Cal’s Halloween weekend trip featured games against the formidable No. 4 ranked Washington and fearsome No. 3 ranked Oregon State. Despite two commendable performances, the Bears return to Berkeley without a win or draw.
The Bears kicked off in Seattle during a torrential downpour on a water-logged pitch. Dribbling and short passing was difficult for both sides, but Cal welcomed the conditions, as the initial game plan would have likely favored long balls regardless of the weather.
But the Huskies still found a way: In the seventh minute, sophomore goalkeeper Colin Travasos failed to clear a cross, and Washington’s Gio Miglietti sent the ball into the Bears’ goal in the ensuing scrum
An early deficit was no stranger to the Bears. In their two previous games, a win against UCLA and a draw against Santa Clara, Cal conceded first but fought back in the second half to ultimately find a favorable result.
Surprisingly, the Bears’ answer against UW came as early as the 36th minute. A miscued Washington clearance set up senior forward Dylan Penn’s strike that rocketed into the bottom right corner of the Husky goal and sent the Cal players into sliding, splashing celebrations of pure elation.
For the struggling Bears, a draw against the No. 4 ranked Huskies would have been an impressive feat. As such, the players fought tooth and nail to preserve the scoreline and search for the go-ahead goal.
Ultimately, though, the deciding moment of the game was out of their control. In the 61st minute, the referee consulted both coaches and ruled that the unabating rain posed concerns for player safety. To the Bears’ vocalized dismay, the game was declared a no contest since it failed to reach the required 70-minute mark.
On Sunday, Oct. 31, the Bears looked to rebound in the second leg of their Pacific Northwest trip, facing off against Oregon State.
For most of the first half, Cal looked powerless as the Beavers methodically probed the Bears’ defense and tirelessly counter-pressed to quickly regain possession when the ball was lost. Oregon State’s energetic efforts were rewarded in the 30th minute when Carlos Moliner sent in a low cross that Mouhameth Thiam redirected into the back of the net.
Following Oregon State’s goal, the blue and gold began to more proactively assert themselves in the game. Kevin Grimes, head coach, instructed his men to press higher up the pitch: This enabled the Bears to gain possession in more favorable positions, but it also led to some shaky moments where the Beavers played behind Cal’s back line.
Still, this benefited the Bears, as the game felt more like a back-and-forth affair than an outright domination. Going into halftime, there was a glimmer of hope for Cal, which had seriously improved by the end of the first half.
But just five minutes after the game’s resumption, Oregon State dealt the Bears a crippling blow. Tsiki Ntsabeleng’s long-range curling effort beat Travasos to double the Beavers’ lead.
The Bears remained undaunted and continued to press on. In the 67th minute, junior left-winger Fahmi Ibrahim floated an elegantly lobbed cross into the box, and sophomore forward Nate Carrasco was fouled as he controlled it to win the Bears a penalty kick.
Senior forward Jonathan Estrada stepped up to the penalty spot and dispatched a poorly placed — and easily saved — penalty kick, wasting the blue and gold’s best chance of the game. Once more, the Bears had a response — but it again fell flat.
After Cal’s penalty miss, a better organized Oregon State was able to safely see out the rest of the game without too much trouble from the blue and gold.
“Although we started a bit slow, we grew into the game tremendously,” Grimes said. “The second half we had three incredible chances to pull within one. If that happens, the possibilities become much greater for us to get a result.”
It is likely that the Washington game will not be rescheduled, and the Bears will play their last game of the season against Stanford on Nov. 11.
Colin Mequet covers men’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].