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NCAA Men's Soccer 3rd Round: Cal vs. UCLA, Episode 3, Revenge of the Sith

It turns out that the Episode 3 of Cal vs. UCLA is subtitled: The Revenge of the Sith. Sunday Night Futbol ended with UCLA 3, Cal 2. The Bruins advance to the NCAA quarterfinals (Elite 8) against North Carolina next weekend.

This was what happened last time, when the Bears too on the Bruins.
This was what happened last time, when the Bears too on the Bruins.
Cal Men's Soccer Twitter

And that's the season for Cal Men's Soccer, who finished the year in the Sweet 16 round with after a 3-2 loss to UCLA down in LA. It was another entertaining match as advertised, but the Bears were unable to complete the tough trifecta against a very good UCLA squad.

The 3rd meeting of the year went the way of the Baby Bears, who jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first half. Twice in the second half, the Bears fought hard to get back within 1, but ultimately ran out of time.

Here are the goals:

1st two Bruins goals were scored by players who were goal-less for the year.

UCLA's 1st

UCLA's 2nd

In the second half, Cal star senior midfielder Connor Hallisey pulled the Bears to within 1

But UCLA answered with another goal

Bears answered again with a great pass from Hallisey again, with senior Stefano Bonomo with the finishing touch.

Sadly, that was the last goal of the match as the the Bears were not able to equalize the match in the last 16 minutes.

Golden Bears end the year with a 11-7-1 record.

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NCAA Men's Soccer Sweet 16: 15th seed Cal (11-6-1) at 2nd seed UCLA (12-4-4)

Where: Drake Stadium in Los Angeles, CA

When: 7pm PT

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Bears are going for their 3rd straight win over the UCLA Bruins on the season. Due to injuries, there are changes to both squads. Can the Bears beat a team that they have upset twice already this year, when the stakes are the highest?

Last times when these two squads meet on the pitch in 2014:

November 2nd: Cal 1, UCLA 0

October 10th: Cal 3, UCLA 2 in OT

UCLA, the 2nd overall seed, is the top team according to RPI thanks to their 12-2-4 record against teams not named "Cal". The Bears are of course 2-0-0 on the year against the Bruins, but both of those matches were nail biters.

Several key differences do exist for both squads now at the end of the season, however.

For the Golden Bears, as I mentioned in the weekly post, senior striker Bobby Sekine and redshirt junior goalkeeper Alex Mangels have step up for the Bears after freshman striker Paul Salcedo (who had a goal against UCLA in the first meeting of the two teams) and redshirt senior goalkeeper Justin Taillole (who had the shutout in the second meeting) suffered injuries in the UW match (the next-to-last regular season match).

For the Bruins, they will be without their freshman star forward Seyi Adekoya who is 2nd on UCLA in total points (5 goals, 4 assists). Adekoya is a dangerous striker who had an assist for the Bruins in the first Cal win.

Keys to victory

Let the seniors lead the way

The Bears are a senior-laden team with the senior playmakers in Conor Hallisey and Seth Casiple leading the way and Stefano Bonomo as the leading goal scorer. Max Oldham, Bobby Sekine, and Omid Jalil are all capable of finishing. Of course, the Bears who may still have the top goals per game average in all of college soccer, also got younger goal scorers in sophomores Christian Thierjung, Nick Lima, and redshirt freshman Jose Carrera-Garcia. With the Seniors playing to extend their collegiate career, I would not be surprised if a Cal senior got the game winner.

Mangels is the man

Justin Taillole was very good all year, making all kind of saves behind a very young defensive line. For the second straight year, Alex Mangels is the keeper for the Bears for the postseason run due to injuries to Taillole. Mangels got his 2nd career shutout last week, and he is a very capable keeper. With how close these NCAA postseason matches are, Mangels may need to be the difference in the PKs.

Contains Leo Stolz

Stolz is the Bruins' leading scorer. He also scored both goals in UCLA's 2nd round OT win over San Diego. Bears had allowed Soltz only 1 shot in each of the previous match, they would need to continue the solid defense on him to deny him quality shots.

Early lead may crush the Bruins' hopes

Bears have shown the ability to beat UCLA's keeper Earl Edwards. Even in the second match, the Bears have had good looks. The only thing to take away from beating the Bruins twice is that the Bears should have the confidence. Conversely, should the Bears jump out to a decent lead, maybe just maybe they can crush the Bruins' spirit. UCLA did trail in their 2nd round match by a goal for a bit.

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The winner of this match will be the sole carrier of the Pac-12 banner (after Oregon State and Stanford, who sold their souls for the conference title were both ousted in the 2nd round, and Washington falling in PK earlier today to Michigan State) and take on the winner of 7th seed Clemson and North Carolina.

GOAL ON YOU BEARS!