A 106th-minute header from Foster Langsdorf proved the deciding score as No. 5 Stanford men’s soccer (13-3-4) was able to best the University of Virginia Cavaliers (11-4-5), with a 1-0 overtime win. Thanks to Langsdorf’s seventh game-winner, Stanford’s dreams of defending its 2015 national title are very much alive.
“It was an incredible game with two ultra-competitive teams that went back and forth,” Stanford head coach Jeremy Gunn said. “In these tight ones it’s all about executing on chances. Soccer’s that tight game that is always going to be very nip-and-tuck.”
This game was the matchup of champions: UVA won the National Championship in 2014, while Stanford won the title last season. This year, in the second round of NCAAs, Virginia proved that it was a team to fight to the end, as it advanced on a double overtime win against Vermont. UVA junior midfielder Pablo Aguilar found success in the 103rd minute with a dramatic goal just under the right post – his third game-winning goal in a row for the Cavaliers.
Stanford had an easier time with its second-round opponents, as it defeated Pacific 2-0. The Cardinal’s success can be credited in large part to offensive staples Langsdorf and Tomas Hilliard-Arce, each of whom had one goal last week. Stanford’s defense continued a season of domination in Cagan Stadium, as senior goalkeeper Andrew Epstein tallied yet another shutout performance.
Stanford opened Sunday’s match with early attacks from Langsdorf and junior midfielder Bryce Marion in the first half. The Cardinal would go on to outshoot UVA 17-9 over the course of the night, but the game saw offensive breakaways from both teams throughout the match.
It proved to be a physical matchup, with each team tallying 17 fouls. To UVA’s frustration, the Cardinal defense successfully defended the 18-yard box against all eight Cavalier corner kicks. Epstein blocked all four shots on net, giving Stanford the opportunity to win by putting just a single goal away. Before today’s match, Epstein was tied for 11th among active NCAA players in solo shutouts, and today’s win will give him a forward push in the stat books.
Both teams were at a stalemate until the second overtime. The Cardinal needed to score, and Langsdorf, co-Pac-12 Player of the Year, gave them the answer. Against the Cavaliers, he got a header off an assist from junior defender Adam Mosharaffa and Hillard-Arce, and he sailed it into the back of the net, giving Stanford the win in sudden death double overtime.
Throughout this season, Langsdorf has consistently pulled off game-winning goals for Stanford just when Stanford needs them the most. Just two weeks ago, Langsdorf scored the go-ahead goal against Bay Area-rival Cal to put Stanford up 2-1 in its final conference match. He has scored seven game-winners in this season alone, and his 14 goals on the season place him ninth overall in the Stanford record books – the best record in the last 15 years.
Langsdorf’s headers appear to be a key ingredient to Stanford’s postseason success. Last year in the NCAA tournament, Langsdorf scored on another header against then-top-seeded Wake Forest to send Stanford to its first College Cup since 2002.
“The mentality was great, and we just kept going,” Gunn said. “Our boys work tremendously hard. Virginia is a very good, skillful passing team and they managed to break our pressure down well at times, but there were other times when we managed to pressure, win the ball and go after them.”
With this win, the Cardinal have placed themselves among the top eight teams in the nation, as they advance to the NCAA quarterfinals. Stanford will travel to take on No. 4-seed Louisville on Saturday at 4 p.m.
Contact Julia Massaro at jmassaro ‘at’ stanford.edu.