With more than a quarter of the Pac-12 regular-season games in the books, time is ticking for the Cal men’s soccer team (5-4-2) to hit its stride.
This weekend, the Bears travel up north to the Cascadia region to take on Oregon State and Washington, two teams with which Cal is currently in a third-place tie in conference standings. With postseason aspirations slowly fading, the Bears desperately need two strong road performances to jump-start their season.
After Sunday’s disappointing loss to archrival Stanford, the Bears walked away with room for improvement in several facets of their game. Despite the team’s tenacious effort throughout the entire afternoon, Cal often found itself on the losing end of many 50-50 balls. Losing out on several of these loose balls frequently forced the Bears into a backpedal and prevented them from pressuring the Cardinal back line.
Another takeaway is the team’s overreliance on senior Shinya Kadono to provide goals for the Bears. The Cardinal made it a point last Sunday to frustrate Kadono whenever he touched the ball, forcing Cal to find somebody else to make plays. With the Beavers and Huskies likely to follow a similar game plan of stymying the Bears’ leading scorer, other players will need to step up and create offensive chances.
Heading into Thursday, the Bears will face a tough Washington team against which Cal has not fared too well in recent memory. In the last 14 matches between the two schools, the Huskies have posted a 9-2-3 record against the Bears.
The Huskies, however, have lost four of their past five contests and are still searching for their footing thus far in 2018. The Bears will make it a focus to shadow redshirt senior Scott Menzies and redshirt junior Joey Parish, who have accounted for the majority of the team’s offensive attack.
On Sunday, the Bears will head north to take on a burgeoning Oregon State squad. The Beavers are fresh off not one, but two 1-0 road losses at the hands of San Diego State and UCLA. Despite the team’s scoring difficulties in its last two affairs, Oregon State leads all Pac-12 teams in shots with 150.
The Beavers are led by senior forward Don Tchilao, who is third in the conference in goals and points with five and 14, respectively. The Bears will likely implement a strategy to neutralize Oregon State’s star.
Overall, Cal certainly has the talent and capability to go on a run and get back into Pac-12 contention. It starts with shoring up on the defensive side of the ball, where the Bears are currently dead last in the conference, surrendering 1.38 goals per game. On the offensive side, Cal will aim to break out of its goal-scoring rut and maintain constant pressure on the opposition back line.
Having split its season series against both Oregon State and Washington last year, Cal is seeking to make a statement on the road and get back to its winning ways in what is perhaps the team’s make-or-break portion of the season.