Strikeout: Men’s soccer faces defeat in big leagues against Pacific

Photo of a Cal men's soccer game
Theo Wyss-Flamm/Senior Staff

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In a futile attempt to join the big leagues, the Bears struck out in grand fashion against the University of the Pacific at Paypal Park.

Concluding their nonconference series, the Bears started off the Sept. 9 game in high spirits as they prepared to face Pacific at the home of the San Jose Earthquakes. Elated to showcase its talent to the Quakes — a team who is known to recruit players right from its backyard — Cal exhibited what can only be described as performance anxiety.

The Bears were expected to bring their all to this matchup. Yet, given Cal’s dissatisfying record against the Tigers, the team felt the pressure of heightened expectations and succumbed to it.

The last time the Bears went up against the Tigers was in 2018, and the blue and gold left defeated 1-2, derailing the entire conference section of their season. History seems to be repeating itself this fall, as the Bears lost 1-2 against the Tigers on Thursday.

The fight on the pitch, or lack thereof, left fans feeling frustrated as Cal managed to get only two shots on goal during the entirety of the game. Starting out with a goal during the third minute, sophomore forward Wyatt Meyer came out swinging against the Tigers, giving the team a sliver of hope that didn’t last for long.

“We seemed to be off in a lot of different areas,” said head coach Kevin Grimes. “We started off gloriously with getting an early goal. From that point on it looked like we couldn’t get anything right: We couldn’t get our defending right, we couldn’t get our attack right. Only two out of nine shots were on goal frame. (It was) an off game in general.”

An unnecessary foul in the box tied the game up with a penalty kick for the Tigers, bringing the score to 1-1. Following the goal, the blue and gold’s defense started to fall apart as outside backs began shifting forward, looking for any chance to score. This opened a crater-sized hole in the back line, and redshirt senior goalkeeper Chris Gustini was left to fend for himself.

The Tigers were able to score yet another goal, putting Pacific up at the half.

“I think (Gustini) will be the first one to say that he would like to redo a couple of plays,” said goalkeeper coach Henry Foulk. “He got caught up in the pressurized situation. It started with the bad foul, and when that happened, our players got a bit rattled. It then started domino-ing through the players.”

As the match progressed into the second half, defense was the name of the game. Redshirt sophomore and goalkeeper Collin Travasos made his return to goal. Refusing to give up any more goals, Travasos shifted his position all the way to the midline during the second half. As the last man left on the field, Travasos resorted to unconventional tactics. Seen moving up to defend during a play, Travasos played in goal as a sweeper and in the defensive line. Rushing into the ball, Pacific’s offensive line did not have the opportunity to get comfortable in Cal’s box thanks to the power of Travasos’ plays.

“I thought Collin did well,” Foulk said. “He is coming off the bench, (and) he has the opportunity to see the flow of the game. That transition (from Gustini to Travasos) was fine, but we will have to make a decision on upcoming games.”

Proceeding this jarring match, Cal men’s soccer must kick it into high gear as it hits the road to head to San Diego State on Thursday, Sept. 16. Already demoted to the minor leagues, only time will tell if the Bears will strike out again or turn the tables and hit a home run.

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