By Jose Saldana
No. 5 Stanford men’s soccer (14-3-4) advanced to its second consecutive College Cup after defeating No. 4 Louisville (14-6-2) 2-0 on Saturday afternoon at Lynn Stadium.
Co-Pac-12 Player of the Year junior Foster Langsdorf provided the go-ahead goal in the 64th minute with a header capitalizing on a corner served from freshman midfielder Derek Waldeck.
The Cardinal will travel to Houston to take on ninth-seeded North Carolina (14-3-3) in the second semifinal on Friday night. Stanford will vie to become the first repeat champions since Indiana in 2003/2004. Despite replacing five starters from last season, the defending champions are en route to winning their second title in program history.
The quarterfinals on Friday between the fourth and fifth seeds proved to be a very physical contest. The officials called 18 fouls and handed out five yellow cards.
Even with the high level of physicality, the Cardinal’s defense, anchored by Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and MAC Hermann semifinalist junior Tomas Hilliard-Arce, managed to shut out a prolific Louisville offense, which has 1.81 goals per game this season.
“Our defenders performed perfectly tonight,” head coach Jeremy Gunn said. “They built the wall well and started the attack for us, and defensively each time they were called upon they took care of business.”
Both defenses shared similar tactics as each team pressured the other offense into multiple turnovers.
Neither team had an attempt on goal until senior goalkeeper Andrew Epstein saved a Louisville shot with 15 minutes left in the first period.
Coming out of the break, the Cardinal offense tried to put more pressure on the Louisville defense, which had limited Stanford to only one shot attempt in the first half.
In the 55th minute, however, Louisville had a chance to take the lead with a counterattack by forward Tate Schmitt. Junior defender Adam Mosharrafa delivered a swift tackle on Schmitt to prevent Louisville from scoring.
The Cardinal offense repaid the defense by scoring 11 minutes later.
Stanford earned a corner on the right side and Waldeck took the corner and sent a curling ball to the center of the box where a mass of players stood. Langsdorf soared above the group and scraped a header attempt into the back of the net near the far post. The score gave Langsdorf his 15th on the season and his eighth game-winner of the year. Langsdorf had previously scored the golden goal in double overtime over Virginia in the previous game for the Cardinal.
After jumping out 1-0, Stanford looked to add insurance to its lead over Louisville.
In the 79th, Stanford earned a free-kick 30 yards from goal. Junior midfielder Sam Werner took the set piece and delivered a dipping shot over the outstretched arms of Louisville goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland to double the Cardinal’s lead and put the game out of reach.
Stanford’s stout defense has not allowed a score in its last 512 minutes of tournament play, dating back to last year, and has shut out Stanford’s last five postseason opponents.
Goalkeeper Epstein snuffed out four shots en route to his 22nd career clean sheet.
“I thought it was an incredibly gutsy performance,” Gunn said. “Louisville is a wonderful soccer team. I don’t think it always went our way in midfield and up front, but our back four was incredible yet again and kept Louisville at bay. Our players showed that wonderful commitment to working hard defensively while the other team was in ascendency and we were still carving out great chances in a tight game.”
The Cardinal will travel to their fifth College Cup thanks to their performance on Saturday. Stanford will play North Carolina in Houston for a spot at the NCAA championship on Friday at 7:45 p.m.
Contact Jose Saldana at jsaldana ‘at’ stanford.edu.