Cal men’s soccer is aiming to return big this season, with its continuation of the conference series against UCLA on Sunday, Sept. 19. Arriving on the field fresh off a devastating 2-0 loss against SDSU, the blue and gold will attempt to emerge victorious against the Bruins. The faceoff against UCLA is not necessarily a “do-or-die” situation, but if a loss comes out of the matchup, then the greater team morale is at risk.
Cal met UCLA twice last season, splitting the losses and victories even with the Bruins. Cal started the season strong, coming out on top against UCLA 2-0 with sophomore midfielder Evan Davila scoring the game-winning goal. However, the Bears fell to the Bruins in a 4-3 goal-fest by the season’s end.
While Davila remains on the current roster, his playing time is a point of contention seeing that he suffered an injury during a play earlier this season. Having to rely on other potential goal-scorers, Cal’s coaching staff has been incorporating many more offense-focused drills, insisting that players slow the ball down in the back while speeding up and finding opportunities at the top of the field.
“We can’t be outrun. The (opponents) outran us; they outplayed us; they had a little more energy,” said goalkeeper coach Henry Foulk. “Our players haven’t been putting forth our best effort. The guys are going to reflect on it and use it as a motivating point to get better and springboard up from here.”
Forwards are expected to bring their all to this match, especially with Davila unsure about his return to play. Redshirt senior Lucas Churchill and junior defender, midfielder and forward Jack Singer remain players to watch out for, as they will likely bring heat to a frigid pitch during this game.
Aiming for redemption, the Bears must remain cautious for their matchup against UCLA. Because the Bruins boast loads of international talent, beating them will be no easy feat. Italy, Cyprus and England are just a few nations players on the opposing roster hail from. In addition to playing on professional club fields, UCLA’s roster is rich in its skills and abilities.
On Thursday, the Bruins hosted Stanford at Wallis Annenberg Stadium and won against the Cardinal 2-0. A sort of litmus test, the score resulting from this game addresses concerns regarding their skill level in comparison to Cal. While UCLA lost its last match against Portland 1-0, the team is performing much like the Bears in terms of its win-to-lose ratio. Before their game against Stanford, the Bruins outscored their opponents 7-2 and outshot them 40-25, with four out of five of their matches being decided by only one goal.
UCLA’s talent lies in its offense: The Bruins outrank many Pac-12 conference affiliates, having proven themselves as fantastic marksmen. Of the team’s 46 shots, 23 have been on frame, while the Bears have historically had trouble in that area. During the Pacific matchup, Cal only recorded two out of nine shots on frame, putting its offense well below that of UCLA.
The defense that Cal fans know and love must not let them down. The back line must be ironclad, with goalkeeper Collin Travasos anchoring the formation, if it wants any chance of winning. Travasos had a 0.00 goals against average after playing against Pacific and must show out to keep the UCLA forwards from setting up shop in the box.
The Bears continue their stint away from the Bay against UCLA after meeting SDSU in San Diego. Cal is teed up to win against its California counterpart; perhaps this time the ball will land in the green and not get stuck in the trap.
Maria Khan covers men’s soccer and football. Contact her at [email protected].