No. 21 Cal women’s soccer welcomes USF on Friday

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Lush green grass, pristine white chalk, a flurry of neon boots and the colorful ball whizzing past. No. 21 Cal women’s soccer (6-2-0) continues its five-match homestand, as it faces off against Bay Area opponent, USF, this Friday at Edwards Field.

The Bears will be looking to continue their undefeated run at home, where they have stacked up impressive wins in front of their fans, especially the most recent 4-0 drubbing of UC Davis, where four different players got on the score-sheet.

USF’s performance, on the other hand, has not been up to snuff. It’s currently languishing with a record of 3-5-0, with only one win on the road. USF and Cal have had one common opponent up till now, Cal Poly. While the Bears were able to see off the Mustangs, 1-0, the Dons lost out to them in overtime, 2-1.

On paper, this game seems to be a mismatch with Cal being the heavy favorite. Goalkeeper Emily Boyd leads the nation in clean sheets, with six, while USF has had no clean sheets so far. The Bears have a much better record than the Dons, and are a better scoring team as well with 13 goals as compared to USF’s nine. Cal has only conceded three goals so far, while USF’s goalie, Makayla Presgrave, has had to pick the ball out of the net a whopping 14 times.

This is soccer, however, and surprise results are generally not that much of a surprise. Cal’s recent loss to Saint Mary’s is a brilliant example, as the Gaels, who had not been able to register a single win, opened their account by beating the Bears, 2-0.

“First of all, we’ve always got to honor our opponent,” said Cal head coach Neil McGuire. “We have to understand that any team can beat us if we’re not sharp. Against Saint Mary’s we did not pass the ball well and it contributed to our loss. This week we will be more precise with our passing game and focus on executing our creative ideas well.”

As has been the case throughout the season, expect Cal to line up in the 4-3-3 formation. McGuire’s team is adept at dominating possession throughout the game and his strategy of stretching play through the wings has helped in creating a number of chances for the team. USF’s biggest threat will be midfielder Amanda Whittle, who has scored four goals and assisted on two so far. The Bears’ magnificent defense, led by Indigo Gibson and Annia Mejia, should have no problems, however, to deal with what is a toothless forward line.

Cal’s forward line of Arielle Ship, Ifeoma Onumonu and Abigail Kim has clicked very well so far as the three players have scored six of Cal’s 13 goals so far. Moreover, Ship also assisted Onumonu’s first goal of the season against Cal Poly. Add to that the tactical adaptability of Emma Fletcher, Kelly Fitzgerald and Miranda Nild, and Cal should firmly be in the driving seat for this match. The offense has clicked very well this season, and the presence of home support should make it even better.

“This is an amazing place to play,” McGuire said. “This field is perfect for the brand of soccer we play as we move the ball quickly. To play in front of our fans who are energized by our style of play, it is great indeed.”

Devang Prasad covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @DevangPrasad