In Scoreless Tie, M. Soccer Salvages Draw and Season Series





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STANFORD-The No. 8 Cal soccer team is catching on to this professionalism thing really fast.

The Bears (11-3-2, 4-1-1 in the Pac-10) have impressed everyone with their composure and tactical sophistication this season, and Friday against No. 9 Stanford (11-3-2, 2-2-2) they showed they've picked up the basic tenet of top-level soccer teams-win at home, don't lose on the road.

Coming off its first win over the Cardinal in five years, Cal overcame a near-pathological inability to create offense to earn a scoreless draw and a valuable point in the Pac-10 race.

It also got the bonus of extending Stanford's winless streak to four games and the bragging rights that go along with winning the season series.

"They're basically scared of us now-they know we can take them," goalkeeper Josh Saunders said. "Times are changing. Everyone realizes we're a west coast power now."

With the lights bright, the stands overflowing and two top-10 teams with a mutual grudge on the field, the stage seemed set for a high-octane thriller of a game.

What ensued in its place was a match high on tension but largely lacking ball control or clear scoring chances, particularly in the early going.

"This was a playoff-caliber game with all that was riding on it," Cal coach Kevin Grimes said. "I didn't expect it to be wide-open."

And it wasn't.

Still, even the attackers weren't about to complain.

"We know we can do better with scoring goals. The difference is when you go to the national championship, the defense can win it for you," senior midfielder Patrick Fisher said. "I've seen teams do it, and this year, we have that kind of defense."

The one consistent flaw in the Bears' defensive effort was a tendency to give up free kicks near their own penalty box, and it was those moments that produced the Cardinal's best scoring chances.

The Bears dodged a scare early when Todd Dunivant's low shot from a free kick 25 yards out hit the left post and rolled across the mouth of the goal.

Instead of the first volley in a Stanford barrage, it proved to be the last time the Cardinal managed to beat Saunders.

The All-Pac-10 goalie made five saves to earn his eighth shutout of the season, none bigger than a sprawling, full-extension effort one off a nearly identical Dunivant shot in the third minute of OT.

"If he's not the best goalkeeper in the country, I don't know who is," Grimes said.

For most of the game, though, Cal's defenders made Saunders' job easy by cutting Stanford attacks short before they turned into chances.

"We got free and looked like we'd be through (on goal), but their guys in the middle had great games," Stanford coach Bret Simon said.

In a first half that can be charitably described as scrappy, the Cardinal didn't get an official shot on goal, and the Bears didn't do much better, not taking a shot until Tyson Wahl's free kick in the 45th minute bounced directly to goalie Robby Fulton.

The game came alive in the last 15 minutes of regulation, when both teams enjoyed their best chances, but botched their finishing touch repeatedly.

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