This weekend, the Cal men’s soccer team will aim to remind fans that not all trees are worth hugging when the Bears (5-3-2) confront the No. 18 Stanford Cardinal (5-1-3) on Sunday.
Last Thursday’s match against UCLA demonstrated a troubling pattern for the Bears this season, as the team’s offensive cohesiveness couldn’t get into stride until the second half.
While rebounding in the latter 45 minutes with an offensive flow derived from quick downfield sprints by wingers, the Bears’ late arrival proved lethal as they lost, 2-1.
Against SDSU last Sunday, however, Cal was able to reverse track, heading in the right direction from the get-go. An offensive impetus remained present throughout the game, giving the Bears a much-needed return to the win column ahead of the showdown with their rivals across the Bay.
This season, Cal’s offensive success has been accentuated by senior midfielder Shinya Kadono, now standing at the apex of his career with a current scoring streak that dates five games. Nationally ranking third in total goals and sixth in goals per game, Kadono’s 10 goals this season double those of Stanford’s leading scorer, Amir Bashti.
The game is set to be a showdown between the two forwards, as Bashti comes in with a four-game scoring streak. Last week, the Stanford senior earned himself a Pac-12 Player of the Week honor after recording a goal and an assist in both of Stanford’s bouts against the Aztecs and Bruins.
The Cardinal have also found success in rotating sophomore Logan Panchot, recording 13 shots in his last five games played. Sophomore forward Charlie Wehan additionally had a goal and assist against UCLA, setting up Cal’s defense with the challenge of shutting down Wehan and Bashti while pushing the forwards to the wings.
On the shoulders of an established winning dynasty, Stanford beat Indiana, 1-0, in the College Cup final last December to become only the second school to win three consecutive NCAA championships.
The Cardinal enter Sunday’s match having won eight consecutive Pac-12 matches, headed by a defense that has allowed only three goals this season. Led by redshirt junior Tanner Beason, the back line has consistently terminated the forward pulses of opposing offenses through sharp organization and quick touches to steer the ball away from the box.
Cal will target this defensive style through midfielders Lucas Churchill and Taylor Davila. Both players will try to keep the Cardinal defense back on its heels while seeking to feed Kadono’s quick feet and redshirt freshman Alonzo Del Mundo’s lethal speed to approach the net.
Cal head coach Kevin Grimes understands that Stanford’s strong play will come at his team’s expense. Despite previous poor performances against the Cardinal, Grimes sees the potential in his team to notch a big win, focusing his players on their established teamwork and raw ability.
“We are absolutely going to focus on us,” Grimes said. “We know that we have outplayed about every opponent this year that we have played against, so when we get away from thinking about the opponent and outside distractions, that’s when we lose our focus. It’s all about us.”
Alicia Sadowski covers men’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected].