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Fer Play - A Cal Men's Soccer Blog

Feb 19, 2021

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March 24, 2021

Dear Golden Bear fans,
 
Welcome to the fifth Fer Play entry! It's been a while since my previous entry was posted and there are a lot of great things that have happened since then. Although I really enjoy writing for this blog, this entry had to be delayed due to the several midterms I had in the past few weeks (school first, kids). But fear not, we are now on spring break and I have plenty of time on my hands to catch you all up on what you've been missing recently. This post marks the midway point of the season now that we're officially halfway done with our conference schedule, so today I will be recapping what has happened over my two-week absence and what the near future holds in store for us.
 
Long story short: we finally won! Our 3-2 away win at San Diego State University two weekends ago was our first win of the season. Our first three points on the table were the confidence booster we were missing to be able to fully focus on improving our record throughout the remainder of this season. With that being said, it was not an easy game at all. With the top half of the Pac-12 including nearly a third of the top 10 teams in the nation, the bottom half has had a very rough start to the season. Going into the fourth game of the conference season, neither the SDSU Aztecs nor the UCLA Bruins had won a single game (including their own matchup, which they tied). Now that we had the opportunity to play against a non-ranked team, both the Aztecs and Golden Bears were ready to go to battle to finally get our first win of the season.
 
The Aztecs managed to get on the scoresheet first, but we quickly leveled the score when super subs Fahmi Ibrahim and Arman Samimi came in and had a huge impact on the game with their speed. Arman was played out wide and took the ball down the right sideline before cutting back inside the box to serve a left-footed assist to Fahmi, who did not struggle to feed his hunger for a goal. Fahmi seems to really enjoy playing at the Sports Deck because both of his collegiate goals, this being his first of the season, have been scored when playing the Aztecs away. This goal ended our drought since Christian Gomez's goal against Stanford in our season opener and sent us back to the locker rooms with a tied game at the half.
 
The last 45 minutes of the game were full of action. The boys came out buzzing from the intermission after we finally scored, and we shortly realized there was a lot more where that came from. After several minutes of maintaining possession and attacking our opponent's goal, we earned a free kick at the top of the box and Jonathan Estrada decided to take the stage for his one-man show. As soon as I saw him take the Ronaldo steps as he lined up to take the free kick, I knew the goalkeeper didn't stand a chance. Jona hit a perfect free kick towards the second post that was perfectly placed at the upper 90 to open up his scoring account for this season. It was a fabulous strike and one that none of us will be forgetting any time soon.
 
Unfortunately, the Aztecs leveled up the game in the following moments to set the score at 2-2. We all experienced a full rollercoaster of emotions throughout those three minutes, but we still had a full game to finish. We kept possession until we finally got our golden opportunity. Juan Martinez was played a ball in the midfield which he beautifully received and turned with a fake check on his inside shoulder. He then drove forward with the ball before playing Nate Carrasco who had the final touch before Arman caught the defenders sleeping. Arman then took the ball for himself as he rounded the keeper and found the net for the first time this season. His game-winner and assist earned him Pac-12 Player of the Week honors in his first minutes of the season.
 
Following our first win of the season, we knew we had to match that same energy again the next weekend to keep improving our record and form. We had a great week of training and the boys' confidence was clearly higher than it had been throughout the past several weeks. We hosted UCLA this past Saturday as we looked to kick off a tough spring break schedule (more on that coming soon) on the right foot. It didn't take too long for us to start right where we had left off with two goals within the first 20 minutes. We opened up the scoresheet with our first goal from a true freshman this season with Evan Davila showing some grit as he cut inside on his left foot for a shot that was blocked only for him to get the rebound and score with his right foot. But Evan was only getting started.
 
A few moments later, we intercepted a long ball being played by an out of position center back and immediately had Evan, Juan, and Jona running towards two defenders (I know, a very scary scene for our opponents). Juan's efforts down the right side forced the defender to commit one way and made Evan's decision to play Jona on the left a very easy one. Jona kept driving towards the goal and as soon as he saw the defender that had lost the ball catch up with him, he decided to pull the emergency break. But he then instantly pressed down on the gas pedal once again to put the defender on skates and leave him sitting down behind him. He would go on to score a great goal with his left foot a second or two later as he claimed the team's top goal scorer role for himself.
 
