Cal men’s soccer loses to No. 16 Washington in overtime

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Another home game. Another close matchup. Another overtime loss.

The Cal men’s soccer team (5-8-2) fell to the No. 16 Huskies (11-4-0) in overtime, 2-1, marking the second time in its last three home games that the team has dropped a match in extra time.

“It was a thorough performance by the team,” said Cal head coach Kevin Grimes. “We just need to score in overtime to try and end it, and we just didn’t. That’s really what it came down to.”

With the pitch nowhere near as soggy and chewed up as it was the last time the Bears were at home, Cal was finally able to play exceptional defense in the first half. Washington did not look like a team that had scored three goals its last game or 26 on the season. Instead, the Huskies were met with solid defenders every time they entered Cal’s penalty box, leaving all of their six shots during the first half null.

“Ugo (Rebecchini) was great, Nick Lima, Josh Morton, Sammy Junqua. I mean they all did a good job,” Grimes said. “Jorge (Miranda) came in at the end and did fantastic, you can’t fault them at all. They really did great.”

But Cal did not fare any better offensively. The Bears countered Washington’s six shots with eight of their own, with several opportunities appearing to have just enough height and trajectory to make it in. But every time a Cal player would rush down the field to center the ball or attempt to shoot it himself, a Husky defender would, just in the knick of time, deflect the ball from entering the goal or execute a goal-saving tackle. The Huskies’ side of the pitch oftentimes looked like a foosball court, with Cal’s forwards and midfielders playing the role of the players being aggressively rotated by a competitive 12-year-old.

Perhaps the best opportunity for a Cal goal came in the 44th minute, when defender Nick Lima took possession of a deflected ball after a penalty kick. He shot an absolute laser into the Washington net, which would have been a shoe-in goal if it were any higher or either slightly left or right. But it instead fired full speed ahead an arm’s length above goalkeeper Auden Schilder’s head and was caught to keep the game even at 0-0.

It looked to be more of the same story going into the second half until the Bears were quickly woken up by Washington forward Kyle Coffee. A hole in the defense allowed Coffee to make his way into Cal’s box, firing off a bullet past a diving Jonathan Klinsmann in the 50th minute.

The defensive battle ensued from there, and for the next 20 minutes, Cal could not catch a break. It wasn’t until the 73rd minute that an unlikely hero emerged.

Instead of the usual big names on offense — Christian Thierjung, Jose Carrera-Garcia, Spencer Held — it was freshman Simon Lekressner who injected new life into the Bear offense. He aimed low, shooting an easy goal.

The defensive showdown continued into the final minutes of the game and into overtime. But there would be no overtime heroics for the Bears, as Washington’s David Coly hit the game-winning shot in the 100th minute of the game, just 23 seconds before the end of the first overtime period.

“It was a great performance, we just haven’t gotten any results,” Grimes said. “We will look to change that in the spring.”

But, as always, Grimes and his men have to put their loss on the back burner and shift their attention to Sunday’s matchup against Oregon State. The Beavers will also be coming off a loss heading into their matchup, so both teams will have extra motivation heading into the conclusion of the Bears’ weekend series.

Chris Tril covers men’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].