The NFL season began Sunday, and most sports news has been inundated with mentions of quarterbacks and yard lines. While the majority of the United States is laser focused on football, it should be noted that Cal men’s soccer earned its first victory of the season Saturday and is looking for two more this week with matches against SDSU and UCLA to begin conference play.
Conference play is upon us and Cal begins its slate of conference games this week as it hosts two Southern California rivals.
“Conference to me is exciting,” said campus fifth-year Christian Gomez. “We’re all excited to compete now and show what Cal can do; the only thing that changes (in our play) is a new level of excitement that it’s finally here.”
Conference play brings out another level of excitement and energy in the game. The teams know each other well and bring out the best in one another. The bragging rights associated with a victory are an extra incentive to perform well.
The Aztecs started off the season slowly, going 0-3, but since then have not lost. They are coming off of two wins against UNLV and ranked University of Denver and seem to be rounding into form at the right time.
They are looking to keep their momentum going and extend their win streak to three as they take on Cal on Thursday.
UCLA is another good test for Cal on Sunday. The team finished in the top 25 of the country last season and is right back in the mix this year as well. UCLA has started the season 3-2, which slots it at No. 14 on the national rankings.
They will be looking to take out the Bears after Cal spoiled UCLA’s No. 1 public university ranking by the U.S. News & World Report, with the blue and gold and the Bruins are now tied at the top.
They may be better on the pitch, but not as an academic institution. The team will look to defend their academic ranking on the field to prove that they’re better.
“The team has done a great job competing and the coaching staff has done a great job preparing us. As long as we stay calm moving forward for the rest of the season, I’m not too worried about anything,” Gomez said.
Coming into conference play, Cal has started the season 1-1-3 and has not lost since the season opener.
It just earned its first win of the season last weekend, a day prior to head coach Leonard Griffin’s birthday.
“We’re gonna take it game by game and improve, and that’s what we’ve been doing, so I think as a whole the group has been consistent,” Gomez said.
The team has been trending in the right direction this season, even though its record may not show it yet. It has been able to be resilient when it’s down and play solid soccer for 90 minutes to earn it the three draws.
Last Saturday, the Bears were able to get over the hump to pick up the win. Now, if they can stay locked in and focused for conference play, they will find success. While the wins that Cal men’s soccer have provided have been fruitful and satisfying, conference play is a whole other ball game — literally.
Fans hope that the blue and gold can continue their upward trend and pick up two wins against the Aztecs and the Bruins. The Bears will hope to take on the Southern California giants at home this weekend to begin conference play.