There is a cruelty that underlies soccer — overall aggressive control, a myriad of impressive scoring opportunities and remarkable individual handling are reduced to a final numerical score that is not guaranteed to be an accurate reflection of the game.
This past weekend, the Cal men’s soccer team (5-8-2) was regrettably reminded of this lesson after suffering two losses to Washington (8-7) and Oregon State (8-4-3), despite exerting significant offensive control in both games. The Bears have now lost five consecutive matches.
Individually, forward Shinya Kadono secured the fifth spot on Cal’s all-time single season scoring list after scoring his 12th goal this season in the 65th minute, rebounding a ball that originally found footing in Simon Lekressner’s high cross to the center of the box. Forward Alonzo Del Mundo’s header off Lekressner’s ball was blocked by Husky goalkeeper Bryce Logan, but the ball was kept alive by Christopher Grey, allowing Kadono to chip it to the back of the net.
“We had a couple of individual players who played excellent. I think there were some bright spots of individuals and there were some moments of really great play by us,” said head coach Kevin Grimes.
While the Bears chased Kadono’s offensive impetus by taking a third of their total shots in the next five minutes after their goal, they were unable to knot the score after two earlier Husky goals.
In the 20th minute, freshman Charlie Ostrem slotted a ball off his left foot to the far post, giving the Huskies a lead that would last the entire game. The next 40 minutes saw the Bears address their season-long lack of scoring opportunities, stemming from making too many small passes, which has prevented them from advancing the ball.
Yet, the improvement did not pay dividends on the scoreboard, as Husky forward Scott Menzies returned in the 61st minute with a header to the back post.
Cal freshman Jonathan Estrada had two fantastic scoring opportunities in the game, including a point blank shot in the 43rd minute that got bounced around in the box until Logan ultimately deflected it.
“The last 30 seconds we really tried to get in their territory in their defensive third,” said Kadono.
Yet, when head referee Ian Anderson controversially chose not to call a penalty kick when Kadono fell in the box, the final score remained a Cal loss of 2-1.
Sunday’s loss to Oregon State was no less heartbreaking, accentuated by a dominant Cal
offensive strategy that consistently pressured — and often beat — the Beaver backline.
“We should have won, and that’s all there is to it,” Grimes said. “We just simply did not finish our chances, and that’s why we end up where we are.”
The Bears ultimately fell 1-0 to Beaver Alex Cover’s first career goal in the 92nd minute, though they outshot OSU 13-8.
Within the first 10 minutes, midfielder Taylor Davila turned the ball for a short pass to senior Halil Beqaj, who passed it on for a wide strike from Lekressner, who led the game with four shots.
“This is one of our better games as a team — we played all 90 minutes really well. We had them in their half and obviously dominated and executed our game plan really well just as we had planned before the game,” said Beqaj.
The Bears railed off six first-half shots, moving the offensive thrust into the second half and giving the Bears consistent scoring opportunities.
One of Cal’s best chances came in the 64th minute when midfielder Francisco Perez received a cross from the left side, but misstep resulted in the ball rolling untouched by any player inches in front of the net.
In the last 15 minutes, the Bears looked as if they could win the game with any strike, but Lekressner and Lucas Churchill were each unable to turn their two shots apiece.
The Bears leave Edwards Stadium next week and embark on a Southern California road trip to face UCLA and SDSU before they jaunt across the Bay to face Stanford to close out their season.
“We have a lot of motivation for our last road trip together, and then, our final game is at Stanford where there is a natural rivalry a part of the history of Cal. We’re going to be plenty motivated,” Grimes said.