Cal men’s soccer drops final nonconference game in tight matchup

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For the fourth time this year, the Cal men’s soccer team ended regulation deadlocked in a stalemate. As such, overtime would determine the Bear’s fate. In overtime, however, Cal conceded just three minutes into play and walked away with its second loss of the season.

On Saturday, Cal traveled to Santa Clara to compete in its last nonconference game of the season. With Pac-12 play starting Thursday, the Bears were looking to enter their conference slate with a bang. Against Northern California rival Santa Clara University, however, it was not to be.

In the opening minutes, Cal came out aggressively, consistently putting pressure on the Bronco back line. After a lull in play, Santa Clara slowly started to find its way into the game before Cal found its breakthrough. After a crisp ball out wide to sophomore Francisco Perez, the attacking midfielder dribbled down the right-hand side to the end line. Perez then deftly chipped the ball over the goalie toward a streaking run by redshirt freshman Alonzo del Mundo, who headed the ball into the back of the net, gifting the Bears a 1-0 lead.

Cal’s lead didn’t last long, though, as the Broncos would respond in the 34th minute. Sophomore attacking midfielder Javier Ruiz Duran came down the left side and nicely served a ball to junior midfielder Miles Robinson, who then curled a left-footed effort from outside the box that beat Cal junior goalkeeper Drake Callender. Robinson’s goal was his first of the season, and knotted the game at one apiece.

The Bears once again dominated time of possession for the remainder of the first half, but were not able to find the back of the net.

In the second half, Cal’s leading goal scorer, senior midfielder Shinya Kadono, sparked a moment of brilliance when he received a perfect pass from senior Halil Beqaj. Kadono didn’t waste the opportunity and, after dribbling past his primary defender, slotted a low shot past the Bronco goalkeeper to provide the Bears a 2-1 advantage.

Once again, Cal could not capitalize on this lead, as Santa Clara fought back. This time, Robinson played the provider with a cross-field pass to freshman Eduardo Lopez Perez. Lopez Perez hit a one-time shot from about 10 yards out to tie the score at two, and inevitably send the game to overtime.

In overtime, Cal came out on the back foot. The Bears would pay the price only three minutes in, when a shot by Ruiz Duran ricocheted over freshman defender Ian Lonergan for an own goal, sealing the victory for the Broncos.

The narrow defeat for the Bears was a difficult pill to swallow, considering that Cal came in heavily favored. The absence of senior midfielder Sam Ebstein created an apparent void in terms of Cal’s attacking options, which was a major factor in the loss.

The Bears will now regroup and get ready for the start of Pac-12 play Thursday against UCLA. Despite the loss, Cal has to be proud of its overall nonconference results. While the Bears will find it difficult to capture the entire Pac-12, they will be a testy opponent the rest of the way through.

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