The Bears have done it again — lose, that is.
If the 1-0 loss against OSU and the 4-0 loss against UW is any evidence, it seems as though Cal men’s soccer simply cannot get it together. The team has been flip-flopping all season long in faring well either defensively or offensively, but never doing both at once.
Coming off of a devastating 5-0 defeat against Stanford, the Bears were insistent on locking in their once-ironclad defense. In doing so, they decided to let the top of the field fend for itself. With senior defender JJ Foe Nuphaus returning to the back line as a starter during this match, it was rare to see the ball head into Cal’s six-yard box. Yet, as a singular corner kick was headed into the back of the net in an unlucky goal in the 87th minute, the blue and gold lost all hope for their first conference win.
“The goal was definitely preventable; what made it unlucky is the fact that we did not score earlier,” Nuphaus said.
The Bears tried new tactics defensively. After facing an embarrassment at the hands of the Stanford men’s soccer team, Cal decided to start redshirt senior goalkeeper Chris Gustini, an unusual decision seeing that redshirt sophomore Collin Travasos has been the team’s go-to guy. Even as Gustini racked up five praiseworthy saves by anchoring the defensive line, the Beavers retained a majority of possession.
“They were dominant in possession and dominant in territory,” said head coach Kevin Grimes. “We hadn’t given up any set-piece goals all year, that was disappointing.”
Disappointment was immeasurable as fans lost all hope for a potential win going forward. Any sliver that they might have held onto was crushed as the Bears met the Huskies the following Sunday on Oct. 10. In a devastating 0-4 loss to the University of Washington, the blue and gold played the best first half of the season. Yet, after a questionable call by the referee that led to a goal through a free kick, morale and effort dwindled at a startling rate.
“We started off half with a bad call. It takes all the steam out of the game, all of a sudden. … It’s a buzzkill for a team like us that’s struggling. We just can’t afford to have a call that bad,” said goalkeeper coach Henry Foulk.
With all of the goals of the match coming from the second half, it seemed as though nothing was going right. All calls seemed to swing the other way — chance was not in the Bears’ favor.
“The players start feeling like ‘can we get any kind of break?’” Foulk said. “It’s those 50-50 things that just seem to keep bouncing in the other direction.”
By the end of the game, the fact that the blue and gold managed to hold the Huskies scoreless at the halfway mark was baffling. The energy off of the field post-loss was anything but enjoyable, with Nuphaus trying to rationalize the past losses objectively.
“We came close but not close enough,” Nuphaus said.
It seems as though that is the new normal for the Bears, as they try to dribble the ball towards their first conference win. Fans cannot help but wonder if the blue and gold will ever send it past the halfway line, let alone to the back of the net.
The Bears will now head to Santa Clara to play a nonconference game in between their Pac-12 play; perhaps the lower stakes of this game will lead to a win. However, hoping for anything great from the Cal men’s soccer team would be wishful thinking.
Maria Khan covers men’s soccer and football. Contact her at email@example.com.