Bears join the Big Leagues, face off against Pacific at Paypal Park

Photo of Cal men's soccer
Lisi Ludwig/Senior Staff

Related Posts

The Bears take on the Big Leagues.

Cal men’s soccer is set to face the Pacific Tigers in a long-awaited rematch during its nonconference series. The blue and gold arrive Thursday, Sept. 9 at 7 p.m. on the pitch of PayPal Park –– home of the San Jose Earthquakes. As the Bears’ neighbor MLS team, the Earthquakes have been known to scout right from their backyard.

“Playing at PayPal Park is an incredible experience for players, coaches and staff,” said Cal head coach Kevin Grimes. “We are honored to have the opportunity to step into a majestic stadium and have a regular-season game.”

Former Cal forward Tommy Williamson, the latest recruit from the Bears, joined the Quakes during the 2021 MLS SuperDraft. Now on loan to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, Williamson sets an exciting precedent for current players eager to receive a spot on a professional team.

Excited to play on the Earthquakes’ pitch, the Bears are expected to bring their all to this matchup. But given its historically not-so-stellar record against the Pacific Tigers, the team also has added pressure.

Last seen in 2018, the blue and gold left the field defeated, 1-2, against their colleagues in California. Cal began its season on a winning streak only to be stunted by the Tigers, which effectively derailed the rest of its season.

Similar to 2018, the Bears are currently on a winning streak after emerging victorious against Dixie State and UNLV in a series of contentious clashes. In an attempt to stop history from repeating itself,
Grimes can be seen hustling his players during practices.

Pacific is coming off of a fantastic win, 4-2, against CSU Bakersfield after previously losing to Stanford, 0-4. A trying matchup for the Bears and Tigers, the common opponent gauges the talent level for both teams. Because Cal has lost games to Stanford for the past five seasons, the Cardinal puts both squads’ abilities at roughly equal.

While the talent might be even, the strengths of both teams are in completely different areas. As can be displayed by its past multiple-goal wins, Pacific brings quality offense by finding opportunities to get the ball into the box and keeping it there until it hits the back of the net. Historically, the blue and gold have been a defensive-minded team, playing back and slowing down the ball to prevent any shots toward goalkeepers Chris Gustini and Collin Travasos. However, Grimes has recently paid greater attention to the offensive line, evidenced by the Bears’ 2-0 win against Dixie State and a 4-3 victory against UNLV.

“I think we have been focusing completely on defending since we have been together,” Grimes said. “We now have to start working our way into the attack, concentrating and focusing on the attack.”

As the Bears shift their attention toward the goal-scorers at the top of the field, many have been taking notice of Cal’s newly unveiled offensive prowess.

Players to watch include “Jack” of all trades junior Jack Singer. During Cal’s matchup against Dixie State, the multitalented player –– who has played as a defender, midfielder and forward –– connected on a game-winning shot. Two days later, Singer scored two goals against UNLV. Currently leading Cal in total goals scored, Singer was most recently named to TopDrawerSoccer Men’s Team of the Week as well as the Pac-12’s Player of the Week.

Other standout Bears include sophomore midfielder Evan Davila and freshman forward Shoei Honda, both of whom scored outstanding goals during Cal’s previous games. Along with Singer, Davila received a Men’s Team of the Week Honorable Mention by TopDrawerSoccer.

Cal men’s soccer fans are looking forward to the blue and gold joining the Big Leagues at Paypal Park. Will the Bears add to their newly growing list of goals by knocking out a home-run against Pacific, or will they strike out?

Maria Khan covers men’s soccer and football. Contact her at [email protected].