Cal junior defender Nick Lima runs to a loose ball and gathers it, with two Santa Clara defenders in between him and the penalty box. But Lima isn’t concerned as he calmly dribbles past both of them and looks up. He sees a teammate, sophomore midfielder Aravind Sivakumar, unmarked at the back post. Lima fires off a cross. It’s too low, but it doesn’t matter, as it finds its target and Sivakumar easily nets his first goal of the season.
This goal came in the seventh minute of Friday’s game. Cal held the majority of possession throughout the first half and consistently created chances in the Broncos’ half of the field. Sivakumar’s goal, however, was the only time when the No. 20 Bears’ (5-2-0) superior play actually led to a goal. This inability to capitalize ultimately proved costly, as Santa Clara (4-5-0) came back and won, 2-1, on its home field.
“We had a really great first 20 to 25 minutes,” said Cal head coach Kevin Grimes. “(Santa Clara) took their chance well at the end of the game, and that was the difference.”
The Broncos kept the floodgates from opening in the first part of the game largely because of the play of their goalkeeper, senior Kendall McIntosh. On more than one instance, the Bears looked like they were about to tack on a second goal before McIntosh swooped in. Cal sophomore forward Paul Salcedo had the most notable of these chances in the 37th minute, when he led a counterattack and found himself wide open from the top of the box. He fired a shot, but McIntosh perfectly timed his dive to knock the ball out of bounds for a corner kick that would prove harmless.
Santa Clara made sure its goalkeeper’s efforts weren’t wasted, as the Broncos relentlessly attacked the Bears’ defense, which had been surprisingly strong throughout this season: Cal came into the contest giving up an average of one goal per game.
The Broncos’ first goal came when junior midfielder Dylan Autran tied the game in the 25th minute. Santa Clara was awarded an indirect free kick after Cal redshirt senior goalkeeper Alex Mangels committed a foul. On indirect free kicks, the initial kick taker has to pass and isn’t allowed to shoot it right away. This didn’t bother Santa Clara junior defender Brennan Castro, who found Autran. The junior didn’t hesitate to shoot despite being surrounded by players from both teams, and the ball somehow found the back of the net.
The real backbreaker came in the 84th minute.
It looked as if both teams would have to settle for a draw, which would have been an impressive result for the underdog Broncos. But Santa Clara’s offense wasn’t done, as its star player, sophomore forward Carlos Delgadillo, jumped on a loose ball and fired a shot into the net. Freshman goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann (Mangels was subbed out in the 52nd minute because of a hamstring injury) — dove for the ball but couldn’t come through with a difficult save. The Bears made another push on offense to try to salvage the draw in the last few minutes, but they ultimately saw their five-game winning streak come to an end.
“We just didn’t convert as many chances as we have been in the past games,” Grimes said. “Ultimately, they put their chances away, and we did not put ours away. That’s really what it came down to at the end.”