Bears Keep to Old Tricks Entering Match Against New Mexico

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Heading into its final two games before conference play begins, the Cal men's soccer team isn't changing its routine very much. Even the Mohawks are still here.

The Bears still warm up for practice playing some soccer tennis, friendly taunting coinciding with balls whipping down the line. It's certainly fun, but there's still a competitive edge to it, a routine that hasn't been altered by the course of the season.

"We're staying focused, just doing what we do everyday in training," A.J. Soares said. "We haven't changed anything really. We're just sticking with what we do in practice everyday, and go do it on the field. It's worked out so far."

"Worked out" may be an understatement. Cal (5-1-0) is riding four-game winning streak that has seen it outscore its opponents, 13-2. The Bears have continued to increase their national prestige and, spurred by dominating displays against San Francisco and Santa Clara, have risen to No. 5 in the newest coaches' rankings heading into today's matchup against New Mexico at 4:30 p.m. at Stanford.

While Cal's preparation hasn't been tweaked much thus far, the personnel on the field will have a slightly new look this weekend. Soares will anchor a backline suffering from the rash of injuries that has hit the team.

Defender Ted Jones, who had been partnering in the center with Soares, is out for several weeks with a knee injury. Freshman Steve Birnbaum, who replaced Jones last Sunday against the Broncos, is likely to continue in his new position. Senior Jacob Wilson, who came out early in Sunday's game, is questionable for this weekend after being held out of drills during practice this week.

The different back four will be in front of the biggest question mark of the week-goalkeeper. After incurring what appeared to be a pulled hamstring, keeper David Bingham is still something of an uncertainty, and didn't join the goalie drills during Wednesday's practice. Senior Patrick Fry or freshman Robby Gogatz would start in Bingham's absence, with both having seen limited minutes this fall.

No one on the team expects the playing style to alter at all, despite the new faces.

"We always play our system," Soares said. "Any player can go in and out, it's not a problem really. We're lucky that we have depth, and a lot of players who can play."

Cal stays in the Bay Area this weekend, going south for the first game of the Stanford Nike Classic. The team takes on the Lobos (4-2-0), who have had an uneven season, playing four ranked teams -- none in the top 10 -- to break even with a 2-2 record against them.

The Bears get another Sunday home tilt when they host Air Force (3-1-1), which possesses a newer challenge with a forward measured at 6-foot-6.

"We've got guys in the back who can jump," Soares joked. "We'll be fine, do whatever we can. If we keep the ball, they won't ever get it to him."

And so far, the team has the record to back up its defender's confidence.

Tags: CAL MEN'S SOCCER, KEVIN GRIMES, DAVID BINGHAM, A.J. SOARES


Contact Nicole Baudouin at [email protected]



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