A quick glance at the Cal women’s soccer early-season schedule can tell you that the Bears are going to be tested quite a few times this fall. On Aug. 22, they managed to tie No. 2 ranked Santa Clara with the help of junior and softball-player-turned-backup-goalie Makena Smith, but there’s still more in store for the blue and gold.
Portland and Saint Mary’s are teams that managed to give Cal trouble in the past, but the Bears have so far claimed victory over this season. Portland beat the Bears 2-0 before the two teams took to the field this fall, and Saint Mary’s sported a 3-0-0 record before being stopped in its tracks. Despite the obstacles these teams brought to the table, Cal stood its ground to claim a 2-0-2 record. Now, it’s time for yet another challenge against a team that has not yet tasted the bitterness of defeat at the hands of the Bears.
Cal will host San Francisco on Thursday at Edwards Stadium. The last time the two teams met was in 2017, where the Dons snatched a 1-0 victory after a late left-footer by Izzie Lueken.
The blue and gold’s most recent match against the Gaels could provide a glimpse into how the Bears will attack a solid San Francisco defense. While the goalkeeper for the Dons, Molly Eby, faced just six shots in the San Francisco game against San Jose State, Cal racked up 12 shots in contrast to Saint Mary’s six in a separate game.
When detailing the game against Saint Mary’s, sophomore Amaya Gray chalks the reason for the Gaels’ early success up to their aggression and perseverance.
“(Saint Mary’s) did come out with a lot of fire and passion,” Gray said. “And a lot of hope that they could dominate the game … they really believed that they could take us on.”
The Bears can certainly expect the same intensity from the Dons.
The matchup will likely feature key battles from both sides. San Francisco freshman and defender Kenna Roth recently came onto the scene and is expected to make big moves. A significant test of her ability awaits as she is set to go up against the seasoned gloves of Cal junior and goalkeeper Angelina Anderson, who recorded 68 saves in her sophomore year alone.
Possession control is also predicted to be an important factor in deciding the victor of the San Francisco game. Both teams dominated possession in their last outings, with Cal pulling away near the end of the second half. San Francisco limited corner kicks for its opponent — San Jose State took just three all game. Cal, however, amassed 12 corners, indicating its ability to press and create chances, as well as retain and dominate possession.
“They do have some very very powerful individual players,” said head coach Neil McGuire. “Thursday will (give us) more details on individual matchups.”
It remains to be seen if the Bears’ number in the loss column will remain at zero. While the energy fans bring to Edwards Stadium will give the blue and gold an advantage, Cal must execute a near-perfect game plan in order to come away with its first home victory this season.
Ali Fazal covers women’s soccer. Contact him at afazaldailycal.org.