Saturday, 3:00 PM
Cal (13-5-2; 5th – Pac-12; WTSR – 1.06, 3rd – Pac-12)
San Diego State (15-4-2; 1st – Mountain West; WTSR – 1.37, 1st – Mountain West)
Are The Aztecs A Live Underdog?
Very live, but you have to think some faith in them has dissipated after a very rocky end to the season. They won eight matches in a row but lost to Boise State, 2-0, a defeat that triggered a stretch of just three wins in six. One of those non-wins was a 1-1 draw with Colorado College in the Mountain West Tournament that necessitated a shootout win that probably saved SDSU’s bacon. But wins over the likes of Michigan and Washington show that the Aztecs can beat many teams when on their game. But defeats like the one against Michigan State reveals that the club can still go down in flames, even when dominating games.
SDSU Can Light It Up on Offense…
They can! Twenty-eight goals in eleven league games speaks volumes. This isn’t a team with just a single weapon either. SDSU doesn’t have a player with more than seven goals, but they have four with five or more. Hannah Keane and Kelsey Booth are likely to be the focal points on offense. Keane has perhaps not scored as many as anticipated, with just five on the season and four in the league. But three of those in the league were match winners, and some more clutch scoring would be big. Booth is a big hitter from midfield along with Katie Perry, and the trio has enough in the tank to trouble a lot of defenses. At the same time though, SDSU isn’t very efficient in the attack, with just 37% of their shots going on-frame. At NCAA Tournament time, that’s troubling.
The Defense Sounds Capable But Not Great.
Yeah. SDSU’s defense isn’t going to cost it games by itself, but eight games with multiple goals conceded isn’t very reassuring. That includes three of their past six matches against Mountain West foes. There’s not particularly much star power on defense, with the pick of the litter likely being rookie Stacie Moran who already looks like a real find. All in all though, if SDSU has to have its defense win games for it, it’s probably going to be a short NCAA Tournament for them.
So Cal Got This Far Without It’s Top Offensive Threat?
Yup. Ifeoma Onumonu was last for the season after just two games, a blow which many thought might keep Cal out of the Big Dance.
So In Her Absence, Who’s Kept The Offense Ticking?
It’s largely been offense by committee. Like SDSU, Cal has nobody above eight goals, but they have four with five or more goals, making them very hard to disrupt offensively. In Pac-12 play, Celeste Boureille took up the scoring mantle, netting five goals in eleven league games despite not starting three matches. Samantha Witteman didn’t score in the league but still had seven assists on the season. Otherwise, it’s largely a combination of Taylor Comeau, Kelly Fitzgerald, and Grace Leer among others.
The Defense Is A Worry Though?
Yeah. Cal looked to be a very strong unit in the back in non-conference play, but it’s all gone a bit ragged in the league. They were much worse at the beginning of league play, needing seven matches to keep a clean sheet. With just two clean sheets in eleven league matches, Cal could have some serious problems against top offenses, especially considering both UCLA and Stanford lit them up with three goals each. There are bright spots, but considering some of the units best players, center-back Annia Mejia and goalkeeper Emily Boyd, are freshmen, this might be a school of hard knocks if SDSU’s offense gets going.
Flip A Coin?
It’s almost to that point. Both of these sides have diverse offenses with defenses that go leaky at times. Both sides are coached by veteran bosses who’ve been here many times before, and occasionally against each other in the Big Dance. But with home field and having faced better opposition of late in the league, I’d tip Cal to hold serve in a close match.