There was something in the air Friday when Cal men’s soccer (5-2) faced Santa Clara, and it was the smell of delicious home cooking. After getting shut out in the first half, the Bears cooked up a 3-2 victory, with all three goals coming off the seemingly divine cleat of senior forward Paul Salcedo-Borrego.
“So I was used to cooking myself, and I hadn’t scored, so that wasn’t working,” Salcedo said. “And then (Shinya Kadono) on our team is a great cook and he made curry for us, we all had like a team dinner and I actually think that that was the factor that made me play better.”
Cal found itself in a familiar position at halftime: down 1-0, having been unable to get on the board early. Coming out of the locker room for the second half, however, the Bears looked energized and aggressive, taking four shots and a corner kick within the first 10 minutes of play.
It was that aggressive play that led to Salcedo’s hat trick, which quickly turned a frustrating 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead for Cal. Salcedo’s 2017 goal total also jumped from 0 to 3. Salcedo’s performance not only kept the Bears’ now-four-game win streak alive, but also prevented Santa Clara from securing its first win of the season.
“Honestly their right back was a little bit slower,” Salcedo said. “And the center backs, we had scouted them, our coach told us their weaknesses, their flaws, they were a little slow on the pivot and so I kinda just exposed that.”
Friday also saw the season debut of junior goalie Noah Texter who was starting in place of sophomore Drake Callender. Texter had six saves in the game and notched the first win of his college career.
The Bears will now pack up their win streak and head down to Westwood this week, taking on UCLA in their first conference game of the season. The Bruins are coming off a win Sunday night against Cal State Northridge, and sit at 3-3 on the season.
Cal has continuously found ways to win games despite continued difficulties scoring in the first half, but that trend would be particularly cumbersome against UCLA. The Bruins have had similar struggles, and the Bears would do well to exploit that fact by getting on the board early. Cal was successful in doing so just once this season, when it faced University of San Francisco two weeks ago. It scored two goals in the first half and would go on to win that game 3-2, showing the power of early offense.
UCLA began the season ranked 21st having gone two rounds deep in the NCAA tournament last season, but have since fallen out of the rankings. A road loss to Georgetown and a 3-0 blow out at the hands of Clemson didn’t help.
Cal and UCLA met twice last year, splitting the series 1-1, and both games were decided by just one goal.
The Bears would undoubtedly benefit from a repeat performance by Salcedo-Borrego, but will also look to senior midfielder Jose Carrera-Garcia and junior midfielder Kadono for some productive bouts of offense.
Cal fans just better hope that Kadono’s hotel room has a kitchen.