Coming off a tough loss against rival Stanford, the .500 Cal men’s soccer team heads up north for two games against some familiar Pac-12 opponents. The blue and gold will take on Oregon State in Corvallis on Thursday before they head to Seattle to play the University of Washington.
These games are vital for Cal in conference play and the rest of its season. The Bears have gone 2-2 in their last four games. Following a rough game against the Cardinal, they can easily let that score affect these upcoming matches. It is up to the team to wipe away the memory of the loss and compete against two tough opponents in conference play.
The Bears will be without their home faithful and battle the hostile crowds of the Pacific Northwest, making the already daunting task much harder. Their first match against the Beavers should be a riveting one. Last year, the Beavers finished as one of the top teams in the country but have failed to prove to be as lethal on the pitch this year.
Both Cal and Oregon State are coming off losses to conference opponents and are looking to respond well in this match. With a record of 4-3-1, Oregon State is trying to defend its home turf and pick up a win against the blue and gold. On the other side, Cal is 1-2 in conference play this year and will be looking to get back in the win column as well after the loss last week.
The University of Washington also boasts an impressive soccer program. Last year, they were the best team in the nation but ultimately lost in the national championship game to Clemson. History seems to be repeating itself this year: The Huskies are coming in with a record of 9-0-1 thus far. They are on pace for an even better record than last year and will try to extend their unbeaten season against Cal.
It will be a tough ask for the Bears against the No. 1 ranked team, especially with the Huskies having home field advantage. It will be a good litmus test to see how they stack up against another top team.
Cal, sitting at 3-3-3 on the year, has Fahmi Ibrahim as the team leader in goals thus far this season with four, followed close behind by Shoei Honda at three. Senior midfielder Juan Martinez leads the team in assists with two and a plethora of other teammates trail with one. His facilitation in the attacking half and final third this weekend will be vital for the blue and gold.
In order for the Bears to compete this week, their defense has to remain solid. They’ve done well so far this season with the exception of the last 15 minutes of the Stanford game when they gave up three goals, but if they can keep teams out of the box they will have a good chance. As for the attacks, Cal must have timely counters and apply pressure with the forwards.
Though a longshot when facing the top team in the country, two victories is very much an attainable goal for Cal and would greatly help its record in conference play. In this crucial part of the season, the team must have all hands on deck and keep its eye on the prize. Given the Bears’ opponents recent records, these matches may prove to be neck and neck — but may also be just what Cal needs to get back on the winning streak.