The Cal’s men’s soccer team’s recent losses on the road after going nearly undefeated earlier in the season beg fans to ponder the age-old question: Does home field advantage really exist? And how much can you rely on it in a important game?
Statistics aside, you can argue that home-field advantage matters because it allows players to feel comfortable competing where they practice, not to mention the fact that there are more family and friends present to support.
That sort of comfort and enthusiasm are exactly what Cal needs to propel itself once again over SDSU on Thursday at Edwards Stadium, as the Bears hope to turn the tides of their two recent losses.
In their first face-off against the Aztecs, the game stayed tied 0-0 until the final 11 seconds, when junior Shinya Kadono was able to capitalize on a rebound in front of the goal and solidify Cal’s win over SDSU. The Aztecs still boast special talent on their roster including senior Jeroen Meefout, a player from the Netherlands who is fourth in the Pac-12 for scoring, along with goalkeeper Adam Allmaras who lead the team to two shutouts in Texas earlier in the season.
Since their last matchup against the Bears a month ago, however, the Aztecs have gone 1-5, struggling to solidify wins against key conference competitors. Cal isn’t surging either, as its last two road games have resulted in losses to teams it had defeated two weeks before — Washington and Oregon State.
While Cal has greatly improved upon finishing shots this season versus last, it has to contend with a new trend: recovering from coming out flat in the first half. Most of the Bears’ wins this season have been bred from stellar performances in the second half after regrouping at halftime — a prime example being their last game against the Aztecs.
Coming off a bye week, Cal should have recuperated and gotten in a positive mindset to close out the season— and there’s nothing better to lift spirits than a home game.
To be successful against SDSU, the Bears will have to clamp down on defense and attempt to shut the Aztecs out in the first half. While they keep the ball out of the back, Cal will rely on center midfielders senior Jose Carrera-Garcia and junior Samuel Ebstein to distribute the ball to the wings to tire SDSU players out and get crosses off. The longer they possess the ball, the more opportunities the Bears will create in front of the net.
This matchup also constitutes one of the last games that the seven players on the team — Carrera-Garcia, Matt Locklear, Jorge Miranda, Josh Morton, Ugo Rebecchini, Paul Salcedo-Borrego and Aravind Sivakumar — will play at home. The seniors have been key contributors to Cal’s success this season and are happy to enjoy a winning season coming off of last year’s 5-10-2 record.
With only three games left in the regular season, every minute on the field counts, especially since this year, the Bears are poised to go to the NCAA playoffs if they can finish the season on a positive note.
Lucy Schaefer covers men’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected]