Undefeated on the road, Cal looks to respond to a wild week with poise

Cheyenne Tex/Staff

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The Cal men’s soccer team has experienced a week full of anomalies.

Two Thursdays ago, Cal scored four goals against San Diego State, the most goals the Bears have scored in a game all season. The next Sunday, the Bears conceded three goals to UCLA, another single-game high.

And on Sunday morning, senior right back Simon Lekressner spoke to the press.

As a team captain, Lekressner leads by action. He is simultaneously composed and energetic, a combination that makes for a great leader on the field. Unfortunately, The Daily Californian’s reporters haven’t had many opportunities to speak with him.

Following the 3-3 tie against UCLA, which included an 83rd-minute equalizer from the Bruins, the Bears had reason to be upset. But heading into an away game against Portland on Tuesday, Lekressner said he has been impressed with the team’s attitude.

“I think morale has been great. Obviously we wanted to win and it felt like we should have won. We’re just coming out with that extra fight, that extra energy. We’re flying. We’re ready to go,” Lekressner said.

Portland has been inconsistent. Earlier in the season, the Pilots notched a 6-0 win against Davidson and a 1-0 win over Wisconsin in Madison. Currently, though, they are riding a two-game losing streak, with their last match resulting in a 2-1 loss in double overtime at the hands of Loyola Marymount.

Despite its inconsistency, Portland has been much better at home than it has been away: four of their five wins this season have come at Merlo Field.

But the Bears should be more than up to the challenge.

The Bears are undefeated in away games this season, scoring 10 of their 19 goals in wins against UC Santa Barbara and San Diego State and a draw at UCLA. This Tuesday’s game will be Cal’s third consecutive one on the road.

When asked about his preparation going into away games, especially at difficult locations, Lekressner proved his poise.

“I play the same way. We just go out there, try to play our style and dominate possession as always. I don’t really see it being an issue. Away or home, it’s all the same to us,” Lekressner said confidently.

Grimes acknowledged that preparedness includes being informed on how the opposition plays at home as opposed to away. But, like Lekressner, Grimes is a believer in focusing on their own performance.

“We’ll continue to keep our eye on them and what they’re doing well and how we can hopefully thwart their strengths. But we’ll continue to focus on ourselves,” Grimes said. “If we’re at our top-level, we feel good in each and every game we go into. We’ve got to really keep that focus on ourselves.”

Cal has struggled all season to put shots on goal. As an example, in the Bears’ second game of the season, which was a 1-1 tie against UC Irvine, Cal put just seven of its 25 shots on target. Before their road trip to southern California, the Bears were averaging .075 goals per shot.

Cal turned things around last weekend, scoring seven goals in its two games and averaging a much improved .41 goals per shot. The Bears will be keen to keep their newfound success in the attacking third alive.

“We keep track of all of our shots on goal, and the shots on goal in practice have been really, really high,” Grimes said. “Typically what you see in training is what you’re going to see on game day, and we’re seeing a lot of shots on goal in training. We’ve got to just continue to do that in matches.”

The Bears kick-off against the Pilots at 7:00 p.m. this Tuesday.

William Cooke covers men’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].