Cal men’s soccer travels to Santa Clara for final nonconference tune-up

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After a successful weekend that saw the Cal men’s soccer team pull out a gritty win against Delaware and hold No. 19 Massachusetts Lowell to a 1-1 draw, the Bears will get ready for one final nonconference tune-up this week.

On Saturday, Cal will take a short bus ride to take on Santa Clara University. The Broncos come into this affair having lost five of their past six games. Regardless, the Bears will have to be at their best, as the Broncos have historically played well against Cal. In last season’s match, the Bears were challenged by Santa Clara until the final whistle but were able to earn a 3-2 victory.

This season, the Broncos are led by senior forward Andres Jimenez, who has recorded two goals and four points thus far on the season. Jimenez has been nicely complemented by fellow forward sophomore Alan Soto, who currently has five points to his name.

One of the most apparent weaknesses for the Broncos this season is their lack of goal production. Through the team’s first seven games, Santa Clara has failed to score more than two goals in a game. Against a staunch Cal defense, the Broncos will likely find it hard to break out of their goal rut.

Defensively, the Broncos have been average in the back. With a Cal attack that has finally started to find its form, Santa Clara might be in for a long day. Cal senior Shinya Kadono, who earned Pac-12 Player of the Week last week, continued his fine form by scoring two more goals against Delaware and UMass Lowell. Kadono will be a threat all game on the Bronco back line.

Additionally, attacking wingers sophomore Francisco Perez and redshirt freshman Alonzo del Mundo have proved extremely dangerous down the flanks by providing excellent service into the box, setting up crucial goals for the Bears. With the return of senior attacking midfielder Sam Ebstein after an injury from the Delaware game, Cal will finally be at full strength once more — the first time since opening weekend.

Thus far, it is clear that Cal has the making of a well-balanced team. The Bears have played with great tenacity and controlled aggression throughout their matches, exhibited by the many 50-50 balls that Cal has come away with. The team has also done a solid job of maintaining its shape and controlling the midfield. With superb play by defense midfielder Sam Junqua, in a N’Golo Kanté-like role, the senior has done an excellent job of holding the midfield and providing great service to the wingbacks and attacking midfielders.

All in all, the Bears have the making of a quality side looking to contend in the deep Pac-12. With the team clicking at the right moment, they will look to continue their strong play against a weaker Santa Clara team. A solid road win will put an exclamation point on the Bears’ nonconference play and set them up nicely for the remainder of the season.

Praveen Kuruppu covers men’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].