Jona's connection with a Davila is nothing new, and although that was a major highlight of our game, I cannot write about this 2-0 win over the Bruins without applauding our goalkeeper and backline for keeping our first clean sheet of the season. Collin Travasos played a great game and so did our line of four, but I have to give a special shoutout to our left back CJ Grey for another outstanding performance. CJ was on full lockdown mode (as usual) this past weekend and there was no getting past him at all. It was a full team performance that led to our best result yet, just in time to kick off our second half of the season against our biggest rival: the Stanford Cardinal.
 
In the fourth entry, I concluded by saying that it was time to decide whether we'd be getting up or sleeping in (referring to my travel metaphor). Today, I can proudly say that my brothers have decided to get up and go straight to work. We have a tough week ahead with our spring break consisting of three games in nine days. We played the Bruins this past weekend and will now play at Stanford this evening and then host OSU on Sunday with both being late night games under the lights. We've begun to gain back our confidence at just the right time, and I can't wait to see what we can do against arguably the two best teams in the nation. This will be a huge test for us, but nothing that we aren't ready to face. I'm extremely proud of this group and how much we've accomplished internally in such a short amount of time. There is no doubt in my mind that the best is yet to come for this talented group of players.
 
Stanford's game will be livestreamed on the Pac-12 Network and Pac-12 Bay Area, but OSU's will not. The livestream link for tonight will be in the P.P.S. so make sure you don't miss out on that, because trust me, it's going to be a good one! That's all for today, I hope you enjoyed this article with a bit more storytelling to it. We're 2-3 halfway through the season but have enough time to turn things around to end the season on a high note. Stay on the lookout for more blogs and updates coming soon (I'll try to post again later this week between our remaining games this week) and please make sure to stay safe out there.
 
Until next time,
Go Bears!
Fer Andrade, Cal M Soc #13
 
P.S. If there's anything you can learn from this article, it's that success takes time; don't rush it. Enjoy the chase and the process towards achieving success and remember that the key ingredient that unites dedication, hard work, discipline, and commitment is patience. You can't have success without it. Keep moving forward, you got this!

P.P.S. Cal at Stanford, 03/24/2021 7 p.m.
Live stream: pac12.me/MSOC-CAL-STAN

March 12, 2021

Dear Golden Bear fans,
 
Welcome to the fourth Fer Play entry! It's been a rough start to our long-awaited season, to say the least. We're now 0-3 and have a goal differential that I'd rather not mention at this point. It's easier to see the negatives than the positives of our past three games as we look to find the meaning behind the struggle we're going through at the moment. We usually have a three-game preseason (or at least we used to back in pre-pandemic times) to have both the time and space to warm up for the upcoming season. It was a time to loosen up, try new things, and start shifting our full focus to the challenges that lie ahead. A great coach of mine once told me that you can only start to get an idea of what type of team you're on after three games, which is why I suppose we used to have exactly three games per preseason. Well, here we are now after our first three games all warmed and loosened up. What idea can we get about this team after this start? Many could say that it's not a pretty one, and they may be right if they're talking about short-term results, but I'd argue this is a beautiful opportunity for us as a team that will only benefit us in the long run.
 
The past 270 game minutes have taught us all a lot about who we are as a team and as individuals. This past weekend, we had the opportunity to safely travel for an out-of-state away game. We flew from Oakland to Portland and then hopped on an hour and a half bus ride to Corvallis to play at Oregon State University. All this time, effort, and coordination just for us to play a single game, although expected, is a true privilege and one that we should never take for granted. This away game loss provided many lessons, but I think the travel experience in and of itself served as a powerful metaphor of what we're dealing with right now.
 
Whenever we stay in a hotel, the coaches set up wake-up calls with the desk agent in the lobby for every single one of our rooms. The obvious purpose of this action is to ensure that we're all up and ready to go at the time that is scheduled in our trip's itinerary. Since we all have different sleep schedules, this waking up process definitely requires some adaptation on behalf of all the players, especially those who enjoy sleeping in on weekends. This wake-up call can lead to a slow start to the morning, but once we get going there is no stopping us throughout the day. This whole process serves as a perfect metaphor for what we're experiencing at the beginning of the season. Our first two games were against very tough opponents, but I personally believe this year's OSU is the best team we've faced in a long time. We did get beat fair and square in the first two matches, but this past weekend we simply got outplayed by a great team, and there's no other way to put it. The 4-0 result served not only as the biggest loss we've had over the past two seasons, but also as the cherry on top to the slap in the face that this wake-up call is giving us. The unique function of a hotel's wake-up call that differentiates it from a normal alarm clock is that there is typically no snooze button, meaning you either get up or you don't, plain and simple. This same function applies to our early season metaphor: now that we're awake, we can either decide to get up and work on what we must fix to be able to get going throughout the season, or we can go back to sleep and throw away the seven remaining games in which we could turn things around. The choice is ours; however we choose to react to this situation will define us as a team.
 
