Last week, the No. 10 Cal women’s soccer team (11-2-1) made a trip to Los Angeles to take on heavyweights UCLA and USC. In all fairness, this was the first tough test for the Bears since defeating Texas Tech, and they gave a very strong showing. Cal drew with No. 14 UCLA, 1-1, and defeated No. 6 USC, 1-0. If there were any doubts about the Bears’ credentials against top drawer opposition, they have all been laid to rest.
The results of the two matches have led Cal to a conference record of 4-0-1 and 13 points so far, good for second place in the Pac-12. This week, head coach Neil McGuire’s team will travel north to Eugene, Oregon, to improve that record as it takes on Oregon.
The Ducks are going through a rough patch currently, as they have lost six games in a row and have conceded 14 goals in these matches. They have not won a single match against Pac-12 opponents and sit at 11th on the Pac-12 table.
The Bears, on the other hand, are undefeated in their last seven games and high on confidence after the win over conference giant USC.
“We take it one game at a time,” McGuire said. “We’ve gone into every game confidently, feeling like we have the ability to be competitive and win the game. We’ll do the same while preparing to face Oregon.”
The Bears’ game has thrived in the wide 4-3-3 formation that McGuire utilizes, with the forward line benefiting greatly from the fluidity of the formation. Cal has scored 27 goals, with an average of 1.93 per game. The attacking trio of Ifeoma Onumonu, Arielle Ship and Abigail Kim has plundered 17 of those 27 goals so far.
Another breakout star this year has been freshman midfielder Mia Corbin, who has been very impressive as a box-to-box midfielder. Corbin has managed two goals and an assist so far, but her impact has been much more than the numbers suggest. Her movement and dummy runs to confuse defenses have greatly benefited Cal’s offense. Corbin’s skill set, combined with a deeper role for Emma Fletcher and Miranda Nild’s defensive awareness has created a very potent midfield that will be very troublesome for the fragile Oregon defense.
The Ducks’ offense can cause quite a few problems for the Bears. Oregon was able to put two past a strong UCLA side in its 3-2 loss to the Bruins, who were able to hold Cal’s offense at bay in double overtime. The Bears’ defense should be able to absorb the pressure, provided Cal is able to dominate possession for large stretches. Goalkeeper Emily Boyd and defender Indigo Gibson have been the standout defensive players so far, with Boyd’s nine clean sheets being the fourth most in the nation.
Cal’s free-flowing game is hard to counter, but as Santa Clara and Saint Mary’s have shown this season, it is possible. While Santa Clara played with a pragmatic blend of offense and defense, Saint Mary’s parked the bus and relied on quick counterattacks to take down Cal. So far, Cal’s only losses have come away from home, and Oregon might just resort to a numbers game in defense to outgun its superior opponent.
“We have reviewed films of our own games as well as Oregon’s games to work out a strategy,” McGuire said. “We have to know how they play in order know where and how we can be very effective. Keeping the ball is a large part of our game, and we will try our best to to that.”