Cal men’s soccer was set to make a splash in its double feature against Saint Mary’s and UCSB. Yet dissatisfaction flooded the weekend as victories barely dripped onto the field.
Eager to replace troubling records with both teams, the Bears faced off against both Saint Mary’s and UCSB without home-field advantage. The last time Cal stepped onto the pitch against Saint Mary’s was in 2016, in which the Bears left with a 2-2 tie. In 2019, the Gauchos added a blue and gold notch to their belt after winning against the Bears 3-1.
Cal men’s soccer went into the game excited to officially begin its season and make up for lost time due to the pandemic. These opening games were expected to serve as a litmus test for the squad. And if the results of these games serve as any kind of indicator, Cal men’s soccer is in for a trying conference series.
Nevertheless, the blue and gold showed flashes of promise. Cal faced Saint Mary’s on Thursday, dropping the opening game 0-1. While the Gaels managed to pull through in the end, the game was fairly equal in terms of pushing back. It was not until the 85th minute that Saint Mary’s was able to break through.
Saint Mary’s maintained control for the first half of the game, but Cal senior goalkeeper Chris Gustini stood his ground in spectacular fashion by blocking all shots that came his way — a header, a pair of shots on frame and a left-footer were all deflected by Gustini. The Bears’ offense, on the other hand, did not appear to be as proactive as Saint Mary’s. The Gaels’ goalkeeper Nicholas Lapinid was only tested once in the entire first half of the game.
As Saint Mary’s added a goal to the board, the Bears went into full-fledged “attack mode.” With a corner kick in the 87th minute and a high shot in the last 10 seconds, Cal was desperate to equalize the score. However, its efforts were unfruitful as its last attempt soared over the post and the final whistle was blown.
While the game frustrated many, including fans and players, head coach Kevin Grimes saw a silver lining.
“You have to be extremely pleased with the performance,” Grimes said. “Many players had outstanding games and others played their first-ever college game. When you add it all up, the positives of the match far outweighed anything else.”
With this being a nonconference game, the stakes were relatively low. But the tension was also high, especially as Cal continued into the weekend with a matchup against the UCSB squad Sunday night.
During the first half against the Gauchos, the Bears stood at a goal advantage after sophomore forward Wyatt Meyer scored his first collegiate goal. The goal was an outstanding show out by Meyer and can also be accredited to senior goalkeeper Chris Gustini. Gustini assisted with a long ball to Meyer as he sprinted toward the opposite goal. Almost as if it was a cat-and-mouse affair, Meyer out-maneuvered his way through opposing defenders to give the blue and gold an early lead.
However, the satisfaction of being ahead did not last long, as UCSB tied the match in the second half. The Bears raced to outscore the Gauchos, using an overtime period and even gaining a free kick in the last minute. However, the kick went slightly wide, and the match concluded in a 1-1 tie.
Cal will continue its campaign against Dixie State this Friday, Sept. 3, at Edwards Stadium. The Bears aim to splash their cleats into the extremely unsatisfying puddle left dripping on the floor this weekend.
Maria Khan covers men’s soccer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.