We stayed at a hotel relatively near to OSU when compared to the previous day's road trip from the airport to the hotel, but the bus ride to the stadium on gameday was still several minutes long. It was just enough time for me to continue my practice of pre-game meditation. I put my earbuds in, opened the Calm app (Cal Athletics has gifted all of its student-athletes a year-long subscription to the app) on my phone, went straight to LeBron James's "Train Your Mind" series that I've been listening to on gamedays, and clicked on the third episode called "A Champion's Mindset." While I was looking out the window, I heard LeBron say something in my ear that I'd later come to realize could have possibly been foreshadowing what was about to occur in the next 90 minutes, "The big lessons didn't come from the trophies; they came from losing and having to regroup for the next game. They came from working through differences and learning to mesh as a team. They came from doing the less exciting parts, like training and practicing, and that time Coach Dru and his wife drove us thousands of miles down to Orlando for the national championship from Akron, Ohio. It was never just the win that taught the lesson, it was the fight to get there; it was the fight that showed me who I was." Although these are the words of one of the greatest athletes to ever live, this same lesson applies to every single one of us, no matter the job we work or life we live. It is no secret that our true colors are revealed not in times of triumph, but rather in times of adversity.
 
Our true colors were revealed when regardless of being down by four goals we still fought in our attempt to get on the scoresheet in the closing minutes of the game not because it would make a difference in our result, but rather to defend our pride and make sure everyone knew we weren't willing to give up. Our true colors have also been revealed by the way we've responded to three losses in a row. I've been on many teams that would've already been making excuses such as, "We're the only Pac-12 team that hasn't been training together since last fall," and, "Stanford and UW played two preseason games, OSU played three, and we played none," or, "Our confidence would be much higher if we weren't playing teams nationally ranked #3, #9, and #6 (respectively) in our first three games back after 15 months." Although these comments are accurate (the rankings are according to Top Drawer Soccer's Week 17) we haven't used them as an excuse because they're the uncontrollable. We've only focused on what we can control, and that's being one day better every single day.
 
Not many teams have the grit and heart that we displayed when we hit the crossbar and post in the closing moments of our game against the Beavers. I'd agree with Oregon State's head coach Terry Boss's post-game comments when he said, "Cal is a good team, and they are going to surprise a lot of people this year. They caused us problems in certain ways, but I thought we responded and reacted really well" (from Beavers Take Down Cal 4-0, Move to 6-0 on the Year). I was on the plane that took the team back to Oakland when I read that OSU men's soccer article. As I reflected on my first round-trip completed in over a year and the dreadful result from the night before, I couldn't help but think of Henry Ford's words, "When everything seems to be against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it."
 
There's a lot left in store for us this season, a lot of room for us to still take off. Now it's just time to decide whether we'll be getting up or sleeping in. Whatever happens in the near future, I know we'll all learn and grow from it, and it will be for the best of everyone involved. Sometimes we must fall to be able to learn how to get back up; the same way we must first sink in order to learn how to swim. Cheers to all the life lessons we've learned so far and the many more to come this season.
 
We'll be traveling again this Friday to America's Finest City to play San Diego State University on Saturday afternoon. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. and there will be a live stream (check the P.P.S.) so make sure you don't miss out on that! That's all for today, I hope you enjoyed this article and learned something from it. Remember, a "lesson learned should be a lesson shared," so make sure to share this article and its lessons with anyone that you think would find it useful! Stay safe and stay tuned for future weekly blog posts and updates.
Until next time,
Go Bears!
Fer Andrade, Cal M Soc #13
 
P.S. If you're going through bad times right now and are struggling to stay optimistic, just "remember that life's greatest lessons are usually learned at the worst times and from the worst mistakes." This obstacle in your journey is only an opportunity to get better. You got this!
 
P.P.S. Cal at SDSU, 03/13/2021 1 p.m.
Live stream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95eTJuPix5k

March 4, 2021

Dear Golden Bear fans,
 
Welcome to the third Fer Play entry! It's been a week now since the last blog post and this one is coming after our second game and loss of the season against the Washington Huskies. As I've previously mentioned, many things about this season will neither be perfect nor ideal due to the current situations we're all living in, but an 0-2 start was definitely not what I had in mind when I wrote that. It's always been interesting to me how quick we (humans) all are to change our minds as a consequence of a single result. One day our hopes are high during preseason, the next we're all extremely confident on gameday, and now we're left questioning if this group of players is really capable of meeting the high standards we've set together as a team. We're always inclined to be the first to judge and to voice our opinions, but why? What good will that do? Will judgement fix the problems we're facing? Will opinions help bring the team together?
 
Adversity is what we're facing as a team and it's exactly what I'd like to talk about with you today. Without having the pleasure of knowing you all, I know for a fact that adversity is the one thing we without a doubt have in common (besides our love for soccer) because we all have, are, or will experience it. I'm definitely being challenged right now and have been ever since I got to Cal with the adaptations needed in the high school to college transition that has changed my soccer, school, and living situations. I've learned many of my biggest life lessons during the past two years, and since "a lesson learned should be a lesson shared," today I'll be sharing three key lessons to help my teammates and any reader that is struggling right now battle with adversity. 

Nate Carrasco's late chance vs. UW went wide.

 
By the time we're warming up as a team, we're all aware of who's in our starting lineup and have mentally prepared for what our role in the game will be. Usually, there are no changes to that lineup after it is named and we all just focus on loosening up as we await the kickoff whistle, but that wasn't the case last Saturday afternoon against Washington. Five minutes before kickoff, there was an adjustment made to our lineup that made senior Lucas Churchill play a different position than was originally planned and sophomore Juan Martinez get his first career start in a position that he wouldn't consider his natural. After the game I talked with Juan on how he felt with the overall situation and he said, "I was ready for it. I was aware of the possibility of that change taking place and started warming up as if it would for sure happen." As simple as this may sound, it's not an easy nor common thing to do. Semper Paratus – Always Ready. This Latin phrase is the motto of organizations such as the U.S. Coast Guard and it's one that we should all have in mind as soon as we get to work. If we all "stay on our toes" and are ready to react to whatever life throws our way, we'll have a much easier time dealing with adversity. Life will sometimes hand you unexpected changes, but it's the way you react to and deal with them that defines you.
 
Later that evening, I was at home making dinner and had the opportunity to talk to Lucas and Juan (both are my roommates) about the late change and how they felt about it. They explained that our coaching staff was aware that something could come up during warm ups that would affect our starting 11 and had called them both the night before to give them a heads up about the situation. Once again, such a simple and logical act provides a great lesson that we can all implement into our lives. For more context on the situation, I had a conversation with our head coach Kevin Grimes a few weeks back where I brought up the Stoic practice of Premeditatio Malorum and later sent him an article from Ryan Holiday's Daily Stoic via text. I haven't talked with him about this topic since then, but he clearly exercised this practice by thinking ahead and being ready to adapt if necessary. Premeditatio Malorum – the premeditation of evils. Holiday says that imagining all the things that could go wrong helps us prepare for life's inevitable setbacks. Whatever your situation is (whether that be on the field, in school, at work, in your social life, etc.) you can always prepare for the inevitable. Pastor Michael Todd reminds us that, "Preparation requires patience," and he's right. But that same patience needed to continuously be on your toes for whatever deflection comes your way will set you up for success against adversity.
 
As I mentioned in the beginning, we're all very quick to voice our opinions and judgements. With an 0-2 start to the season, players can easily get frustrated, parents and fans can start questioning what we're doing, and coaches can consider which tactics could be revised. To all of this I'd say one of our most-used team phrases: calma. "Keep calm and carry on." We're only two games in and we just played against arguably our two best Pac-12 opponents who have each played two more games than us. Yes, it's a short season, but we're still only 20% in and have a lot of games to turn things around. To avoid overthinking in any situation, you must first take a step back and analyze the situation that you're in. It's best to not make things a bigger deal than they are and to just focus on what you can control, which in our case is the next set of 90 minutes.
 
