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Now or never: Cal men's soccer faces desperation time with Southern California trip

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NOVEMBER 01, 2018

Whenever a team enters a season full of promise and ultimately underachieves, it’s never easy for anybody — coaches, players and fans. This has been the case for the Cal men’s soccer team who have three games left to play in what’s largely viewed as a disappointing season.

Despite Cal’s winless record in its past five games and current last-place position in the Pac-12 Conference standings, the Bears remain motivated to end this season on a high and give their seniors the send-off they deserve.

This week, Cal will travel down to Southern California to face off against UCLA and San Diego State. In doing so, the Bears will be aiming to walk away with their first road win of 2018, having dropped their first four thus far.

On Thursday, the Bears will take on a motivated Bruin squad who currently sits in third place in the standings. After two disappointing losses at the hands of Washington and Oregon State, UCLA enters this matchup hungry to get back to its winning ways.

When Cal and UCLA faced off in the Pac-12 opener earlier this season, there was little to separate the two rivals. On that particular afternoon, however, UCLA was simply more clinical in the attacking third, eventually walking away with a 2-1 victory in Berkeley.

This time around, the key aspect to watch in this matchup will be how Cal’s maturing defense deals with UCLA’s formidable attack. Cal freshmen Ian Lonergan and JJ Foe Nuphaus were two of the top recruits in the entire country, but their inexperience has shown at different times in the season.

With the majority of Pac-12 play already complete, it will be fascinating to see how the freshman tandem stacks up this time around against a Bruin team that took advantage of the duo’s youth in their first matchup.

On Sunday, the Bears will take on San Diego State in a battle of last-place teams. The Bears got their lone victory in the Pac-12 when they defeated the Aztecs earlier in the season, courtesy of a second-half screamer by senior Shinya Kadono.

Kadono will continue to highlight the Bear attack upfront and serve as a talisman for long balls. The senior from Irvine continues to lead the Pac-12 in goals scored (12) and points (26) thus far into 2018.

Cal will also likely feature junior goalkeeper Drake Callender who missed a decent chunk of the season with an injury. Callender will be matched up against redshirt junior Max Watkin who enters the contest having only conceded five goals, which is five fewer goals than his nearest peer in the Pac-12.

Sunday’s contest will be fascinating to see if Cal’s offense can overpower the Aztec defense. As has been the case this season, the Bears have struggled to create chances. On the other hand, San Diego State has been particularly effective at limiting oppositions. As such, this game will be a handy test to see if Cal can break the Aztec defense.

Overall, Cal has been a disappointment this season by its traditionally lofty standards. Nevertheless, the team will attempt to end the season with a bang and put its best foot forward.

Praveen Kuruppu covers men’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].
LAST UPDATED

NOVEMBER 01, 2018


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