Trick or Defeat: Cal’s playoff hopes vanish Halloween weekend

Cheyenne Tex/Staff

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Edwards Stadium is a scary place on any given night. Maybe it’s the dark stains on the bleachers, or the misplaced bear mural on the southern wall — or perhaps it’s the fact that there seems to be only two lights in the entire stadium. Creeping around any of the many dark corners in the entrance corridor could be a monster, or a ghoul, or something even scarier: adult responsibilities.

On Halloween night, Edwards Stadium hosted a game full of scares. With the bright orange scoreboard glowing like a jack-o’-lantern, Cal men’s soccer drew to UCLA 3-3 in overtime for the second time in 18 days — an eerie coincidence  after Cal senior right back Simon Lekressner scored the equalizing header with just three seconds left in regulation.

The Bruins led by a goal on three separate occasions, but the Bears managed to claw their way back each time. Cal certainly gave UCLA fans several frights —  as the Bears came close to scoring the game-winner in overtime.

Cal hosted San Diego State on Sunday afternoon in a game that ended in a 1-0 loss. The Bears created plenty of chances against the Aztecs — who were winless in Pac-12 play this season before Sunday — but failed to score on 27 shots. The loss marked their fourth straight game without a win.

Redshirt sophomore forward Alonzo Del Mundo notched two more assists against UCLA, bringing his tally up to a team-high eight in just 14 games. He ranks 13th in the nation in assists this season.

His first assist came against UCLA in the 76th minute, when junior forward Tommy Williamson found the left side of the goal off of Del Mundo’s pass to tie the game at 2-2. His second came in the form of a corner in the 90th minute —  which found the head of Lekressner, who scored the goal that tied the game at three apiece and forced overtime.

“It all starts in practice, making sure that I’m being unselfish and looking for other people to score,” Del Mundo said after the UCLA game. “It’s a team game. I don’t want me to look better, I want the whole team to look good. I always look for someone else to score.”

Williamson’s two goals against UCLA, one being a cheeky Panenka penalty kick in the 21st minute, raised the junior to seven goals on the season.

“I kind of just said, ‘Why not?’, went for it and it worked out nicely,” Williamson said of his penalty kick.

The forward from Villa Park, California contributed six shots to Cal’s impressive tally of 28 total against UCLA. Despite only earning a tie after taking over twice as many shots as UCLA, head coach Kevin Grimes was pleased with this improvement from earlier in the season, when the Bears struggled to put the ball on frame.

Grimes lamented that Cal did not capitalize on one of its three shots on goal in overtime, however, including one in the waning moments of the game where freshman midfielder Paolo Carrillo-Weisenburger’s point-blank effort was saved by UCLA goalkeeper Justin Garces.

“I think we just wished that we would have nipped one in, in overtime,” Grimes said. “At some point, you feel fortunate too because you score with three seconds to go to tie it, so I think there’s a little bit of that as well.”

After failing to score in overtime Thursday night, the Bears’ goalless drought extended into their game against San Diego State. This wasn’t for lack of chances, as Cal took 27 total shots and had two clear opportunities to take the lead before halftime.

Williamson’s through ball to the overlapping Lekressner in the 26th minute amounted to nothing as the Cal captain’s side-footed shot was saved by San Diego State goalkeeper Tetsuya Kadono. Taylor Davila’s through ball found a sliding Williamson, whose weak shot was also saved by Kadono.

The Bears came to regret their failure to capitalize on first half chances when San Diego State was awarded a penalty in the 51st minute, which midfielder Adam Vargas converted to put the Aztecs up 1-0. This was the first goal Cal conceded from a penalty this season.

Going down a goal seemed to wake the Bears from their slumber. Cal dominated possession and created even more chances, including a Francisco Perez header that hit the crossbar in the 57th minute —  and also Lekressner’s sliding effort two minutes later that rolled just wide.

Jonathan Estrada’s long-range shot in the 79th minute rebounded to Williamson in front of goal, but his first-time effort trickled into the hands of Kadono.

In the final minutes, the Bears had many players forward, but little movement from the front line meant that the Aztecs had a relatively easy time defending. The blue and gold did not look to possess and create, and instead searched for a miracle ball over the top — one which never came.

Grimes, frustrated about the controversial penalty call, ultimately acknowledged Cal’s failure to score as the real issue.

“It was a cruel day: 27 shots and not a single goal. That’s really what it came down to,” Grimes explained.

Cal is now 2-3-2 in conference play. The last three games on the schedule are away at No. 1 Washington, Oregon State, and No. 5 Stanford.

“I think we all know postseason is out of the question, and that you had to win today to have a chance for postseason,” said Grimes.

Nothing short of a miracle would see the Bears earn a playoff berth on selection Monday, two weeks from today.

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