Adversity comes in all sorts of different forms, shapes, and sizes and is unique for every single situation. Regardless of what it may look like for you, I'd advise you to always be ready and "on your toes" (Semper Paratus), to imagine all the things that could go wrong and how you would react to them (Premeditatio Malorum), and to avoid overthinking about the uncontrollable (whatever is in the past) and instead focus on what you can control (on to the next one; "Keep Calm and Carry On"). If you manage to consistently practice these three things, I'm sure you will prevail against whatever adversity comes your way.
 
"Fire is the test of gold; adversity, of strong men," – Seneca. We'll be tested again this weekend as we take on the Beavers on Saturday at 6 p.m. in Corvallis, Oregon. OSU will be livestreaming the game (the link is below in the P.P.S.) so make sure you don't miss out on that! Stay safe and stay tuned for future weekly blog posts and other updates.
 
Until next time,
Go Bears!
Fer Andrade, Cal M Soc #13
 
P.S. If you're ever feeling down while struggling with adversity, make sure to say this mantra from Robin Sharma's The 5 AM Club:
"I don't wish for an easy life because there is no growth of my powers there. Give me a challenging life – one that brings out the finest in me. For this makes an iron will and an unconquerable character."
Whatever you're dealing with, you got this!
 
P.P.S. Cal at OSU, 03/06 at 6 p.m.
Live stream: https://pac-12.com/live/oregon-state-university-3
           

Feb. 25, 2021

Dear Golden Bear fans,
 
Although I'm writing this blog entry only a few days after my first post, I have a lot to update you on. Since I last posted, we played our first game in nearly 15 months against Stanford and now we're fully focused on our second game back against Washington on Saturday afternoon. It was an unreal feeling stepping on the pitch knowing that we finally got to play in a real game, but what's even more bizarre is that we get to do it all over again for the next eight weekends in a row! It's so weird to think that this weekly lifestyle that we (players, coaches, and parents) used to view as fun, exhausting, and repetitive was just casually part of our routine, while today it's seen as an unusual event. In a time when there are millions of Americans without power or potable water and half a million Americans dead due to COVID-19, here we are doing what we love most every single day. We're truly privileged to be in this position during these times, and I pray that we may all continue to live a life full of blessings, but mostly that we never forget to stop and count them.
 
Even though we lost against our biggest rivals this past weekend, I'm immensely proud of my brothers for everything that happened that Saturday evening. Anyone outside of our 30-man team (26 players, four coaches) wouldn't think that we'd be proud of ourselves with this result, but I'm here to tell you that so much more happened behind the scenes that proved how truly special this team is. For starters, we should be proud of the fact that we had eight players make their collegiate and Pac-12 debuts in one of our biggest games of the season. That's nearly a third of our squad and almost half of the available roster for the game. 
 
Out of the eight debutants, three were in our starting 11, including redshirt junior goalkeeper Chris Gustini (better known as "Goose") as he made his long-awaited first appearance for the Golden Bears. I think it's important to pause here for a second to understand everything that Goose has been through during his time at Cal to get to where he is today. Goalkeeper is obviously one of the hardest positions to play in soccer, but it's even harder to just play in the first place considering how inflexible a shot-stopper is when it comes to changing positions and the fact that there can only be one goalkeeper playing on a team at a time (unlike any of the other positions). The latter was a bigger problem for Goose in his early years on the team since he was competing for a spot with Drake Callender, who is now playing in the MLS for Inter Miami CF, and Noah Texter, who, with limited playing time, received third-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2018. After years of hard work, lots of patience, and faith in himself, I'm extremely proud of Goose for achieving his goal of playing for Cal this past weekend and for the great first half that he had. I truly hope it's the first of many.

 

Goose was busy in the first half.

The second debutant in the starting lineup was redshirt freshman Tate Dolan who had a great first appearance. I'm very proud of him for the confidence with which he played (you couldn't even tell that it was his first game), as he gave us a performance that will surely be one to remember. The last debutant in the starting lineup was freshman Nate Carrasco, who did very well up top against a tough team and good defense. The other debutants include: redshirt freshman goalkeeper Collin Travasos, who played like a veteran in the second half, freshman Evan Davila, who got subbed in twice, freshmen Wyatt Meyer and Fernando Lara, who came on to create one of the game's best chances from the left side late in the first half, and yours truly. I know we're all very thankful for our debuts and are working hard to continue to improve and be able to contribute as much as possible to the team throughout the season.
 

