In a Thursday-night matchup, No. 6 Stanford men’s soccer (10-2-4, Pac-12 6-1-1) defeated the No. 87 San Diego State Aztecs (6-9-1, 1-7-0) 2-0 after two decisive goals in the second half. Later that weekend, on Sunday, they took down UCLA (10-7-0, 5-4-0) in a 1-0 contest.
On paper, the Cardinal came into Thursday with the advantage on their side. For the first 15 minutes of the game, Stanford really seemed to have the control of the match with several chances to score the first goal. However, the astute San Diego defense shut the door to several Cardinal attacks, keeping the game scoreless through the first half.
The Cardinal put up three shots in the first half compared to the Aztecs’ six.
The Cardinal appeared to begin the second half with more confidence, strength and strategic awareness. After three minutes, the Cardinal developed a very fast and well-structured action, allowing freshman midfielder Will Richmond to cross the ball into the box to sophomore forward Charlie Wehan, who finished with a goal to put Stanford ahead 1-0.
Stanford maintained its lead for the remainder of the game and never ceased to attack near the enemy box. In one of these solid actions, redshirt freshman forward Zach Ryan suffered a foul inside the box resulting in a penalty. With great calm and precision, redshirt junior defender Tanner Beason scored the penalty kick for his sixth goal this season, certainly not a negligible number for a defender.
The Cardinal’s defensive performance was great in the second half, restricting San Diego to only three shots, while the Cardinal offense produced seven. Stanford kept the game scoreless through to the final whistle despite San Diego State’s attempts to get on the board.
With this victory over a Pac-12 foe, Stanford tied Oregon State (10-4-3, 6-1-1) for first place in the Pac-12.
On Sunday, the team left Westwood with a 1-0 win over UCLA . The victory guaranteed that the Cardinal will finish the season with at least a share of their record fifth-straight conference title.
The game winner came in the 51st minute. Midfield interplay between senior Amir Bashti and redshirt sophomore Marc Joshua created space for Ryan on the top of the box, which he dutifully exploited. Spinning away from the defender on his first touch, Ryan got off a low shot to beat goalkeeper Cole Martinez. Stanford’s leading goal scorer now has eight on the season, which was all the Stanford defense needed while holding the Bruins scoreless for the Cardinal’s 11th shutout of the season.
UCLA outshot Stanford 21-10, including a 6-4 advantage in shots on goal. The Bruins also hit the post twice and the crossbar once. In the 19th minute Anderson Asiedu hit the post; at the start of the second half, Brandon Terwege’s header bounced off the post; and in the 53rd, Santiago Herrera’s effort smashed off the crossbar. The scariest opportunity may have come just a few minutes into the game. With the ball bouncing around in front of the goal, junior midfielder Jared Gilbert stepped in for the clearance mere inches from the line.
Despite UCLA’s dominance in the box score, Stanford head coach Jeremy Gunn was proud of his teams’s effort. “This game had the feeling of a cup final, and our players remained incredibly composed throughout. They stuck to the task, kept fighting and were true road warriors tonight.”
Matt Hundley led all players with six shots for UCLA, with three of them requiring a save from Stanford’s stellar redshirt freshman goalkeeper Andrew Thomas.
Compared to the 3-0 Cardinal victory when the teams squared off on the Farm in late September, this game was much more hard-fought. “When we played them at our place, we really dominated and had control of the game,” Gunn said. “But tonight, UCLA came out with all guns blazing and had a great performance.”
The second-half goal continues a streak of Cardinal dominance after the break in which they outscored opponents 19-5.
The Cardinal will have an opportunity to claim the conference championship outright on senior night Thursday. While a tie against rival Cal (6-9-2, 2-7-0) would do it, Stanford will want to leave Cagan Stadium with a victory.
Contact Didier Natalizi Baldi at didiernb ‘at’ stanford.edu and Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.