No. 8 Stanford men’s soccer (11-3-4, 8-1-1 Pac-12) finished its season on top Friday afternoon, defeating Bay Area rival California (5-10-2, 1-8-1) with a final score of 2-1. The Cardinal clinched their conference title when Washington lost to San Diego, and they were able to celebrate in style with a well-earned overtime win against the Golden Bears.
Stanford has dominated the Pac-12 conference for the last three years, going 21-3-6 in league play since 2014. Against Cal in particular, the Cardinal have found nothing but success, going 6-0-1 in their last seven matches.
In the final regular season matchup, Stanford attacked early and often. Stanford led Cal not only in goals, but also in precision. The Cardinal nailed 12 of their 16 shots on frame, compared to the Bears, who only managed to to get two shots on frame throughout the match.
Sophomore midfielder Amir Bashti was the first to make Cal pay for its mistakes. In the eighth minute, a Cal defender over-committed to a loose ball and left Bashti wide open on the left side. Bashti traveled down the flank of the field, hitting the opposite corner of the goal to give Stanford the lead. Bashti has credited his success to his teammates, explaining that having “trust and confidence” in each other has allowed more freedom on the field.
While a 56th-minute goal from Cal senior defender Trevor Long kept Cal’s hopes alive into overtime, it seemed like the ball was always in Stanford’s control.
“In the first half we created some good chances [and] deserved to be a goal up, and it certainly looked like we could have had one or two more,” said head coach Jeremy Gunn. “We have to take our hat off to the Cal goalkeeper, Klinsmann, for making a number of tremendous saves.”
To no one’s surprise, it was junior striker Foster Langsdorf who saved the day for Stanford. In the 98th minute, Langsdorf tallied his fifth game-winning goal this season, sailing a header past Klinsmann to give Stanford the perfect end to the regular season. Langsdorf has a knack for headers: He sent Stanford to its first College Cup since 2002 when he headed the overtime goal knocking out the No. 1-seed Wake Forest last season.
Stanford now heads to postseason play and looks to keep the offensive momentum going. However – as the saying goes – defense wins championships, and the defensive skill in Stanford’s 18-yard box has been the key to Stanford’s success this season. All year, Stanford hasn’t given up more than two goals in a game. Much of this credit is due to senior goalkeeper Andrew Epstein, who is currently third on Stanford’s all-time shutout record.
In addition, junior Tanner Beason has taken his new role as starting left back in stride. After watching Stanford win a national championship from the bench last year, he has been instrumental to the team’s success this season. Beason has eight points this season with three goals and two assists.
When asked about the Cal game, Beason turned focus to the future.
“It was a great way to close out the regular season with a win and celebration of our Pac-12 title, and now we’ll move on and shift our focus to the tournament as we find out our opponents on Monday,” he said.
As Stanford prepares to find its seed in the tournament, the team’s depth and experience will help the Cardinal defend their title. The NCAA selection show will take place on Monday to find out Stanford’s fate in the first round of the postseason.
Contact Julia Massaro at jmassaro ‘at’ stanford.edu.