Stormy weather is commonplace in the Pacific Northwest, and after falling to both Washington and Oregon State last weekend in two rocky matches, the Cal men’s soccer team is looking forward to a change of scenery.
The Bears — in need of a return to the win column just as much as they are in need of a return to the Bay — will host rematches against the Huskies and Beavers this week at Edwards Stadium, eager to erase the memory of last weekend.
Disappointing is a subtle term to apply to the weekend sweep, as the Bears have dropped to below .500 heading into Thursday’s match against the Huskies.
The sweep exposed that Cal’s individual talent — from senior Shinya Kadono, freshman Taylor Davila and redshirt freshman Alonzo Del Mundo, just to name a few — can’t redeem the team’s overall inconsistency.
Vulnerabilities in the season that the Bears have to take care of have ultimately proved lethal under the right conditions. Namely, a lack of dominant possession due to rushed passes and missed second touches have cost Cal in a number of close matches.
On Thursday, the Bears will confront Washington hoping that their opponent will be softened not only from playing both of its games into overtime last weekend but also from suffering a close loss to Stanford.
Cal’s primary battle against Washington will be to rework an offensive strategy positioned around Kadono, which was shut down by the Husky defense last week, headed by freshman Ethan Bartlow and senior captain Quentin Pearson.
While Bartlow suffered a concussion against Stanford and may be absent on the field Thursday, Pearson excelled defensively by irritating forwards in the box and proved to be an indispensable catalyst for the Huskies offense.
The two have anchored the team as a defensive stronghold that has shut out six opponents this year, including the Bears last week.
Cal has a plan to break the back line, however, if redshirt freshman Lucas Churchill and senior Sam Ebstein control the midfield, funneling the ball to junior Simon Lekressner and Kadono in the center of the box.
Moving on to Sunday, Cal’s primary threat will be the Beavers’ offense, fueled by senior midfielder Hassani Dotson, fresh off Pac-12 Player of the Week honors for his defensive dominance while also recording four shots against Cal last week.
Dotson will be aided by freshman Gloire Amanda and senior Don Tchilao, third in goals and third in points in the Pac-12, respectively.
Overall, Cal has the individual components to pull off a successful weekend. Redshirt junior and goalkeeper Noah Texter, after making only his second career start, has excelled in Drake Callender’s absence due to injury. Additionally, Kadono is still nearly doubling his closest competitors in the total goals category, while Cal’s primary midfielders have each recorded assists this season.
For the Bears, consistency culminates from individual strength. They have time to turn things around before the Pac-12 men’s soccer playoff bracket is announced Nov. 12, but they must produce two crucial wins to calm worries about fading postseason hopes.
Alicia Sadowski covers men’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected].