Cal men’s soccer looks for redemption against SDSU, UCLA

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It’s not often that teams get a chance to avenge their losses just one week after they happen. But the Cal men’s soccer team will get that chance this weekend when it takes on San Diego State and UCLA on Friday and Sunday, respectively.

The Bears (5-5-2) will get a chance to redeem themselves at home after losing on the road to the Aztecs (6-5-2) and Bruins (7-6-0) by a combined score of 7-0 last weekend. With the two losses, Cal has now gone six games in a row without winning, racking up four losses and two draws in that span.

This streak is notable for a few reasons. For one, it has pushed the Bears to the bottom of the Pac-12, as they are the only team within that conference that hasn’t yet won a game. But just as importantly, in these six games, Cal’s offense has sputtered to a halt. It hasn’t scored in any of the last three games and has scored only .67 goals per game over these six matches. This directly contrasts with the beginning of the season, when the Bears put up 2.3 goals per game, went 5-1-0 and climbed to No. 20 in the polls. Now they’re nowhere to be found in the rankings.

For most of these losses, Cal’s defense was its saving grace, keeping the team in games that it would’ve won with even an average performance from the offense. In the first five games of the winless streak, the Bears gave up an average of only 1.4 goals per game. But perhaps exhausted from not winning the games that it played well in, the defense fell apart against UCLA on Monday. Cal was completely routed, losing, 6-0, and giving up 10 shots on goal.

Much of the blame can fall on the defense for failing to stop UCLA’s onslaught, even when the Bears were aware of the Bruins’ offensive firepower — Cal head coach Kevin Grimes specifically called UCLA “a very good attacking team” before the match.

But the offense isn’t blame free. The Bears were completely rudderless against a UCLA defense that is not very strong, having given up an average of 1.62 goals per game this season. Cal managed only three shots, none on goal, and was never close to scoring.

“I think you always want to improve both sides of the ball,” Grimes said.

The Bears will try to show that the game against UCLA was a fluke this weekend by playing a substantially stronger game on both sides of the ball. Against both San Diego State and UCLA, the Bears will first need to stabilize their defense: No matter how good the offense is, Cal will not win if it gives up six goals.

One element of this will be the goalkeeping situation after freshman Jonathan Klinsmann played the last 60 minutes of the UCLA game when regular starter, redshirt senior Alex Mangels, collided with a Bruin on the team’s third goal. Neither goalie played well, as each gave up three goals, but Klinsmann did manage four saves to Mangels’ zero. The defense, led by sophomores Ugo Rebecchini and Joshua Morton, needs to play a lot better to give

Hooman Yazdanian covers men’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @hoomanyazdanian