The early, dark days of midfield blunders and defensive woes are seemingly behind the Cal men’s soccer team, which will put its three-game unbeaten run on the line against No. 3 Oregon State on Sunday.
The Bears will feed off of their impressive display against No. 9 Stanford on Wednesday, in which Cal held the Cardinal scoreless for a 0-0 draw. The Bears were not only able to stymie the Cardinal in front of goal, but they were also able to muster a few attacking chances that forced four saves out of Stanford goalkeeper Andrew Thomas. It was a marked improvement from Cal’s 3-1 loss to its rivals earlier in the season.
Both teams had a goal disallowed on the night. The first came when the Cardinal thought they had scored from a corner in the 36th minute, and the second when sophomore Arman Samimi thought he had put the Bears ahead after his 76th-minute strike past Thomas, but he was ruled offside. Late chances for defender JJ Foe Nuphaus and midfielder Lucas Churchill were quelled by Thomas to force the first draw in the Big Clasico since 2014.
What awaits is a far more potent and cohesive Oregon State offensive unit, which will be keen on rebounding from a 2-1 defeat at the hands of No. 4 Washington this past Wednesday. The Beavers matched the Huskies with seven shots on target and had multiple chances to level the score in the second half, but they couldn’t find the back of the net.
Washington somehow stopped standout forward Gloire Amanda from scoring. Amanda has tallied 11 goals and six assists so far this season and will look to continue his impressive run of form against the Cal defense.
Sunday’s match will undoubtedly be one of the most pivotal games of the season for the Bears. A reversal of the early season misfortunes has proven head coach Kevin Grimes’ philosophy true, and Cal is just a few steps away from becoming the team it set out to be during its abbreviated preseason.
In the last matchup between OSU and Cal, Oregon State brought down the hammer, putting four past the Bears in swift and dominant fashion. Four different Beavers found the back of the net against a disjointed Cal defense that looked out of sorts from the outset.
With two-straight clean sheets under their belt, the Bears now have a blueprint for how to stop quality opponents in attack. It’s evident that centerbacks Ian Lonergan and Nuphaus have found some continuity and have been able to involve the midfield through its buildup play more often than not.
Scoring goals, however, is all that matters. Oregon State doesn’t give up many, as five of its seven wins this season have been shutouts.
The match kicks off at 7 p.m. and will be played at Witter Rugby Field in Berkeley.