On a bright sunny Sunday afternoon, the No. 12-ranked Stanford men’s soccer team (8-2-4, Pac-12 5-1-1) defeated the Washington Huskies (8-7-0, 3-4-0), by a score of 3-1 to help right the ship after a disappointing 2-2 draw against Oregon State (8-4-3, 4-2-1) on Thursday.
In Sunday’s match, the Cardinal played around with a new starting formation, going with a 4-4-2, giving special attention on following the ball throughout the field.
“At the beginning it was a 4-4-2 against another 4-4-2, and there are different ways to prevent them from having too much space for action: one is putting great pressure on the ball, and that’s what we did in the first half, and it paid off,” head coach Jeremy Gunn said.
Stanford had an electric start thanks to senior forward Amir Bashti, whose great press on Washington’s defense allowed him to get face to face with Washington’s goalkeeper. Bashti would go on to score in the second minute with a beautiful shot right up the middle.
Stanford did not slow their rhythm and instead kept pressing and creating problems for Washington defenders and midfielders. The Cardinal did not allow the Huskies any significant offensive action in the first half of the game.
After the initial Cardinal goal, there was sloppy play on both sides for much of the first half. Very long throw-ins and high crosses that were never followed by good and precise control on the ball resulted in a continuous change of possession, especially in the transition phases.
The Cardinal started creating more interesting and potentially dangerous action, but the swift pace of the game prevented the formation from any strategically elaborate maneuvers. The Cardinal’s policy of hard and fast pressing kept paying off. During the 25th minute, redshirt freshman forward Zach Ryan succeeded in exploiting some confusion in Huskies’ defense and scored a spectacular goal from just outside the penalty area, placing the ball where the Washington goalkeeper could not reach. The Cardinal took a 2-0 and would maintain that lead into the halftime break.
The beginning of the second half was not as smooth for the Cardinal. Washington was able to significantly raise the speed of the match, creating very effective actions that allowed their forwards to shoot more shots in the first 10 minutes of the second half than in the whole first half of the game. Washington finished the game with 19 shots, 14 of which came in the second half-time.
After a well-organized transition, the Huskies got a free kick just outside the penalty area. The shot was kicked softly into the hands of redshirt freshman goalkeeper Andrew Thomas. But then, to the astonishment from the whole audience, the referee decided to have it annulled and repeated. With his second chance, Washington forward Scott Menzies scored thanks to a light deflection by the Cardinal wall. Washington scored their first and only goal of the game to bring the score to 2-1.
But Stanford wasn’t done. In the 73rd minute, senior defender Luke Hauswirth had a wonderful free kick and placed the ball right onto the head of senior defender Quentin Pearson who scored with an incredible header trajectory. The Cardinal would maintain their 3-1 lead to the final whistle.
“You have to wait for these moments, when you can actually own the right to play and impose dominance over the game, because I don’t think that in the last seven years a match between Stanford and Washington has ever been dull,” Gunn said. “They compete like warriors and create chances. You never feel comfortable, even with a two goal difference, till the very last minutes of the game.”
The Cardinal will next host No. 7 Denver this Friday at 7 p.m.
Contact Didier Natalizi Baldi at didiernb ‘at’ stanford.edu