After a trip to Southern California to start off the second-half of its Pac-12 conference schedule, Stanford’s men’s soccer team will return home tonight to play No. 3 Washington with the stakes in the conference race very high.
“We had two good results away, and now we can chart our own destiny to win the Pac-12. Washington beat us last time, so it’s time to get a little bit of revenge. If we finish our chances, I think we can beat them,” said freshman midfielder Corey Baird. “It’s going to be a battle. We just got to make sure we’re ready to compete with them.”
On Sunday, Cal defeated UCLA in a 1-0 upset, which opened the door for Cal, Washington and Stanford to potentially win the Pac-12 title. With three remaining games for each, winning out for any of the schools would mean finishing at the top of the league table. For Stanford, that would require beating out Washington on Friday, Oregon State on Sunday and Cal on the following Sunday. Stanford won its only conference title in program history back in 2001.
For the Cardinal, tonight’s match will likely be the biggest hurdle in the race to the conference championship, as they have long had a Washington problem. The Huskies have won 10 consecutive matches in the series, with Stanford’s last win over them coming in 2008.
“We’re excited to play against Washington. [They’re] another strong opponent, which seems to be the script with every game we play right now,” head coach Jeremy Gunn said. “It’ll be another open, exciting game where it’s just about executing on the day.”
The last time these two teams matched up, Washington snapped Stanford’s nation-best seven-match winning streak with a 3-1 win at Husky Soccer Stadium. They took a 2-0 lead towards the end of the first half with goals on set pieces that came just two minutes apart. In fact, Stanford’s last win over Washington came in 2008 on The Farm.
“It’s just another game in the Pac-12. We’re in a good position right now. If we get a good result, we use that as motivation and momentum,” senior captain and defenseman Jimmy Callinan said. “[What] we’ve done scouting-wise is look at our previous game film against them from the first time we’ve played them. This week will definitely be a chance for us to go over their set plays and their tendencies.
“I’m just trying to get my mind right and get the guys ready for a battle, a fight. It’s all about attitude — that’s what Gunn always tells us. It’s all about attitude. How we view the game, how we go into it, that’s going to give us the results.”
Stanford’s defense will be tested against a Washington attack that has scored 33 goals in 15 matches this season, good for eighth in the nation with an average of 2.20 goals per game. Senior forward Darwin Jones leads the team with eight goals thus far, tied for second in the Pac-12.
“On the field, every time we’re out there, we’re showing a great mindset, a great work rate. We’re playing some unbelievable soccer, so the team looks confident, and they just look excited to play,” said Gunn. “We just want our players to work hard and enjoy every moment.”
Kickoff against the Huskies tonight at Cagan Stadium is set for 5 p.m., and the match will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks. The Cardinal will welcome unranked Oregon State to the Farm later this weekend for a 3 p.m. Sunday matinee.
Contact Elizabeth Trinh at entrinh ‘at’ stanford.edu.