“You kind of hope that what goes around comes around,” said Cal men’s soccer head coach Kevin Grimes, an expression that has the potential to become a common theme for the Bears this season.
After losing last week’s home opener against West Virginia 1-0, Cal, a skillful team that has extreme difficulty in finishing scoring opportunities, managed to turn the tables and defeat Northeastern 1-0 on Friday.
This success however was short lived as Cal fell to No. 23 Creighton 3-0 on Sunday, leaving the Bears with a weekend record of 1-1, and an overall losing record.
In Friday’s sweltering triple degree weather, the heat played an integral role in Cal’s matchup against Northeastern. The sun radiating down on Edwards Stadium turf forced Cal to switch the field horizontally and quickly in order to decrease the amount of up-and-down the field running, and also necessitated frequent substitutions.
“I don’t think this was a Cal soccer Picasso by any stretch of the imagination but… I was most excited about how many guys came off the bench,” Grimes said. “We had to play with 19-20 guys today and all of them contributed quite well.”
The Bears consistently created opportunities but were unable to sustain enough manpower in the box to finish. In the last 10 minutes of the half, Cal was dominating possession in the final third of the field, and went into halftime leading Northeastern seven shots to five and three corners to one. Yet the 0-0 score after 45 minutes indicated an even matchup on both offense and defense.
The Bears came out in the second half guns blazing, recording a shot on goal and securing a free kick within the first minute of play. The unrelenting attack finally paid off in the 79th minute when an artful give-and-go in the 18-yard box between juniors Samuel Ebstein and Spencer Held lent Held a goal, putting the Bears up 1-0.
With a point finally on the scoreboard, the defense and sophomore goalkeeper Drake Callender warded off Husky offensive attempts in the final ten minutes to secure the win.
“When it got a little bit colder and the sun went away, we were able to really play Cal soccer and able to shift and move the ball from side to side. We were able to get the goal in the end,” Held said. “We need to take advantage of the opportunities that we get, and we need to put them away.”
On Sunday, with temperatures slightly lower, the Bears faced off against Creighton, a traditionally talented team that recruits players from across the world.
The diversity of players was apparent in the Bluejay’s playing style. While Creighton exhibited a lot of individually talented players, the team had a harder time working the ball up the field than the Bears, who better acted as a cohesive team unit.
Again, Cal had no problems creating opportunities near the net in the first half but defensive hiccups put the Bears down 1-0 by the 36th minute.
Coming off halftime, the Bears exhibited a more agitated style of play, only to be exacerbated by a second yellow card issued to freshman Christopher Grey in the 55th minute, ejecting him from play. This meant that Cal was playing a man down for the majority of the second half which forced the Bears to be more defensive-minded.
The uneven numbers combined with defensive lapses in the second half bolstered Creighton’s lead to 3-0, the final score of the game, and a weekend in which things came back around.
“We have had two good second halves in the first two games and a really good first half this game,” said Grimes. “All the pieces are there we just have to put them together for longer stretches of minutes.”
Lucy Schaefer covers men’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected]