Cal men’s soccer kept at bay by Washington’s high press, loses 0-2

Men's soccer game
Theo Wyss-Flamm/Staff

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From the outset Saturday, the Cal men’s soccer team found itself in crisis mode against Washington. Like the wind that was bustling through the colossal trees around Witter Rugby Field, the Huskies swarmed their opponents by taking the game to the Bears. Washington’s forwards pressed high and its midfielders cut off passing lanes.

“In the beginning of the game, they started with pretty good press,” said Cal defender Ian Lonergan. “Especially in the first half, we had a little bit of trouble moving the ball into the midfield. We were stuck back in our own half a lot, and we didn’t really progress forward.”

It only took the Huskies until the 27th minute to be rewarded for their exploits as midfielder Dylan Teves slotted a penalty kick into the bottom left corner of the net, beyond the reach of Bears goalkeeper Chris Gustini, who was the culprit behind the foul.

A second goal came off the head of Washington midfielder Lucas Meek 17 minutes later, effectively putting the game away — a game in which the Bears tallied only one shot on goal.

“The team is obviously a little disappointed in the loss,” Lonergan said. “This team hasn’t played in 16 months, so I think it’s a growing process. We are going to have to practice hard and figure it out somehow.”

Cal seemingly had its first chance of the game from nowhere after midfielder Juan Martinez’s curling free kick hit the post in the 17th minute. And for the second week running, the blue and gold came out for the second half with some fortitude. The Bears found some success in weaving the ball through the resolute Huskies’ defense, but ultimately, attacking chances came few and far between.

“We really did not have a good first half,” said Cal head coach Kevin Grimes. “In just about every aspect of the game, we looked like we were a half-step off. In the second half, we looked a lot more like ourselves and played much better.”

Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Collin Travasos came on for Gustini in the second half and stood tall with five clutch saves to keep Washington from padding its lead. A late chance by freshman forward Nate Carrasco was shot wide, bringing Cal’s shot tally to three for the match. In comparison, the Huskies got away 23 shots Saturday afternoon.

Life won’t get any easier for the Bears as they travel to Corvallis to face undefeated Oregon State (5-0), who downed UCLA 2-1 on Saturday. The matchup marks another opportunity for the blue and gold to get more reps under their belt, but with only eight matches left this season, time is running out for Cal to turn the tide.

“Your cadence in training is one thing and your cadence in a game is another,” Grimes said. “We’ve just got to keep playing games. We have to keep coming back to training and working our tails off like we have been. We’ve got to use these games as important opportunities to improve ourselves individually and collectively as a team.”

Spencer Golanka covers men’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @sgolanka.