Besides all the debuts that took place this past weekend, the team's character and mentality were amazing. The 1-3 loss clearly wasn't ideal and cost us three points, but the takeaways from leveling the score early in the second half, the final 15 minutes of the match, and the post-game huddle were priceless. We took a late blow in the first half when we conceded a free kick that put us down 0-1 as we headed into halftime. After reconvening during the break, we were all confident that our chances would come and that we would get a goal, and you could sense that in every Cal player as soon as we started moving the ball around in the second set of 45 minutes. We managed to create several opportunities until we finally tied the game when redshirt sophomore Christian Gomez found the net for the equalizer.

Christian picked up right where he left off: in his goalscoring form. He scored both our first goal of this season and the last goal of the 2019 season (his first two goals for the Blue & Gold), albeit struggling with near range finishing throughout pre-season in our intrasquad scrimmages. I recall two clear opportunities that he should've been able to put away in practice to be on par with his usual form, and he was clearly frustrated with those missed chances. I saw him staying back after practice to sharpen up his finishing a few days after those scrimmages, but nothing as specific as the last practice before gameday. I stayed behind to work on some crossing and he asked me if I could play him a few balls across the six-yard box so that he could work on that specific finish that he kept missing. Our head coach Kevin Grimes took notice of this and came over to give us both some pointers, so we listened and continued working even more. We stayed behind working on the exact same move for about 30 minutes until we reached the conclusion that the cross and finish couldn't get much sharper than that. We literally practiced it until we couldn't get it wrong, which is why I wasn't surprised when Christian scored that exact same goal about 28 hours later. It was interesting to see that he got the rebound off of senior Tommy Williamson's shot in the exact same place that he was shooting from the day before, as well as to the exact same goal. Some may say that this may have been just a coincidence; others may call it luck. Whatever you want to call it, I think this serves as a reminder that you make your own luck; for the harder you work, the luckier you'll get.
 
Our opponents managed to score a second time on us and doubled that lead at roughly the 75th minute, which is when things started looking hopeless for us. Not only were we down by two goals, but

Ian showed some real leadership for the Bears.

we were also forced to make substitutions due to fatigue and knocks. This presented a leadership opportunity for junior and team co-captain Ian Lonergan. "We have 10 minutes left, let's do our best with what we've got," Ian told sophomores Juan Martinez and Jack Singer as they were being subbed in. He encouraged everyone on the field to finish the despairing game off in a strong manner with the sole purpose of defending our pride when it would've been easier to give up instead. His attitude and character stood out not only in the concluding minutes of the game, but also in the post-game huddle. "We'll build from this," he said. Co-captains Ian and senior Francisco Perez, as well as redshirt junior Alonzo Del Mundo all made sure that everyone walked off the field with their head held high, and for that I applaud them. 
 
All of that in just our first gameday. One down, nine to go! If we were able to gain so many positive things from a loss, then I can't imagine how much we'll be talking about as soon as we win our first three points of the season. Exciting times are ahead for this special group of players and I can't wait to see what the future has in store for each and every single one of us. For now, we'll focus on bouncing back this weekend against the Washington Huskies. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. at Witter Rugby Field and the game will be livestreamed, so make sure you don't miss out on that! Stay safe and stay tuned for future blog posts and updates.
 
Until next time,
Go Bears!

Fer Andrade, Cal M Soc #13

Feb. 19, 2021

Dear Golden Bear fans,
 
Welcome to Fer Play! First off, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Fernando Andrade (but you can call me Fer). I'm a redshirt freshman student-athlete aspiring to double major in business administration and political science, and I wear #13 for Cal men's soccer. Now that Kaleo Fernandez has graduated from UC Berkeley with the Class of 2020 and has retired Kaleo's Korner, he has passed the team blog's torch to me and I couldn't be more excited to get started.
 
