The Cal men’s soccer team got back on the winning side of the record books Thursday at Edwards Stadium, as it defeated SDSU once again with another late goal to put the Bears up 1-0.
In the 70th minute, junior Spencer Held was able to capitalize on a substitution to head the ball into the net. Since he was running onto the field as the ball was served to him from senior Joshua Morton, Held wasn’t being marked by any Aztec defenders.
“I just came in so they were kind of flustered,” Held said. “The ball just dropped into me right at the corner of the box and I just snap header back across and it just happened to go in.”
This, by no means, was the Bears’ first goal scoring chance of the match. The bye week seemed to immensely benefit the Bears as they came out gun blazing and recorded six shots in the opening 12 minutes, and 26 total by the end of the game.
“We came out dynamite we just couldn’t get them on frame,” said Cal head coach Kevin Grimes. “And then when we got them on frame they were right at the goalie. It just wasn’t a good finishing day, it was a good creating day.”
The shots came from a variety of players on the team in different positions, not just the forwards that you would expect to do the majority of the offensive work. This is a hopeful sign for the Bears as it exhibits player development and a unified offensive vision for the team.
Last week’s rest time was crucial for Cal as its collective fatigue from the season became apparent during their two loss streak on the road against Washington and Oregon State.
“I think (the bye week) kind of got our legs back in gear,” Grimes said. “If I had a criticism for today, I would say we did not convert the chances we created. The positive side though is that we did get a shutout, and the defense and goalkeeping was excellent.”
Besides shooting, the Bears excelled on defense as they kept Aztec offensive contributions to a minimum, blocking every SDSU attempt to enter the 6-yard box. This effort made it so that sophomore goalkeeper Drake Callender only had to make four saves over the course of the game.
If Cal can muster similar energy for its game on Sunday, it will have no problem overcoming UCLA, who has had a lukewarm season, falling under 500 with its recent loss to Stanford.
The Cardinal in its home territory, on the other hand, will be undoubtedly the toughest game of the Bears’ season— the Cardinal has only lost two games this season, and will relish in the opportunity to put Cal down once again this fall.
What we can expect is that if the Bears are able to improve their aim under pressure in front of the net, the final two games of the season to be contentious and high scoring.