Last season, No. 24 Cal men’s soccer was unable to notch a win in either of two meetings with Stanford. At this time last season, though, the Bears were staring down a conference season that would include just a single Pac-12 victory. Fast forward to this year, and the story is very different.
In conference play so far this season, the Bears are 2-0, including a huge victory against UCLA. There is no doubt that the Bears are in a better position now than at any time last season to take down the No. 8 Cardinal. This Sunday, Cal will have the opportunity to prove itself when Stanford comes to visit Edwards Stadium.
“When you win the season opener away at UCLA, that really boosts our confidence up,” said Cal’s leading scorer, junior Shinya Kadono. “And hopefully, that’ll lead us to better performance this weekend.”
Cal will need to bring its best performance Sunday as it takes on a Stanford team that has won a whopping six games in shutout fashion so far this season. The Cardinal has been dominant on both sides of the ball –– they rank seventh in the nation in total points per game and 14th in average goals against.
“Stanford looks pretty good on the record,” Kadono said. “They always have a decent team, so it’s always a challenge for us to try to compete against them. They’re physically strong, and they play a different soccer than us, which makes it really challenging for us to play our game.”
Plagued by an inability to get early scores, if the Bears come away with the win Sunday, they are likely to do so in dramatic fashion. Cal has recently had to rely on clutch goals, including one last weekend by Kadono, which sealed the win against San Diego State with just 11 seconds remaining in regulation. That score put Kadono’s total on the season at five, a huge jump in production after not scoring at all last year.
Senior forward Paul Salcedo-Borrego has also been a presence for the Bears this season, with his season total of 3 goals all coming in a breakout game against Santa Clara. Both Salcedo-Borrego and Kadono have earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honors for their respective performances, and sophomore goalie Drake Callender began that trend earlier in the season.
Redshirt senior midfielder Jose Carrera-Garcia, the team’s most complete player, has racked up a fairly quiet 2 goals on the season and demonstrated an adept sense of playmaking throughout the year. The Bears will lean on his aggressive style of offense against the Cardinal this weekend.
Last weekend’s win against San Diego State was a chippy one for the Bears, and it’d be a surprise if Sunday’s game against the rival Cardinal is any different. Aggressive play has proven to lead to wins for the Bears — but also to a sizeable number of yellow cards. Cal will need to keep itself in check in order to maintain a low number of substitutions, and thus consistency, in its attack.
The Bears have had a full week of practice to prepare and should be well-rested after a long road trip down south last week. With a six-game win streak on the line and rival Stanford in town, Sunday’s game will undoubtedly be one for the books.
Adriana Ghiozzi covers men’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected]