The 2016 presidential election results left a bitter taste and wretched feeling in the gut among many Berkeley residents and students, who will likely feel anxiety and anger in the coming days upon the sight of anything red. Those tensions may only worsen when Stanford (10-3-4) comes to town Friday and takes the field at Edwards Stadium, while sporting it’s iconic colors to face the bottom-dwelling Cal men’s soccer team (5-9-2).
Politics, however, will need to be placed aside in the interest of sportsmanship and the love of the beautiful game.
The Bears will try find some solace in their underwhelming season by upsetting a strong Cardinal team that beat them, 1-0, last month in a close encounter. Stanford, on the other hand, will look to secure and lift the Pac-12 Championship in Bear territory, while once again flexing its dominance over Cal head coach Kevin Grimes’ side.
The potential sight of Stanford celebrating a championship victory couldn’t have possibly been avoided, considering how effectively the Cardinal dispatched their opposition in convincing fashion and salvaged a few points in hard-fought ties. Cal could have at least gone into Friday’s match in a much better position had it consistently found the back of the net to cap off its entertaining displays of soccer.
But that was then, and this is now.
Although the Bears have little to play for at this point, they need to approach this match like a championship final to at least give their faithful supporters something to cheer about. A brilliant performance, coupled with a win or draw, will help assure they are making strides to improve for a better campaign next year.
Eyes will be on redshirt junior midfielder Jose Carrera-Garcia, sophomore goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann and junior forward Paul Salcedo to excel and help inspire a Cal offense that has had trouble scoring for a long time now. A lot of attention will be on the trio, as they are poised to inherit a significant portion of the mantle of leadership in the coming seasons. They will be be expected to show signs of brilliance on both ends of the pitch to help give seniors Nick Lima and Christian Thierjung a proper farewell for their services with the team.
If Carrera-Garcia, Klinsmann and Salcedo find their stride against a cohesive Stanford squad that has effectively broken down and overwhelmed its adversaries, they will have a chance at linking up with Lima darting through wings and Thierjung looking to find pockets of space to beat the Cardinal’s offside trap. More importantly, if Lima and Thierjung can get on the scoreboard or constantly trouble Stanford’s defense, the Bears will have the opportunity to match the Cardinal on offense, instead of being dealt the task of absorbing and clearing any potential danger.
Defeating Stanford won’t be an easy feat. But if Thierjung can find the back of the net or rediscover the offensive flair that helped him record seven goals in three matches during September, a victory or tie isn’t difficult to conceive.
A positive result will help Thierjung, Lima and senior Trevor Haberkorn walk away from Edwards Stadium as Cal players for the last time with their heads held high, knowing they left it all on the pitch against their eternal rival.