The men’s soccer team splits a pair of games at home this week to open up conference play. Thursday afternoon at Edwards Stadium, the sun was shining and the Bears were ready to take on a red-hot Aztecs team.
The Bears themselves were feeling good about their recent play as they came off their first win of the season after three straight draws. They came out of the gates hot and never looked back. Things were looking good as the team cruised past SDSU, netting two goals in the first half en route to a 2-0 shutout.
Cal striker Nonso Adimabua opened the scoring in the 36th minute, off an assist from Adrian Guzman. Guzman would go on to then score a goal of his own — his first of the season — in the 43rd minute, just before the half came to a close.
In the second half, Cal contained the Aztecs and held them scoreless once again. SDSU didn’t go down without a fight, however, applying constant pressure as it took 17 corner kicks throughout the game.
The Bears’ defense remained tough, managing to stymie the attacks as they came. Kicking off conference play 1-0 while extending their win streak to two, the Bears were feeling confident about improving their record from the start of the season.
“Any win is a big win, especially when it’s a Pac-12 game,” said head coach Leonard Griffin. “So to get started on the right foot is exactly what we wanted to do.”
Cal’s next opponent was No. 25 UCLA. The Bruins had just come off a 0-0 draw at Stanford and were looking to get back in the win column. The Bears, with a recent win under their belt, wanted to keep that momentum going and come out of the weekend at home 2-0.
Unfortunately for the fans that filled Edwards Stadium, the game Sunday afternoon did not go the Bears’ way. On a gloomy, windy day in Berkeley, the Bears found it challenging to show the same level they were performing at just one day earlier..The Bruins started out the first half strong, retaining the majority of the possession and keeping the ball in Cal’s half of the field. It seemed as though they were just waiting for the right opportunity to strike.
The Bruins abused the right side of the field and attacked that side time and time again looking for a cross — but were never able to connect one. Cal’s defense stood strong here, too, as the team was able to get deflections and clear the ball away to evade the threats.
While UCLA was controlling the possession game, the Bears did take their chances to counter. The first real chance of the game came off a strike from forward Adimabua.
“We wanted to make sure we were organized and compact defensively, and when we got the ball we wanted to take care of it, but also catch them in transition,” Griffin said. “I felt we did that well, especially in the first half.”
In the 41st minute, Cal did just that. On a counter attack, off a cross to the front of the net, Shoei Honda was able to get a boot on the ball and put it into the goal off his back heel to put Cal up 1-0.
At this point, fans thought Cal was going into the locker room up 1-0 with the opportunity to come out of the game with a win to pack up a successful weekend. Much to fans’ dismay, UCLA’s Kevin Diaz put a wrench in those plans with 30 seconds until the half. Diaz netted a goal off a UCLA corner kick to tie the match at 1-all.
It was a whole new game with 45 minutes to go.
Cal was able to fend off the Bruin pressure for a good portion of the second half — but in the 76th minute, the Bears’ defense finally cracked. It was another set-piece goal, this time from Jose Contell to Tommy Silva, that put the Bruins up 2-1. Contell’s late goal would be enough to push the Bruins just past the Bears and earn them the win on the road.
It was a good fight from Cal at home, but ultimately UCLA proved to be the better team. The Bruins outshot the Bears by six, and had six corners to Cal’s one. In the end, it was the set plays that won it for the Bears’ SoCal rival.
Cal moves to 1-1 in conference play after the UCLA loss, with a 2-2-3 overall season record. This was the first loss suffered by Cal at home this season, but fans are hopeful that the Bears will turn things around next weekend.
The Bears will have a chance at redemption, playing at home again Sunday, this time against Saint Mary’s. With conference play just beginning, there are many games that still lie ahead for the Bears.