When I think of the American Northwest, I think of sleep. I picture fog from the frigid Pacific Ocean rolling over its vast, calm forests like a dark blanket. Even its cities are relatively peaceful; Portland and Seattle are the quiet, introverted brothers in the “big city” family.
On Thursday and Sunday, Cal hosted two tough teams from the Northwest: Oregon State and No. 7 Washington, respectively. The Bears beat the Beavers 2-1 behind a long-range goal from junior midfielder Francisco Perez and a well-taken penalty from junior forward Tommy Williamson.
With the win over the Beavers, the Bears earned their first win in Pac-12 play. Unfortunately for Cal, its win Thursday was followed by a 1-0 loss to Washington on Sunday.
Nothing about either game was remotely like the region from which the away teams hail; both were contentious and intense. They started fast and did not slow down, leaving fans at the edges of their seats for the majority of both games.
Just two minutes into the game against Oregon State, Cal junior midfielder Perez opened the scoring. Sophomore forward Jonathan Estrada played a square ball at the top of the penalty area to Perez, who hit the ball the first time, smashing the ball into the top left corner à la Steven Gerrard. Oregon State goalkeeper Adrian Fernandez was left rooted to the spot with no chance to make a save.
Junior striker Williamson’s penalty to put Cal up 2-1 in the 71st minute was just the cherry on top of what was a fantastic attacking performance. On multiple occasions, Williamson dropped back into Cal’s half, received the ball and led counterattacks either by holding off Oregon State defenders and waiting for support or dribbling confidently at the Oregon State back line.
Led by Williamson, the Bears looked dangerous to start both halves. But about 20 minutes into each period, Oregon State flipped the script, knocking on Cal’s door as time wound down.
In the 27th minute, Oregon State scored on a rare defensive blunder. Cal senior goalkeeper Drake Callender came out of the box to clear a bouncing ball in the right corner. As Callender, junior left back Christopher Grey and Oregon State forward Joel Walker collided with the ball popping over Callender, Walker was left with the simple task of sliding the ball home.
“We seemed to have lost a little steam after they tied it, and I thought the end of the first half they were on us. We were hanging on for a bit until halftime,” said Cal head coach Kevin Grimes.
The fast pace of the first quarter of the game was a lot to handle, but the Bears caught their breath at halftime and replicated their initial success.
“They came out strong, and we had to give it to them, too. But at halftime, we reorganized, got our game plan down, reminded everyone on the team what’s important, and we came out with a win,” Williamson said.
In the 71st minute, an Oregon State defender tripped up senior right back Simon Lekressner down in the box. Williamson took the penalty, passing the ball coolly into the bottom left corner for what would be the winning goal.
Unlike the Oregon State game, Sunday’s game was end-to-end, with neither side gaining possession for long stretches. The difference: The Bears did not take their chances, a motif throughout this season, resulting in a 1-0 loss this time around.
In 12 shots, the Bears put just two on goal. The Huskies, on the other hand, put seven of their 11 shots on target.
“We just needed to score. We needed more shots on frame. Only two out of 12 means we need to improve in that category next game,” Grimes said.
Washington had very few chances, but it made sure to capitalize when its clearest chance came. In the 30th minute, Callender made two close-range saves before Blake Bodily tapped the loose ball from Christian Soto’s miss into the back of the net.
“It came down to the fact that they scored, and we didn’t. We played well, we had chances, but we couldn’t score,” said sophomore midfielder Taylor Davila.
Cal will have to correct these scoring difficulties with more double-header weekends on the horizon.
“We had two games in three days, and we’ve got another two games coming up on Thursday and Sunday,” Grimes said. “So the big focus will be on recovery and making sure the legs are ready for Thursday evening down in San Diego.”
Cal takes on San Diego State on the road Thursday. Coach Grimes is well aware that the last two fast-paced games in quick succession have taken a heavy physical toll, so some relaxation is an order.
William Cooke covers men’s soccer. Contact him at