Just two days after its first home game of the season against VCU, the Cal men’s soccer team will have the luxury of staying in familiar territory as it welcomes Northeastern to Edwards Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The upcoming pair of home games follows a rough road trip for Cal to San Diego in its 2015 season-opener. Against San Diego, the Bears struggled to overcome an impressive defensive performance from the Toreros, eventually falling 3-0 despite registering 13 shots total and four shots on goal. Cal now enters this weekend unranked and looking to capitalize on the unrealized offensive potential it began to build in its season debut.
“We feel like we made some great strides from our last preseason game against Saint Mary’s to the San Diego game, although the scoreboard wouldn’t indicate that,” said Cal head coach Kevin Grimes. “But when you look at the performance of the team, it was actually a quite improved performance. It was just a situation where they did a very good job of finishing their chances, and the chances we created, we simply didn’t score.”
Meanwhile, the Huskies (0-0-1) arrive in the Bay Area also eager to notch their first victory of the year. A member of the Colonial Athletic Association, Northeastern tied their first nonconference opponent of the season, Temple, 1-1 to begin its 2015 campaign. The Huskies’ scoring effort was highlighted by sophomore forward Frantzdy Pierrot, who recorded six shots and notched his team’s only goal of the game in the 19th minute.
On defense, highly touted freshman defenders Andrew Lombard and Martin Nygaard made their career debuts as part of Northeastern’s starting roster last weekend. Lombard, however, was recently called up to play with the U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team and will likely not make an appearance against Cal this weekend as he competes overseas. His absence could leave a hole in the Huskies’ defense that will need to be addressed before they take on the Bears this weekend.
But before they face Cal on Sunday, the Huskies will first have to face another Pac-12 opponent. While the Bears battle VCU on Friday evening, Northeastern will take on No. 16 Stanford. Based on the Huskies’ game against the Cardinal, Cal will be able to better gauge its unfamiliar opponent.
In the meantime, Cal has many of its own adjustments to make after a season debut that left questions to be answered about the future of the Bears’ young fleet. Some of those doubts include the ability of the defense to contain their opponents’ scoring opportunities in the box — something Cal struggled with last weekend. The squad will have its first chance to correct its shortcomings against the Rams, who will pose another unfamiliar challenge for Cal at home.
“We’ll be able to hear a little bit more about them (Northeastern) after their game at Stanford, but we pretty much have to kind of keep them a little bit on the backburner until we get through Friday’s game at VCU,” Grimes said.
Dani Jo Coony covers men’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected].