BERKELEY – The top-ranked California Golden Bears (11-2-2, 5-1-1 Pac-12) dropped a hard-fought match to the third-ranked UCLA Bruins (10-3-4, 5-1-3 Pac-12) 2-1 on Sunday afternoon at Goldman Field in Berkeley in front of 1,562 fans. The Bruins took the lead just before the half on a goal by freshman forward Kevin De La Torre, and doubled their tally in the second half on midfielder Leo Stoltz’s team-leading seventh goal of the season. Cal fought back, slicing the lead in half when senior midfielder Alec Sundly scored on an incredible bicycle kick, but the Bears’ rally to equalize fell just short on Senior Day.
“You have to look at two things in a soccer game, the result and the performance,” said Cal head coach Kevin Grimes. “Our performance was absolutely fantastic. The first half was almost a masterpiece, we just didn’t score on the chances that we created. The second half was also a very good half and we had our chances to tie this game and force overtime. Moving forward we just have to build on how well we’ve played. This was perhaps one of the best games we have played all year and it is coming at the end of the season.”
Five Bears seniors were honored in a pregame ceremony in their last regular season home game at Goldman Field at Edwards Stadium. All five started the match, including co-captain and central defender Steve Birnbaum, goalkeeper Robby Gogatz, midfielders Sundly and Ryan Neil, as well as forward Luis Fuentes.
Cal applied a lot of pressure from the outset, creating a pair of chances early, as junior forward Stefano Bonomo fired his fifth minute shot over the bar after being set up nicely by defender Dylan Serrano. The Bears nearly opened the scoring just a few minutes later when Fuentes was played through on goal by junior midfielder Seth Casiple, but Fuentes’ effort on goal was saved well by Bruins goalkeeper Earl Edwards, Jr.
After the teams traded quality scoring opportunities, it was De La Torre who found his name on the scoresheet for UCLA just a few minutes from halftime. After service into the box was deflected, the freshman forward found the back of the net towards the back post, and the Bruins took a one goal advantage into the break.
The teams again swapped chances in the early stages of the second half. The Bears threatened to level the score at one apiece in the 66th minute, when Serrano’s ball in to Sundly was flicked right into the goalkeeper, Edwards, Jr.
It was however the Bruins who doubled their lead in the 70th minute of play, when Stoltz took a feed from midfielder Victor Munoz and buried it into the top corner at the far post past Cal goalkeeper Justin Taillole, who entered at halftime. Stoltz now has registered 20 points on the season with his seventh tally of the year.
The Bears would not go away, as they cut the deficit in half just two minutes later on a spectacular bicycle kick finish by Sundly off of a cross by freshman defender Mason Case. The goal seemed to energize the Bears as they fought for the equalizer. Bonomo almost brought the game level in the 86th minute when he received midfielder Christian Thierjung’s pass at the edge of the area. He appeared to possibly have beaten the goalkeeper, but his shot went inches wide of the near post.
With the seconds ticking down in the 90th minute, the Bears mustered one last chance at tying the game, but freshman forward Nick Lima’s shot as time expired went just wide as well and the Bruins left Berkeley with a 2-1 victory.
The Bears conclude their regular season with three consecutive matches away from home, beginning on Friday, Nov. 8 in Corvallis, Ore. against the Oregon State Beavers at 1 p.m. PT. Cal defeated Oregon State 3-1 earlier this season at home on Oct. 3. Cal then travel to Seattle on Sunday at 1 p.m. PT to battle the fourth-ranked Washington Huskies, who left Northern California with a 1-1 draw on Oct. 6 at Goldman Field. Both games will be broadcast live on the Pac-12 Networks.