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Men’s soccer gears up for home-openers

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After starting the season with some serious cross-country travel, the No. 16 Stanford men’s soccer team (1-1-0, 0-0 Pac-12) returns to Cagan Stadium this weekend to face off against Northeastern and VCU.

August 22, 2015, Stanford, CA:  Stanford Cardinal vs Santa Clara Broncos in a preseason game at at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium. The match ended in a 0-0 draw.
Brandon Vincent (above) earned All-Pac-12 First Team and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors last season after he helped anchor a strong defensive presence for the Cardinal. (BOB DREBIN/stanfordphoto.com)

The Cardinal opened its season last Friday with a 1-0 loss at UC Santa Barbara, conceding a goal in the 42nd minute despite controlling play for most of the game. The team then made a rare trip across the nation to Louisville, Kentucky, where its fortunes were reversed. Recent U.S. soccer phenom Jordan Morris found the back of the net in the 81st minute to pull off a dramatic 1-0 victory over the No. 18 Louisville Cardinals.

Stanford will take on non-conference opponents Northeastern (0-0-1) and VCU (0-2-0) on Friday and Sunday, respectively. Although neither team has a win, coach Jeremy Gunn has strived to instill a game-by-game mentality in his team this offseason.

“The big thing looking forward is making sure we have the right mindset and intensity level,” Gunn said. “We have the soccer-playing ability, but we have to be sharp and treat every team that comes in here the same.”

Northeastern opened its season with a 1-1 draw against Temple and finished last season 8-11-1. The team features young talent in freshman defender Andrew Lombard, who was recently named to the US U-20 National Team, along with freshman Cardinal midfielder Amir Bashti. However, both players will miss this Friday’s contest due to international competition.

Meanwhile, VCU enters this weekend with both of its losses to ranked teams — No. 25 Akron and No. 21 Coastal Carolina. Last year, the Rams finished 7-8-5, with one-goal losses to top-five teams UNC and Notre Dame and an impressive 2-1 upset over No. 6 Georgetown. The Rams will take on Cal across the Bay Friday evening before playing Stanford on Sunday.

The Cardinal will look to rely heavily on its defense, which ranks among the nation’s best. Anchored by senior Brandon Vincent, last year’s Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, the team has only given up seven goals in its last 10 games dating back to last year.

“We’ve been very, very solid defensively, not giving away too many chances at all. We just need to work on opening opponents up a bit more,” said Gunn.

Look for players Corey Baird and Jordan Morris, who were on the All-Pac-12 Second and First Teams, respectively, to lead the attack for the Cardinal, as the pair accounted for eight goals and 10 assists for Stanford in 2014.

“We have healthy competition for playing time across the board,” said Gunn. “It’s ultra-competitive, the guys are hungry, and we’re ready to go.”

The Cardinal will face Northeastern at Cagan Stadium on Friday at 7 p.m., before taking on VCU on Sunday at 3 p. m.

Contact Neel Ramachandran at neelr ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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