East Bay men’s soccer off to a rough start

Brett Fuchs,

With 30 seconds left on the clock in double overtime on a hot Sunday afternoon at Pioneer stadium, the referee called a foul, which gave the Golden Eagles of Cal state Los Angeles a final opportunity to score the golden goal.

As the foul happened, the other center back and I began to organize everyone on our team to mark a player to defend. As time was running down, the ball came in from the free kick. Everyone from both teams ran towards the ball to try to clear it out or score.

One of the Cal State Los Angeles players jumped and headed the ball. The ball sailed up and over the goal, just as the time clock expired. We were relieved that they did not score on the final play of the game and also that we got a point out of the game, but we were also frustrated: we could have won the game and got all 3.

The Cal State East Bay men’s soccer season is off to a rocky start. Halfway through our 2017/18 California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) conference play, the men’s soccer team currently sits in 12th place right in front of Cal State San Marcos with a record of 0-7-1.

Cal Poly Pomona (8-2) currently sits atop the table with 24 points with Cal State Dominguez Hills (7-1) right behind Pomona with 21 points. UC San Diego (6-1-2) sits in third place with 20 points. Chico State (6-1-1) with 19 points and Cal State San Bernardino (5-4-1) with 16 points round out the top 5.

Coming into this season we had 19 new players and only 6 returning; it felt like an entirely new team. Over summer, we worked during captains practice to create a bond with training sessions and team trips. We would train here at Pioneer stadium or go to Santa Cruz and go train on the beach. We used these times to get to know one another and in the last two seasons I have played for the Pioneers, I feel the team has never been closer. Our unity shows on the field in the way we work for each other on the field. We joke around during our off time and on road trips.

The season started off strong non-conference games but the CCAA is a whole different beast. Every game — no matter what team we play — is competitive, fast and physical. Any team can beat any team on any given day. “This conference turns boys into men,” says TJ Butler, a senior on the team.

The CCAA conference is considered to be one of the strongest Division II soccer conferences in the nation: three to five teams every year from our conference make it to the NCAA tournament and multiple teams nationally ranked in the top 25. In the last two seasons while I have been at the East Bay, CCAA teams have made it to the final four as well as the national championship game.

When playing in the CCAA, it comes down to three things to win games: who makes the least amount of mistakes, who finishes their chances, and who works the hardest. The conference is so diverse in playing style that every game is different. Most of the South teams tend to be more technical with the ball while the North teams tend to be the gritty, hard-working teams.

Through our season, the hard work has been there in every game. Everyone is battling hard and working for each other on the field. So what is holding us back? We’re making mistakes and not finishing our chances. We need to focus more, minimize our mistakes, and finish our opportunities when we get them.  

These three things have been the main focus at our practices these past two weeks. Our coach, Mike Bielski has focused our practices around these focuses. We switched up our formation to help put more of an attack together and generate more opportunities and chances. We’re trying to plug up the middle of the field to make our defense more compact.

Since we have made these changes, we have seen a lot of improvement on the field with our play. Every game we have seen improvements in minimizing the mistakes that we were making as well as focusing and finishing our chances in front of goal. We have started to gain momentum with these last few games and hope to continue this momentum with the final four games and make a jump up in the standings.