening shots.
The Dons (2-1-2) attacked first with arguably their best chance of the entire match in the seventh minute. In the middle of a Cal defensive breakdown following a USF corner kick, a Don shot the ball at point blank range that barely missed the goalpost by Peach’s fingertip save.
The Bears couldn’t find their offensive groove for the entire match. Cal’s attacking style is to quickly rotate the ball around the penalty box until a defensive hole can be found. Against USF, the Bears had no time and space to camp around the penalty box like a colony of vultures.
“USF tended to sit back more and congest the space. Getting the free flow play and the combination plays were a lot more harder,” midfielder Seth Casiple said.
Cal midfielder Tony Salciccia led his team in attacking opportunities with four shots. Despite Salciccia snaked his way around the defense and found good space the entire match, his shots constantly soared over the goalpost.
By the end of the second half, both teams looked fatigued and bruised. The Bears, who played a match against Houston Baptist on Tuesday, had to make minor roster adjustments to keep their players fresh.
“It was a big concern,” Casiple said. “By the end of the second half and in extra time, some of our guys were going down.”
In extra time, both sides were unable to create any real chances to get the golden goal. The fatigue and the frustration began to boil over, and the tackles became more reckless.
In the 108th minute, Cal midfielder Alec Sundly received his second yellow card and an ejection after a badly timed sliding tackle. In ways, Sundly’s ejection was the perfect climax to this bruiser of a match.
“We expected a grinder, and that’s what we got,” Casiple said.
Seung Y. Lee covers men’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected]