Cal men’s soccer beats Oregon State 2-0, faces Washington Sunday

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Cal men’s soccer had a lot more than Oregon State to contend with Thursday evening. On top of the Beavers, shortness of breath and eye irritation were both possible consequences of the poor air quality blanketing Berkeley due to intense forest fires in Northern California. While the Bears opened the game looking fatigued, halftime adjustments paved the way for two second-half goals for a 2-0 win.

From kickoff, Oregon State came out guns blazing, nearly dismantling Cal’s defense in the first minute of the game — and not taking much longer to get its first shot off. The Beavers didn’t look definitively better skillwise, but they clearly wanted the ball more. This was especially true for Oregon State’s offense, which brought most of the energy, while its defense acted in a reactionary manner. Nonetheless, the Bears hardly tested Oregon State’s defense, as they ended the half with two shots to the Beaver’s six.

“(The Beavers) changed their formation before the game. We didn’t anticipate them coming out in a 3-5-2, and so that threw us off a little bit,” said Cal head coach Kevin Grimes. “We needed a collective moment with the group to talk about how we attack a 3-5-2. The guys know how to do it; we just needed to give them reminders at halftime.”

The halftime was proved crucial for the Bears, as they came out with more energy and finesse on the ball.

The first goal of the game fell in the 59th minute as junior Samuel Ebstein knocked the ball in after it had bounced around in front of the net, tallying his second goal of the season.

Finally hitting their stride in the 60th minute of the game, the Bears recorded six shots in a matter of 10 minutes and started to string together smarter passes. Where it hadn’t been going toward goal earlier in the game, Cal started to exploit the Beavers’ defense.

In the 74th minute, sophomore Simon Lekressner received a breakaway pass, which he hit one-touch on his stride before the lone, last defender closed in, putting the Bears up 2-0, and ultimately solidifying their victory over Oregon State.

Next on the docket for the Bears is No. 19 Washington, which will visit Edwards Stadium this Sunday. By the numbers, Cal and Washington match up quite evenly. Both have beaten Santa Clara and San Diego State this year, and both were riding a six-game win streak until just a week ago.

That win streak was snapped for Washington in a dramatic fashion last week, when the Huskies fell to UCLA in overtime. Cal, on the other hand, downed UCLA 2-0 in its conference opener.

Washington’s program boasts a strong tradition of quality goalies, having produced five MLS keepers since 2005. Husky redshirt sophomore goalie Saif Kerawala is no exception, sitting just behind Cal sophomore goalie Drake Callender at fourth in the Pac-12 in save percentage. Callender won Pac-12 Player of the Week earlier this season for a nine-save performance at Portland.

Washington sophomore midfielder Handwalla Bwana leads the team with 6 goals from 22 shots on goal on the season. His impressive speed and playmaking ability could present a hefty challenge for a Cal defense, which struggled last week against Stanford.

Last season, the Bears were unable to beat the Huskies in their two meetings, falling 2-1 each time. At this time last year, however, the 4-4-2 Bears were not playing nearly as well as they are now.

Lucy Schaefer covers men’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected]