As the final seconds slipped off the clock, Cal goalkeeper Alex Mangels launched a desperate attempt.
Soaring across Goldman Field, Mangels’ pass wanted to find the feet of a blue-jerseyed player who could pull off a miracle in the conference opener of the Cal men’s soccer season against No. 3 Stanford. Instead, the ball landed in the possession of the Cardinal’s Adam Mosharrafa, and the crowd began preparing to head home as the the Bears were dealt a 2-1 loss to their Pac-12 rival (8-1-0).
But while Cal (5-3-0) ultimately wasn’t able to surpass the Cardinal on Sunday, the team began the evening looking to prove that it could keep pace with its elite competition.
In just the third minute of play, forward Paul Salcedo drove the ball down right field with only a few red striped shirts in his vicinity. He took a shot from inside the box, which was blocked and deflected into the path of teammate Jose Carrera-Garcia. The midfielder saw the opportunity and sent a shot barreling toward the net. But goalkeeper Andrew Epstein was in just the right position to block the attempt, and Cal was kept from gaining the early advantage.
In the 14th minute, the Bears would get another promising opportunity. A tangle in the box left Epstein out of location and Salcedo alone near the top of the 6-yard box. But awkward positioning led to a misdirected shot, and the fans at Edwards Stadium could only watch as the ball languidly rolled wide.
“The play happened so quick, but in my mind, it was happening so slow,” Salcedo said. “It was obviously to my left foot — that’s not my strong foot — but this whole week at practice, it was all left foot. Coach had me emphasize left foot.”
Cal would soon feel the consequences of those missed opportunities. One minute after Salcedo’s missed effort, Stanford midfielder Eric Verso sent a cross to teammate Corey Baird, who shot the ball toward the top of the post. Mangels was there to make the save, but a whistle put the Cardinal on the penalty line. Defender Brandon Vincent sunk the opportunity to give Stanford a 1-0 advantage.
That lead would be doubled just three minutes later after an explosive drive from midfield by the Cardinal. Down near the top of the 18-yard box, Baird chipped the ball to forward Foster Langsdorf, and the sophomore took the long shot, which rocketed past Mangels to give Stanford some breathing room moving into the last part of the frame.
Despite the 2-0 deficit, the Bears weren’t ready to let the Cardinal get comfortable. Back in the game after walking off the field with an injury minutes earlier, Salcedo crossed the ball to forward Trevor Long near the 30th minute. A whistle quickly followed, and Carrera-Garcia capitalized on the penalty kick to put his team within striking distance heading into the second half.
Neither team, however, would be able to add to its tally in the remainder of the match. Though possession time trended toward the Bears in the second frame, the Cardinal effectively stymied Cal’s attack as Stanford put forth an impressive defensive performance. Just three of the Bears’ nine shots were on goal, and Epstein made three solid saves to maintain his team’s lead.
“We created great chances today to score multiple goals,” said Cal head coach Kevin Grimes. “It was just one of those days where they didn’t fall for us.”
Dani Jo Coony covers men’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected].