By James Hemker
Stanford No. 18 men’s soccer (5-1-3, Pac-12 2-0-0) takes the battle to Berkeley to face off against California (5-3-2, 1-1-0) on Sunday in the two programs’ first meeting of the season.
This game will mark the 63rd meeting of the rivalry, which dates back to 1973. The Cardinal lead the all-time record 31-22-9, including the current nine-game unbeaten streak against the Golden Bears. In that stretch, which began in 2013, Stanford has outscored Cal 16-6 and posted four shutouts.
Coming off of back-to-back 3-0 victories against San Diego State and UCLA last week, the Cardinal have the momentum heading into game day. Stanford is led by senior midfielder Amir Bashti, who was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week for the second time this season. He contributed a goal and an assist in each of the last two games. Bashti has a total of five goals on the season and will look to continue his four-game scoring streak.
Helping Bashti on the attack, freshman forward Zach Ryan and sophomore forward Charlie Wehan each had a goal and an assist over the past two matches. Ryan scored his third goal of the season against SDSU, while Wehan netted his first score early in the second half off of a cross against UCLA.
Stanford’s defensive unit, reinforced by freshman goalkeeper Andrew Thomas, creates an imposing wall of a backfield. In his first nine games of collegiate play, Thomas boasts a .926 save percentage and a .207 goals-against average, which are both second best in the nation. Seven total shutouts for the Cardinal makes their .778 shutout percentage third in the country.
The Cardinal defense will need to be in top form to stave off Cal’s star senior midfielder Shinya Kadono. Kadono, who ranks third in the nation for totals goals, has put the ball in the back of the net 10 times in as many games. With half the season gone, he looks to contest Berkeley’s single-season goals record of 21, set in 1985. Thanks to his efforts, the Golden Bears’ offense is the most productive in the conference with 17 goals.
As the men’s soccer NCAA defending champions, the Cardinal come into the game with a target on their back; however, this will not be an easy game. Bashti and his younger Stanford offense will need to continue their barrage of goals. Thomas and the stalwart defense will have to shut down Kadono entirely.
Stanford looks to extend their lead in the Pac-12 and remain unbeaten in conference play. The Golden Bears could tie the Cardinal in points at six with a win. Kick off will be at 3 p.m.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.