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Cal Men's Soccer vs. Washington Open Thread: Bears go for the conference title

A match of great conference and national importance (this is starting to sound rather familiar), Bears can clinch the Pac-12 title with a win or possibly lose it with a loss. GOAL ON YOU BEARS!

Is this team ready to win the Pac-12 title this afternoon?
Is this team ready to win the Pac-12 title this afternoon?
Cal Men's Soccer Facebook

No.4 California Golden Bears (12-1-2, 6-1-1) at No.3 Washington Huskies (12-1-4, 5-1-2)

When: 1 PM PT

TV: Pac-12 Networks

THIS IS IT, a de facto match for the conference title in Pac-12 Men's Soccer. With just two matches left in the regular season, the Bears can clinch the title by beating Washington this afternoon. Equally as importantly, a win may even vault the Bears back into the top spot in the ranking, particularly in the RPI (where the Bears are 3rd behind Washington and UCLA).

Let's take a closer look at the Men's Soccer standings:

Men's soccer STANDINGS

Teams Pts Conf Overall
CALIFORNIA 19 6-1-1 12-1-2
UCLA 18 5-1-3 9-3-4
WASHINGTON 17 5-1-2 12-1-4
SAN DIEGO STATE 8 2-5-2 5-9-2
STANFORD 5 1-5-2 7-6-3
OREGON STATE 2 0-6-2 7-8-2

The UCLA Bruins have played one extra match than the Bears and the Huskies. The only way for UCLA to win the conference would require quite a limited scenario. They would probably prefer a draw from this match.

The scenario is a lot simpler for the Bears. If they can beat the Huskies, they would be 4 point clear of UCLA and 5 point ahead of Washington in the table with only one match left (a win is only 3 point). In short, the Bears would be your 2013 Pac-12 winner.

Washington is actually in a decent position. The can leapfrog the Bears with a win, and their last match is against the winless in the conference Oregon State. Bears' final match of the regular season is the second leg of the Bay Area Derby against Stanfurd.

On Friday, Bears defeated Oregon State by a score of 3-0 behind a header goal by senior captain Steve Birnbaum and a brace from Omid Jalali. All three goals came in the second half after the Bears had dominated the first half with nothing to show on the scoreboard.

Unfortunately, Bears' captain Steve Birnbaum had to leave the Oregon State match with a leg/knee injury. His availability for today's big match is unknown.

SF Chronicle's Hunter Hewitt wrote a short article on Birnbaum from a week and a half ago.

"He's having a great season on both sides of the ball, and he has been a tremendous leader," head coach Kevin Grimes said. "Fifth-year seniors always have something special in them."

Birnbaum has hopes of playing professionally after he graduates, but those can wait. For now, he wants to focus on enjoying his dream season.

"Everyone keeps telling me to enjoy every last second this season, because it will never happen again," he said. "That's definitely what I'm trying to do. I'm lucky to be here, and I'm happy to be a part of this great team for one more season."

By the way, check out who got the Top Play (#2 was also pretty good) from last week:

Early in the season at Berkeley, Bears jumped out to a 1-0 lead on the Huskies, but eased off the gas pedal to allowed a late equalizer. That match ended in a 1-1 draw.

This should be a fun match, with the quality of the teams and the stakes.