The Stanford men’s soccer team hung on to beat Denver 1-0 at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium yesterday for its fourth consecutive victory and second of the weekend. The win, along with a 3-0 victory over St. Mary’s at home on Friday night, gave the Cardinal the Stanford Nike Classic crown during its final weekend of non-conference play.
While the final margin against Denver (3-3-2) wasn’t as impressive as Friday’s three-goal blitz, the victory established that the team could find a way to win without playing its preferred style.
“This was the kind of game that happens on a hot Sunday afternoon,” said Stanford head coach Bret Simon. “There are two types of games– open games that are faster paced and closed games that are more defensive-minded. It’s very important that teams be able to win both kinds of games, and I think today we showed that we could.”
The game opened with a lot of up-and-down action, but without too many real chances for either side. The Pioneers tested redshirt freshman goalkeeper Jason Dodson with eight shots, but most were well off-target. They did, however, have several dangerous corner kicks, finishing the afternoon with 12 in total.
Stanford had only seven first-half shots, three forcing Denver goalie Teale Stone into action, as both teams felt out the other. A stout defense led by senior Bobby Warshaw snuffed out several scoring attempts by Denver, but the Cardinal offense could not initially capitalize against the Pioneers.
But in the second half, the Card finally broke through. A seemingly harmless attack in the 59th minute led by sophomore midfielder Dersu Abolfathi on the right wing transpired into much more when Abolfathi got a step on his defender and crossed the ball to sophomore forward Adam Jahn at the top of the 18-yard box. With his body turned sideways, Jahn met the cross in the air with his right foot and sent the ball screaming into the upper-right corner.
“Adam’s goal was top class,” Simon said. “It was a great finish.”
Stanford continued to press and nearly got another goal minutes later when senior forward Dominique Yahyavi broke free of the defense. But just when it seemed that the game was in hand, Denver fought back. A big and physical Pioneer squad held the ball for a large part of the second half as the Cardinal drew into a defensive shell.
But the team had enough left in the tank to hold off Denver, and the final whistle marked the third straight game in which the defense did not concede a goal.
“It was the type of game you win by being very disciplined,” Simon said. “I thought from the outset that whoever scored first was going to slow the game down and make it difficult for anyone to really get going. I don’t think we would have been able to win the game early on this year.”
The Friday night game against St. Mary’s (4-2-1) featured much of the same cautious play early on, but saw fireworks after halftime.
Tied 0-0 into the second half after Stanford was frustrated early by several near misses, it took an unbelievable finish by Warshaw to beat St. Mary’s keeper Doug Herrick. In the 61st minute, senior Ryan Thomas sent a corner kick in from the right side of the box, which was first headed by Jahn, then headed back across to the far post by Yahyavi to an open Warshaw. Before anyone could react, he sent a bicycle kick spinning into the net for the lead and one of the best finishes he could remember.
“I have done it in high school and youth soccer, but that was the first [bicycle kick goal] in college,” Warshaw said.
Yahyavi padded the lead three minutes later with his fourth goal of the season off a nice pass from junior midfielder Adoni Levine. The Cardinal then concluded one of its best halves of soccer in some time with a breakaway goal from junior forward Taylor Amman.
St. Mary’s had no answer for the team’s aggressive, open attack and fell by the same score as in last year’s NCAA Tournament opener, 3-0.
The Cardinal faces off next against California on Saturday in the Pac-10 opener for both teams. The rivalry match against the Golden Bears will begin at 7 p.m. at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium.