If there’s one thing more elusive than a sunny day in Berkeley in October, it’s the No. 24 Cal men’s soccer team getting a win against Stanford — and an even greater rarity is the combination of both. For the Bears, this was all too evident on a warm Sunday afternoon in Edwards Stadium, as they fell 3-0 to No. 8 Stanford in front of a crowd of 1,166.
The Bears found themselves all too familiarly down early, as the Cardinal managed to score on a header by Corey Baird a little more than three minutes in and then again in the 14th minute on a corner kick header by Tomas Hilliard-Arce. It was by no means the first time this season that Cal’s inability to score early was apparent –– but this time, the Bears were unable to recover.
“We looked very tentative in the first 15 minutes of the game,” said Cal head coach Kevin Grimes. “We just looked like we didn’t want to put our front foot forward. It kind of looked to me like the West Virginia game back on Aug. 25, where it just didn’t seem like we wanted to put our stamp on the game. I think whenever you do that, no matter who you’re playing, you’re going to have a difficult start.”
Stanford’s defensive prowess was certainly on display in the first half, as it held Cal to just four shots and sent its opponent to the locker room scoreless, as it so often does. That trend continued when the Cardinal returned to the field, as the Bears took eight shots in the second half but were unable to convert on any of them. The Bears are Stanford’s seventh victim of a shutout this season, and the Cardinal ranks 10th in the nation in shutout percentage.
“They do a very good job defensively, no question about it,” Grimes said. “We had a great chance in the first half to make it 2-1 when Spencer (Held) broke through. We had Josh (Morton)’s header on the corner kick in the second half to make it 2-1. So we had two really good chances to make it 2-1, and then you never know.”
The game was a physical one for both teams, as was expected. Senior midfielder Jose Carrera-Garcia, who plays a notably aggressive style of offense, got tangled up with Stanford numerous times. One play in the first half in which Carrera-Garcia’s jersey was pulled garnered a collective gasp from the crowd.
Sophomore goalie Drake Callender took his third loss of the season, having allowed three goals for the second time. The former Pac-12 Player of the Week did manage five saves in the game, including a particularly impressive save in the 51st minute, when midfielder Bryce Marion broke free of Cal’s defense and Callender dove for the ball.
The loss snapped Cal’s six-game win streak and is its first loss in Pac-12 play this season. Even so, the Bears, who are 2-1 in conference, are in good shape as compared with last year, when they won just a single conference game.
While the tough loss no doubt stings for the Bears, it should give them a chip on the shoulder as they prepare to meet the Cardinal once again in November in their final game of the season.