By Jose Saldana
No. 5 Stanford men’s soccer (12-3-4) opened its NCAA Tournament with a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Pacific (13-4-2) on Sunday evening at a rainy Cagan Stadium. The win means that Stanford will advance to the third round of the NCAA Tournament after having a bye week for the first round.
The Cardinal began the first half with an offensive onslaught. In the first 15 minutes, they managed to create six shots and three corners. The Tigers’ defense was able to prevent them from capitalizing on any of the opportunities, but it was not long before the Cardinal were able to break through.
In the 31st minute, Stanford junior forward and Pac-12 co-Player of the Year Foster Langsdorf received a pass into the box, where he tapped the ball to the right post. The Tigers goalkeeper, Curtis Goldsmith, made a terrific vaulting save to keep the match scoreless.
Six minutes later, Stanford sophomore forward Amir Bashti delivered a through ball to a galloping Langsdorf, who beat the keeper with a strong finish to give Stanford a 1-0 lead heading into the break. The goal was Langsdorf’s 13th of the year and added to his career high for goals in a season.
“He keeps doing what he does,” said Stanford head coach Jeremy Gunn of Langsdorf’s play. “It’s that constant pressure. It’s one thing to do a couple exciting things in a game. It’s another to do those exciting things and be constantly working and be constantly harassing and be constantly available. He’s irrepressible, as far as that goes.”
Stanford dominated the first period as it outshot Pacific 10-4 and did not let the Tigers have many touches in their attacking half.
The Cardinal again got off to a hot start coming out of the break. They took four shots within in the first 10 minutes of the game, but none of them hit the back of the net, as Goldsmith was able to corral three of the attempts to keep Stanford from doubling its lead.
Pacific had its best chance to equalize in the 63rd minute. Cardinal co-captain Brian Nana-Sinkam fouled a Pacific player on the left flank of the bank. Pacific midfielder Andres Ochoa took the free kick and delivered a breaking ball to the right post. Senior keeper Andrew Epstein made a highlight save by leaping up and poking the ball over the net.
The Cardinal repaid Epstein’s effort by scoring seven minutes later.
Freshman midfielder Jared Gilbey sent a corner kick from the left side to the center of the box, where Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Tomas Hilliard-Arce lunged at the ball and delivered a strong header to double Stanford’s lead and put the game away.
The Cardinal are now 12-0-1 all-time against the Tigers and are 27-2-8 in their last 37 matches at Cagan Stadium.
Epstein added a 20th career shutout, which is third-most in school history. He has not allowed a score in the last 310 minutes of postseason play.
“Our mentality was phenomenal today,” Gunn said. “We were assertive and putting them under so much pressure, and it paid off. Sometimes you’re all over a team, and you don’t get the goal — they hang in there and sucker-punch you. It happens all the time. They’re an excellent team and they’ve advanced this far for a reason. Tonight the great thing was, we kept going after them.”
Stanford will host 12th-seeded Virginia (11-3-5) in the third round of the tournament next Sunday at 5 p.m.
Contact Jose Saldana at jsaldana ‘at’ stanford.edu.