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NCAA Men’s Soccer 1st Round: USF Dons knock out Cal Bears 2-1

Dons will advance to a 2nd round match at 4th overall seed Louisville

Senior captain Jose Carrera-Garcia will look to extend his Cal career by leading the Bears to a first round win this afternoon.
Cal Men’s Soccer Twitter


The 2017 Cal Men’s Soccer season came to an end on a rainy Thursday afternoon in Berkeley. The USF offense continued their season long barrage by outshooting the Bears all game long (17 to 10 is the final margin), but it came down to the execution on several close chances by both side late in the 2nd half that decided this match.

The two sides were scoreless at the half with USF with the bulk of the opportunities. Golden Bears came out of the 2nd half on fire as Aravind Sivakumar scored with just 30 seconds into the 2nd half. Unfortunately, the Dons found an equalizer within a minute as Kaminski scored yet another goal against the Bears.

The two sides traded good opportunities before Sean Bowman finally put one in in the 79th minute. Bears had a few more attacks late but just could not find the equalizer before the time ran out on the 2017 campaign.

Bears will have to replace quite a few key players yet again, although star keeper Drake Callender should be back (unless he pull a Klinsmann and go pro in Europe). Bears should still be playing at Edwards Stadium in 2018, although that will likely come to an end in the near future as Cal Athletics use that land to repay some of its debt.


For the first time since 2014, the California Golden Bears Men’s Soccer squad (11-6, 6-4 in Pac-12) has make it back to the postseason. Because the Bears did not earn a seed, they will host a first round match on Thursday against the familiar local rival that is University of San Francisco Dons (9-8, 6-1 as the West Coast Conference winner). The winner will then travel to Louisville to take on the 4th seed Cardinals on Sunday.

Bears played the Dons in San Francisco back on September 17th of this season. It was a back-and-forth shootout that was won by the Bears 3-2.

The full NCAA bracket of 48 teams can be found here. 16 teams that earned a seed received a first round bye. Wake Forest, Indiana, North Carolina, and Louisville are the top 4 seeds. Three out of the six Pac-12 teams made the postseason, led by the 9th seed Stanford who won the Pac. Washington also punched a ticket to the postseason.

Golden Bears have a very good 7-3 record from the friendly confines of Edwards Stadium in 2017. Dons have a 4-2 record on the road.

Bears have a RPI ranking of 33rd. San Francisco Dons have a RPI of 43rd.

About the Golden Bears:

Golden Bears are led by a pair of Pac-12 first team members in sophomore goalkeeper Drake Callender and redshirt senior Jose Carrera-Garcia. Cal’s leading scorer (7 goals) Shinya Kadono is on the Pac-12 2nd team. 4 other Bears - Paul Salcedo, Sam Ebstein, Udo Rebecchini, and Joshua Morton earned honorable mention honors.

Bears score a total of 22 goals (while allowing 21 on the year). Drake Callender has 6 shutouts on the year.

In the previous matchup between these two teams, Carrera-Garcia converted a penalty while Kadono scored a brace to lead the Bears.

About the Dons

Sean Bowman is the leading scorer for the Dons with 9 goals. Aaron Lombardi leads them with 9 assists (to go with 3 goals). Leon Schwarzer and Santiago Digiuseppe each scored 6 goals to go with 7 and 3 assists, respectively.

Digiuseppe and Bryce Kaminski were the goal scorers against the Bears in the previous meeting.

For the season, Dons scored 35 goals.

Ruben Stuiver is their leading goalkeeper. Stuiver has 2 shutouts on the year.

Keys to a Cal Victory

  • This is Bear Territory: With a Thursday afternoon day game, maybe there won’t be a huge home crowd on hand for the Bears. Nevertheless, the Bears need to take advantage of the familiar setting.
  • Drake Callender: Bears are not a great offensive team. Consequently, they will rely heavily on their defense and keeper Callender to carry them this offseason. Callender has had a few outstanding performances this year, making some big one-on-one or penalty saves. Just like how Cal alum Stefan Frei carried the Seattle Sounders to a MLS Cup victory in 2016 (and looking to do so again in 2017), Bears would need the sophomore to carry the team on his back for the duration of this run.
  • Smart defending: While postseason matches are often very physical, Cal defenders need to have enough discipline to not pick up any red cards. Yeah, I am still disappointed by the Cal Women’s Soccer home loss that was largely due to a 3rd minute red card picked up by the Cal center back.
  • Make Shots: This is not just a key to hoops success. Bears have a shot on goal percentage on the season of 0.356 (78 for 219). The percentage of 22 goals out of 78 shots on goal is actually fairly good. Bears would need to continue to take advantage of their sharp shooting.

USF had more shots on goal and more corners (6 to Cal’s 0) in the first meeting but the Bears came out victorious anyhow. I think this Cal team will play much better in this match and have a much more even shots on goal. Coach Kevin Grimes’ teams have had a pretty good history of handling the postseason pressure. I can see a 2-1 Cal win in this one.

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