By Jose Saldana
Junior forward Foster Langsdorf’s 66th minute goal on Sunday evening lifted No. 12 Stanford men’s soccer (9-2-4, 6-0-1 Pac-12) over No. 24 UCLA (7-6-1, 3-4) in a 3-2 affair at Drake Stadium.
With their undefeated record in conference play, the Cardinal need just two more victories in the 2016 season to guarantee their third consecutive Pac-12 championship. The team is now 10-1-3 in the last 14 matches against ranked opponents. Right now, the Cardinal hang eight points above second-place San Diego State (8-3-4, 3-2-2) — the only Pac-12 team that had been able to score against Stanford this year until this weekend.
However, down in Westwood this weekend, the first period began as poorly as it possibly could for the Cardinal. Looking to jump early on the defending champs, the UCLA offense put immense pressure on an uncharacteristically porous Stanford defense. In the 21st minute, Bruins senior midfielder Brian Iloski dribbled in the Stanford box and delivered a fine pass to senior Felix Vobejda, who poked the ball in the left post for the first score of the game.
The Cardinal were able to retaliate in the 41st, when junior midfielder Bryce Marion played the ball back into the middle of the box. Junior Drew Skundrich was there waiting, and he launched his fourth goal of the season just below the crossbar to equalize the game.
Barely a minute later, freshman midfielder Jared Gilbey sent a corner into the middle of the box, where junior defender Tomas Hilliard-Arce sprinted into the perfect position to head the ball into the right post. This marks yet another set-piece goal for Hilliard-Arce, who has three headers in the past five games. The score put Stanford up 2-1 and gave the Cardinal control of the game going into halftime.
Coming out of the break, the Bruins struck first to tie the game in the 60th. Again, it was Iloski at the center of the play. After UCLA lobbed the ball into the box, Iloski volleyed it to the right of Stanford senior keeper Andrew Epstein, tying the game at 2-2.
The celebration for the Bruins was short-lived as the Cardinal offense took the lead once again. In the 66th, Skundrich played a through-ball to junior forward Corey Baird, who made a furious run down the right edge of the box. He centered a low pass to Langsdorf, who finished strongly into the back of the net for the game-winner.
“Corey has had tremendous season,” head coach Jeremy Gunn said. “He played central midfield at the beginning and did a great job. Since moving to a forward position he’s thrived. He’s formed a wonderful partnership with Foster. They’re very different, get to play varying roles up front and really get to complement each other.”
Baird’s assist marks his fifth in the last four games, and his 22 career assists are tied for seventh in the program’s history.
Langsdorf’s nine goals are now tied with Cal forward Christian Theirjung for the conference lead.
After the rapid slate of scores, both defenses solidified and did not allow a goal for the rest of the match.
“It was a tremendous effort for college soccer and a scintillating game between two very, very good teams.” Gunn said. “What more can you want?”
This is the second victory for the Cardinal in Westwood. If Stanford can net just one more victory this season, it will tie last year’s program record of seven conference wins in a season.
“The team has had an exceptional run in a very, very tough league,” Gunn said. “It’s awesome, but it doesn’t matter to us. All that matters to is that that we get ready to play Thursday.”
Contact Jose Saldana at jsaldana ‘at’ stanford.edu.