After four games in which it never trailed, the Stanford men’s soccer team came back to earth on Saturday night, courtesy of a talented and speedy California squad. The No. 16 Golden Bears (5-1-2, 1-0 Pac-10) scored early and held off a rejuvenated Cardinal team after the break, before adding two more goals in the final two minutes. The final score for both teams’ Pac-10 opener was 3-0 in favor of Cal.
The loss was painful for the Cardinal (4-5, 0-1) on multiple levels.
Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Jason Dodson suffered a dislocated left shoulder while making a diving save in the first few minutes. In addition, senior defender Bobby Warshaw ran into redshirt senior Thiago Sa Freire while trying to head a cross out of the box. After the collision, Warshaw had to change jerseys because his shirt was covered in blood from a cut on his head, and Sa Freire’s eye nearly swelled shut within minutes. While each returned to the field, both players’ injuries required stitches on the sidelines.
Dodson’s shoulder was relocated on the field, and he was due to have an MRI to determine the extent of the injury on Sunday afternoon.
Injuries are nothing new this year, however. Several players are not fully healthy, including veteran senior Garrett Gunther and juniors Ben Grafentin, Alexander Binnie and Adoni Levine. Sophomore Eric Anderson saw action for the first time since an early September injury derailed his season.
“Injuries are just a part of the game,” said sophomore Hunter Gorskie. “[Goalkeeper Jason] Dodson has been at the top of his game recently, so it’s unfortunate, but now the next guy just has to step up.”
That “next guy” was true freshman Drew Hutchins from Morrisville, Pa. Hutchins came into the game in the 11th minute and was immediately tested just minutes later by the strong wing play of the Bears. An attack down the left side resulted in a driven cross that found sophomore forward John Fitzpatrick, who knocked the header past Hutchins.
The Cal offense continued a relentless assault on Stanford’s flanks and maintained a 13-4 advantage in shots at halftime.
But the Cardinal stepped it up after a talk by head coach Bret Simon and came out with renewed aggression. While the Bears still had several chances, Stanford controlled the ball and the run of play.
“We needed to be fighting a little harder in the beginning,” Gorskie said. “Their passing was more accurate, and they had us on the defensive, so it was only a matter of time before they got a good look.
“Overall, we needed to be much more aggressive and dictate the style of play from the outset,” he added. “We did a much better job of that after the half.”
Senior forward Dominique Yahyavi nearly found an equalizer when he won a challenge with the Cal goalkeeper, but his chip shot from 30 yards away flew over the bar. Warshaw nearly found the back of the net soon after in the 70th minute when a bending corner kick found him streaking in, but he too sent his shot above the frame.
With the offense shifting into gear, the Bears seemed vulnerable. But the Cardinal became a little too anxious in its attempts, leaving too few men behind the ball. With just two minutes to play, Cal countered and put two more goals away, the last coming from a deflection that left Hutchins helpless.
“Drew is a terrific goalkeeper, but we put him in an awfully tough position as a freshman coming into a rivalry game in the Pac-10,” Simon said. “It was not a get-your-feet-wet kind of game. It was a very tough game, but he is a very athletic goalie, and he did reasonably well in a tough situation.”
As the team continues Pac-10 play with a road trip to Oregon State and Washington next weekend, Simon hopes that the players take this loss and learn from it.
“We changed out of our game plan, and we left ourselves very vulnerable,” he said. “The message I hope the guys get is they have to be patient—they got impatient again at the end.
“We have to stick with our game plan—it’s a game plan that we believe can win.”
The Cardinal heads to Seattle this Friday for a matchup with the No. 23 Huskies at 7 p.m.