Way too much has happened since our last game nearly 15 (15!!) months ago. The loss to UC Santa Barbara at Harder Stadium in the first round of NCAA playoffs on Nov. 21, 2019, was a huge blow, but nothing compared to the tough times that were ahead. We managed to get a bit over a month of training in during the early months of 2020, but that was it for us for the rest of the calendar year. Although a second semester on "Zoom University" without any soccer and all sorts of unprecedented current events taking place was very difficult and definitely not ideal, I honestly benefited a lot from my time training, studying and bonding with my family back home in Chula Vista, California, and Tijuana, B.C., Mexico.
 
Now that I'm back up at Cal for soccer (and a third semester of Zoom University), I haven't forgotten the lessons that life handed me during our time off. As a famous valedictorian speech says, "A lesson learned should be a lesson shared," which is why I'd like to share with you three key lessons that I've kept in mind during our team's preseason and especially as we head into our first game back this weekend.
 
When I was coming back to Berkeley for the first time in about eight months at the beginning of 2021, I was excited yet apprehensive of the plans that we had for the first-ever spring soccer season. Will this really work out? What if a game gets canceled? What if we get shut down? The only answer to that type of question is the first lesson I've kept on my mind: focus on what you can control and don't worry about the rest. We, as a team, have so little control over countless things that must go well as we head into what will be one of the most complicated seasons of our life as it truly requires a perfect effort on and off the field. We can't control injuries, outbreaks in Berkeley or how cases are looking on our opponents' team. What we can control is the attitude with which we show up to work every single day, our perfect effort as responsible student-athletes on and off the field, and having each other's backs as brothers no matter what.
 
As we finish up preseason, things have gone extremely well over the past several weeks. Our team is healthy, we've built some great chemistry, and everyone is showing up to training ready to compete at every single session. Life is good, almost even as good as the "old times." But we can't just make going to practice another part of our routine. We can't allow walking/scooting/driving to the field to just become another daily habit. If there's something that 2020 taught us all, it's that we can't take anything for granted, which is why the second lesson also serves as a daily reminder that everything can change in the blink of an eye. Some may say it's not something nice to think of or may even call me pessimistic for bringing it up, but I'm actually approaching this view from an optimistic perspective. This reminder's purpose isn't to generate fear, rather to bring out the best in us. It's similar to what Robin Sharma says in The 5AM Club, "Thinking about dying brings what matters most into much sharper focus," or to the Stoic teaching of Memento Mori. We must be reminded that our season could "die" in the blink of an eye to make the best of what we've got with this great opportunity to play again.
 
We've all made it back up to campus and have now completed preseason, which means that the real challenge is now ahead of us: 10 Pac-12 games. Every conference game is very exciting and has a special meaning to it, adding some sweetness to every single victory…or some extra bitterness to every tie or loss. It's so easy to get caught up with everything going on when we're in season with elite competition, as well as midterms and papers coming up. In all honesty, things can get pretty overwhelming (welcome to the student-athlete life), which makes it easy to forget that every single day is a blessing, especially nowadays. It's almost going to be 15 months to the date when we kickoff against Stanford under the lights at home on the evening of Feb. 20, 2021. There's a lot going on that evening: first game back, Pac-12 season opener and playing against our biggest rivals. Once again, things can get pretty overwhelming, which is why it's important to remember the third lesson: every single day, every single practice and every single game is a huge blessing; give thanks and give your best with what you've got. It's a blessing to be here during a pandemic and it's even more of a blessing to be here while other teams and conferences across the nation aren't. No, things will not be perfect, and no, things are not ideal, but if there's something I'd like my teammates to take away from all of this (thanks for reading this whole thing if you did, bro!) it's the reminder that Pope Francis has up on his door: Vietato Lamentarsi – forbidden to complain. It's an absolute privilege to be able to safely play during a global pandemic, to have Cal Athletics and the Pac-12 Conference giving us this opportunity, and to wear the Blue & Gold as we fight for California once again; there is nothing to complain about.
 
Ignoring what's out of our control, not taking anything for granted, and Vietato Lamentarsi is not limited to Cal men's soccer. These three key lessons are things we can all keep in mind in whatever we're doing. I'll definitely have them present in mind during our season opener this weekend and throughout the whole season, and I encourage you all to do the same.
 
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I truly hope you enjoyed it and gained something from it. Stay safe and stay tuned for future blogs coming in very soon.
 
Go Bears!

Fer Andrade, Cal M Soc #13