Success ebbs and flows, and this season for the Cal men’s soccer team has proven just that.
The Bears are currently second in the Pac-12 standings after a strong performance against San Diego State. However, after a rather dissatisfying loss against UCLA this past weekend on the road, the team is returning to Bear territory, looking to get back on a winning streak with its match against the Saint Mary’s University Gaels.
“(We are) continuing to build on the attacking side of the game — getting behind and creating more goal scoring opportunities. I think defensively we started to find a pretty good rhythm,” said head coach Leonard Griffin. “Going into this weekend I want to see if we can add a little more into our attack and be goal dangerous.”
The last time the Bears held a victory against the Gaels was at an away game in 2003. Since then, Cal has faced Saint Mary’s three times, which resulted in a total of two losses and one tie. The most recent match against the Gaels was just last year for the season opener. Unfortunately for the Bears, a late goal from the opposition finished the game 1-0.
Saint Mary’s is looking rather strong this season, especially on the road. With a 3-0 away record, and a 5-2 overall record, the Gaels are undoubtedly a threat. Especially, when it comes to the number of goals scored, SMU currently holds an average of 2.29 goals per game — double Cal’s average of 1.14.
However, the Bears seem to be more than equipped for a victory, if they can follow through with a consistent performance throughout the whole 90 minutes.
This season, the blue and gold are typically scoring and effectively defending during the first half, but tend to lose their upper hand in the second — seeing last-minute goals scored by their opponents. In its past seven games, Cal has scored a combined total of five times during the first half, letting its opponents only score a total of two times. However, during the second half, the Bears have only scored a total of three times, with its counterparts scoring a total of seven.
Luckily for Cal, Saint Mary’s has not been known to be excelling defensively this season. In their first four games, the Gaels gave away nine goals. This being said, it is imperative that the Bears can create more goal scoring opportunities and become more of an attacking threat, just as coach Griffin said, if they want the game to end in a Cal victory.
If Cal can bring its A-game this Sunday at Edwards Stadium, and maintain a strong defensive performance, there is nothing stopping the Bears from getting back on track, given the rigorous season ahead.
“We have a group with extremely high character that has been receptive to any new ideas thrown their way — adapting and eager to grow, learn and improve. For any coach that’s a blessing, so we’re super excited to continue to push the group forward,” Griffin said. “As with the character, we have a lot of talent on the soccer field, so the combination of those two things allow us to continue to be successful moving forward.”
With the season ramping up, it is yet to be seen whether the team’s atmosphere combined with skill on the field will yield a winning streak. This weekend might prove to be a decisive game, setting a tone for the rest of the season to come. Given the Gaels’ record, they might prove to be a challenging opponent. Will the Bears be able to match their level?