Standing in the last two spots of the Pac-12, the Cardinal and the Golden Bears can hardly boast about their 2011 seasons. Friday afternoon, however, the annual Stanford-California matchup is bound to bring out Herculean performances from these long-standing rivals.
Since 2007, the Bears (3-8-5, 0-6-3 Pac-12) have gone undefeated against the Cardinal (5-10-2, 2-6-1), but after six straight losses against their Bay Area rival, Stanford finally earned a draw at home earlier this year, in October.
But unlike a month ago, when the teams came to the field with almost identical records on Saturday — each had suffered conference losses to UCLA and San Diego State — the Cardinal will arrive at Drake Field just slightly ahead of the Bears.
As returning champions of last year’s Pac-12 conference, UC-Berkeley has what can only be described as a very disappointing season this year. The Bears currently sit in last place in the conference and have yet to win a single game in Pac-12 play. The loss of six of their players to the MLS paired with the addition of 10 new freshmen to the roster has taken its toll. However, Stanford coach Bret Simon is careful not to underestimate the Bears.
“The Cal midfield is very strong, and they have a lot of strong players in general, they’re just young and haven’t found a way to win some of the games they should’ve, or could’ve, won,” Simon said.
In fact, he believes that his team will challenge a different Cal on Friday than the one they faced before.
“They have gradually improved over the course of the season,” Simon said. “We think they are a pretty good team even though their record hasn’t been what it normally might be.”
As the Bears’ leading scorer and the author of the header that went past Stanford’s Jason Dodson in the teams’ last encounter, junior John Fitzpatrick is definitely figure to watch out for.
“John Fitzpatrick has scored on us the last couple of games we’ve played and he is a strong forward,” says Simon, “But I don’t know that there’s one player we will focus on.”
The Cardinal has produced slightly more favorable outcomes since it last met Cal. It has amassed five conference wins, the last of which was an impressive 4-1 victory against San Diego State. Even so, Stanford is only one spot above Berkeley in conference standing and has had its share of missed scoring opportunities over the season.
Simon, however, doesn’t see conference standings as key for the upcoming match.
“I don’t think that the game will be impacted by team records. Games between us and Cal are well played games, very competitive, and both teams will want to win very badly,” he said.
In fact, despite the absence of post-season intrigue, he has high expectations for Friday.
“I think it’s going to be a great game.”
The match against Cal is scheduled to kick off 2 p.m. at Edwards Stadium in Berkeley.