When Cal midfielder Jose Carrera-Garcia chipped a 54th-minute pass over Davidson’s defense Friday, he found himself in a familiar situation under the late-afternoon shadows at Edwards Stadium.
Carrera-Garcia’s dish found forward Paul Salcedo, whose pass ended up at the feet of defender Joshua Morton for an easy close-range finish. Carrera-Garcia’s assist marked his third of the game, and he now leads the Bears in assists this year as the young squad continues build its offensive identity in the nonconference portion of the season.
“It always feels great getting on the stat sheet, but it was a good effort by everyone,” Carrera-Garcia said after the Bears’ win Friday. “Ball movement was great today, and everyone was following shots and following plays.”
The Bears’ efficient performance ultimately led to a 3-0 trouncing of the Wildcats (2-3-2) in the first of two nonconference matchups this past weekend. On Sunday, Cal followed up with a 3-1 victory over Bay Area neighbor San Francisco (2-6-0) to extend the Bears’ home win streak to five and improve their record to 5-1-0.
Cal wasted little time in initiating its dominant homestand performance. In just the ninth minute of play Friday, Cal forward Christian Thierjung connected on a cross from Carrera-Garcia to send a shot rattling into the net from inside the box and give the Bears the early advantage. Just less than 10 minutes later, the score was doubled after a shot from Carrera-Garcia deflected into the path of Salcedo. The sophomore finished with a clean drive into the net past out-of-position Davidson goalkeeper Matt Pacifici, putting the Bears up 2-0 before heading into the second half.
“I thought we came out strong certainly, where it seemed like our game against Davis it took us a half to get going,” said Cal head coach Kevin Grimes after Friday’s game. “It looked like today we really came out strong and with good energy and a good willingness to try and attack from the first minute on.”
Despite a few threatening attempts from the Wildcats, the Bears kept their nonconference opponent scoreless through the remainder of the match, stopping four shots on goal from the Atlantic-10 squad. Meanwhile, Morton’s 54th-minute score — which marked his first career goal — allowed the Bears to drive the victory home with a comfortable 3-0 finish.
At first, Sunday’s match against San Francisco looked like it would tell a similar story. Again, the Bears gained the early advantage, this time with a successful free kick from Carrera-Garcia in the 13th minute of play. And despite the Dons outshooting Cal 5-3 in the first half, the Bears held off their opponents to keep the 1-0 lead heading into the second frame.
The score remained locked until the 60th minute, when San Francisco midfielder Jesus Del Toro sent a shot barreling past goalkeeper Alex Mangels to give the Dons the equalizer.
But the tie wouldn’t last long. In the 63rd minute, Thierjung scored his third goal of the season off assists from Carrera-Garcia and forward Trevor Long. And just three minutes later, the lead grew again after an arcing cross from Matt Chasman inside the box found Thierjung. The junior capitalized, hurdling the ball past Dons goalkeeper Andre Glasnovic to give the Bears the final score of the game.
“There’s still some areas that I think we can improve on on both sides of the ball — both defensively and in the attack,” Grimes said. “I certainly don’t think we’ve played our best game yet. However I do like that we are improving for week to week and that’s a great sign.”
Dani Jo Coony covers men’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected].