Cal men’s soccer seeks clean sweep against Delaware and UMass Lowell

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It’s a “West Coast best coast” showing at Edwards Stadium this weekend as the Bears host two East Coast teams in the Cal/Stanford Tournament.

The 3-1-1 Bears will take on the 1-3 University of Delaware on Friday. After only a day’s rest, the team will then get a chance to upset the No. 15 and 5-0-1 University of Massachusetts Lowell on Sunday.

Game-winning dominance has been fickle for Cal’s young squad, as it demonstrated last week the depths of the program in a stunning 6-2 victory against Sacramento State but then put on a lackadaisical, scoreless display against UC Riverside.

Cal’s feature midfielder senior Shinya Kadono reflects the strength derived from capitalizing on downfield opportunities. On Tuesday, he earned Pac 12 Player of the Week and was named to the Top Drawer Soccer Team of the Week after scoring four goals and an assist against Sac State on Sept. 6.

His nine-point performance was the most by a Golden Bear in a match in two years and he is currently tied for most goals during a match by any Division 1 player this season. It was his second career Pac-12 weekly honor, as he leads the conference with five goals and 12 points.

Against the Highlanders, however, Kadono and the Bears failed to find their rhythm as he took aim at — but missed — five shots during what was ultimately a tie.

“I’m sure he (Kadono) is a little frustrated he wasn’t able to score on Sunday, but the whole team had a bit of an off day,” said 19-year team veteran coach Kevin Grimes. “We pretty much put that game behind us and are looking forward to Delaware on Friday and focusing on a good week of training.”

Kadono, along with the not-to-be-overlooked senior Sam Ebstein, hopes to lead the Bears to two victories this weekend.

The experienced seniors will be aided by a robust freshman class. Freshmen Ian Lonergan and Taylor Davila have started in all matches so far. Before being called up to the U-19 National Team, their classmate J.J. Foe Nuphaus also started in all matches.

Predicted to finish sixth out of nine teams in the Colonial Athletic Association, Delaware has had a slow start to its season. Headed by junior transfer midfielder Robert Campbell, who leads the team with five points, and senior goalie Todd Morton, Delaware will be coming back from a nine-day break after a loss to Princeton.

Sophomore midfielders Noa Benninga and Mark Battle have also contributed to the Blue Hens with a goal and assist respectively.

“Delaware has been a very good team in the past, and while they have had some injuries in the past, some players will be available that will strengthen their team,” Grimes said. “We need to be ready for what they offer and stay as focused as we can.”

The focus needs to be tight and persistent as the Bears face a quick turnaround for their game against UMass Lowell, predicted to win the America East championship in a preseason coaches poll.

The River Hawks offense has been effective, with midfielders redshirt junior Stanley Alves and junior Roko Prsa helping lead the team to a total of eight goals so far. At the beginning of the season, senior midfielder Jakov Basic was selected to the 2018 MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List.

While racking up two W’s is an obvious goal of the weekend, Grimes is taking the games one at a time within the larger context of the season.

“Overall, we are going to try get ourselves to the higher standard of play and never allow ourselves to get to a lower performance seen on Sunday,” Grimes said. “We know what our high end is, the way we played against Sac State, and we know what we need to achieve to get there. That’s when we all enjoy the game.”

Alicia Sadowski covers men’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected].