Cal men’s soccer splits in-state matches ahead of Stanford showdown

Amanda Ramirez/Staff

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After dropping a game on the road to Santa Clara, Cal men’s soccer returned home to Edwards Stadium this weekend to face off against a pair of in-state foes. The team’s return home resulted in a split, as the Bears fell 2-1 to UCLA on Thursday, but then bounced back on Sunday to top San Diego State, 1-0.

The Bears began Thursday’s game with a lackadaisical start, as sloppy touches allowed UCLA to pass through the midfield effortlessly and dominate its offensive third.

The Bruins’ early offensive thrusts culminated with a corner-kick opportunity in the 17th minute, a debilitating vulnerability in Cal’s defense this season. UCLA midfielder Matt Hundley placed a high cross to the middle of the box, where Bruin defender Brandon Terwege eyed the empty right post and headed the ball into the net.

UCLA’s early lead still wasn’t enough to shock Cal into peak performance, as the Bears finished the half by outshooting the Bruins, 5-2.

What the first half lacked in a coordinated aggressive movement, the second half made up for in sharp control and dominance.

“Second half was really good,” said Cal head coach Kevin Grimes. “I thought we had a dominating performance in the second half, with a lot of offensive thrust and some good looks at frame.”

The offensive impetus flowed through the players and ultimately resulted in a 63rd-minute equalizer, when senior Sam Ebstein headed a ball that bounced off the top of the frame. Leading Pac-12 scorer Shinya Kadono, perfectly stationed slightly right to the center of the box, rebounded the ball and headed it to the left side of the net, knotting the game at one apiece.

“When you see the ball going out wide for a cross, you are just looking for your movement, so you backpedal just to get a little space from your defender and just attack it when it comes in,” Ebstein said. “Luckily I hit frame and Shinya (Kadono) was able to follow it up and score.”

Yet after a bad header by freshman JJ Foe Nuphaus perfectly set up UCLA forward Milan Iloski, Cal goalie Drake Callender lost the one-on-one battle as the Bruins took back the lead.

While Cal kept the offensive pressure on the Bruins in the waning minutes, including impressive movement between Ebstein and senior defender Sam Junqua, the final whistle blew to seal the deal.

Sunday’s game against San Diego State kicked off on a better note, as the majority of the first half was spent in the center of the field while SDSU and Cal traded offensive thrusts.

After the first half ended scoreless, Cal returned to the field, aggressively pushing the ball downfield. Sophomore midfielder Francisco Perez funneled the ball toward the top of the box, generating several scoring opportunities.

“Every time I come on the field, I try to be that player that connect our mids to our forward line,” Perez said. “Every time I get the ball, I ask myself how we can get to goal and get attacking.”

The effort culminated in a 60th-minute score, when freshman Taylor Davila sent a long ball to Kadono. With a step, Kadono was past the defenders and skillfully sent the ball to the opposite side of the net for the eventual game-winner.

Grimes, who is gearing his team to play three-time defending national champion Stanford next, was satisfied with Sunday’s play.

“It just seemed like from the first minute of play to the 90th minute of play that the team was dialed in on the detail of doing everything correctly,” Grimes said. “When we think of ourselves internally and our improvement and focus on our development and our detail, we know what kind of team we are.”

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