Men's Soccer Opens Grimes Era Against Banana Slugs

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With a new coach, 14 freshmen and a year-old renovated facility, the Cal's men soccer team has a lot to look forward to.

"We're starting from scratch," said senior forward Ramiro Arredondo.

The Bears will open the regular season when they host UC Santa Cruz tomorrow at Goldman Field at 2 p.m. The game will feature the debut of new Cal coach Kevin Grimes.

"I'm anxious, but not nervous," Grimes said. "I've taken part in big matches as a player and an assistant coach at (Southern Methodist University)."

The Banana Slugs (0-0), the Bears' first opponent in this new era, are athletic, with good size and good strength, according to Grimes.

Cal will rely on precision passes while trying to win the battle of ball possession to counter UCSC's physical play.

On the defensive side, Cal needs to establish a smooth transition from offense to defense and maintain good team shape to combat the Banana Slugs' quick front line.

The Bears will look to a pair of dynamic forwards, Arredondo and sophomore J.T. Thorpe, for instant offense.

Last year, Arredondo led Cal in goals (8) and points (18) and scored three game-winning goals.

"Ramiro is a very crafty and skillful midfielder," Grimes said. "We're looking for him to break down the defense with his dribbling and passing. We'll also rely on his experience - he's been a starter since his freshman year."

Meanwhile, Thorpe was second on the team with 17 points in his freshman campaign.

"(Thorpe's) scoring touch in front of the goal is excellent," Grimes said. "He gets on the end of a lot of balls and finds ways to finish."

Grimes and his staff also expect big things from junior midfielder Chris Roner. Roner proved to be a reliable player last season, starting all 20 games for Cal. He finished third in goals (3) and assists (4) and has showed the coaching staff he's ready to contribute more this season.

"Chris brings a variety of elements to our team," Grimes said. "He's an excellent two-way player. He's very good with the ball in the attack and he's also got the discipline and work rate to be a strong defender."

On defense, the Bears must find a way to contain UCSC senior forward Bredon Taguinod, who led his team with nine goals and 21 points last year.

"Their forwards have very good speed and he's one of them," Grimes said. "We're concerned, but we don't change the way we play for any one team or an individual."

While the Bears have lost a number of key contributors from last year's squad, particularly on defense, Grimes is already pleased with the progress his team has made and feels that they are on the right pace to make some noise late in the season.

"Our coaching staff has been very happy with the progress that we've established," Grimes said. "We have established strong team unity and a starting 11."

Arredondo agrees that his team's chemistry is coming along nicely.

"We've lost about nine or 10 seniors from last year," said Arredondo. "I guess you could say we're a young team, but our team personality is a big difference from last year, for the better. We're a little bit more organized, and the players recognize their roles this year better than they did last year."

With so many new faces, time is needed to establish a team identity. But Grimes is satsified with the progress his team is making.

"We're about 75-80 percent where we want to be," Grimes said. "And we're on course to peak around midseason, which is where we want to be."

One player who is confident in the team's ability is Thorpe, who doesn't think inexperience is going to handicap the Bears' defense from becoming a force this year.

"I believe our defense is very strong," Thorpe said. "Our defense is going to be one of the sharpest in the country this year."


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