As Cal midfielder Jose Carrera-Garcia curled a shot toward the far post eight minutes into the inaugural game of the Cal men’s soccer season, the No. 16 Bears seemed destined to begin the new year with the type of dominance expected of a top-25 squad.
Just a split-second later, it became clear that San Diego was also looking to prove that it belongs in that conversation. As Carrera-Garcia’s shot hurdled toward its mark from near the back of the box, Torero goalkeeper Thomas Olsen found the ball at just the right moment, making a remarkable save to deny Cal the early advantage in San Diego on Friday night.
Unfortunately for the Bears, that would not be the last time San Diego’s standout sophomore stopped a quality scoring opportunity. Cal struggled against Olsen throughout the match, ultimately falling, 3-0, to San Diego despite recording four shots on goal. The Bears now return home with a 0-1-0 record before facing VCU and Northeastern.
“(Olsen) made four great saves in the game, and he’s an excellent goalkeeper,” said Cal head coach Kevin Grimes. “He certainly played a great game last night, and he certainly made a difference for their team.”
From the start, it was apparent that the Toreros would be a tough matchup for Cal. The two teams played a tight first half, with the Bears registering six shots to San Diego’s seven. Yet neither squad was able to capitalize on those efforts. In the 14th minute of play, a shot by Cal forward Paul Salcedo missed by just inches, and a second attempt by the sophomore in the 28th minute also fell victim to a solid save by Olsen. Those efforts complemented a cohesive defensive performance from the Bears that consistently created difficulty for the Toreros in the first frame.
“On a different day, we could have been up 1 or 2-nothing at halftime,” Grimes said. “It was just one of those situations where the keeper made a couple great saves. We were very close to scoring — it just didn’t quite happen, but we felt really good about how we played.”
San Diego finally broke the scoring drought in the 50th minute, when midfielder Djordje Babic took advantage of a deflection off Cal goalkeeper redshirt senior Alex Mangels to give the Toreros the lead. The goal was preceded by a blocked attempt by senior transfer and former Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year Marvin Schmiege that left Mangels out of position to respond to Babic’s quick followup.
Five minutes later, Schmiege would strike again, this time successfully sinking a close-range shot to double San Diego’s lead. And despite several impressive plays by Cal in the ensuing minutes, the Bears could not get past Olsen’s performance. An additional 73rd-minute goal by Torero midfielder Torrey DeArmas eventually finalized the score.
“In the second half, they did a very good job,” Grimes said. “In the first 10 minutes of the second half, they had two chances, and they scored both of them. And that was really the difference in the match — that we had perhaps more quality chances than they did, but they put their quality chances away.”
Dani Jo Coony covers men’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected].