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Men’s soccer gears up for redemptive season

Redshirt season center back Tanner Beason (above) is the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year. With a year of experience under the young team's belt, Beason and the Cardinal are poised to regain their position at the top of the soccer world. (JIM SHORIN/isiphotos.com)

Last season was a rebuild for men’s soccer. Only four starters had carried over from the squad that capped a three-peat of national championships in 2017. The lineup was young and untested; it scuttled where past teams had flourished. The Cardinal bowed out in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. But that’s the floor for this year’s squad.

The final game of the 2018 season was unusual, not just because the Cardinal lost 3-2 to Akron, but because of the manner in which it occurred.

Stanford had last allowed a postseason goal on Dec. 5, 2015. After 14 matches and 1,428:09 of match time, Akron’s Marcel Zajac ended the streak with a goal in the 15th minute. It was the first tournament loss for the Cardinal in 17 matches, and the first defeat with three goals since Nov. 11, 2010, before head coach Jeremy Gunn’s tenure even began.

This year, an experienced squad returns eight starters, including redshirt senior center back Tanner Beason. In 2018, a positional transition from outside back was accompanied with the captain’s armband. It paid off, and Beason was named a first team All-American, Pac-12 Player of the Year, and Pac-12 Defender of the Year. In that 2018 campaign, Beason proved his offensive worth as well, scoring eight goals, including a conference-high six in Pac-12 play.

Redshirt sophomore goalie Andrew Thomas will look to improve on a phenomenal first season. In 2018, the London native was ninth nationally and first in the conference in goals against average (0.626), third in the nation in save percentage (.854), sixth in solo shutouts (11), and 13th in total saves (82).

After a precipitous drop in goal production, from 48 in 2017 to 33 in 2018, Stanford will look to regain its offensive form. A season ago, redshirt sophomore Zach Ryan led the team in goals with 10, but with the loss of Atlanta’s SuperDraft selection Amir Bashti ’18 and his seven goals, the only other player — outside of Beason — to net multiple goals was junior forward Charlie Wehan. Bashti, a local product of Cupertino and the San Jose Earthquakes Academy, did not sign with Atlanta, going on trial in Europe before returning to the Bay Area to join the USL2 side San Francisco Glens.

Logan Panchot (above) and his fellow midfielders will be critical to the success of the Cardinal as the team looks to bounce back from an early exit in the NCAA tournament last year. (JIM SHORIN/isiphotos.com)

Stanford will seek contributions from junior midfielder/defender Logan Panchot and senior midfielders Derek Waldeck and Jared Gilbey. Waldeck led the trio with eight points in 2018, followed by Panchot at four and Waldeck at two. With a full year of experience and the knowledge of what it takes to win the final game of the season, even while taking final exams, the Cardinal will seek a record sixth-consecutive Pac-12 title. 

That journey begins with a pair of exhibition matches at Cagan Stadium that lead into the team’s 18-game regular season. The eight-match non-conference schedule is highlighted by an away rematch with Akron, while the conference schedule features home-and-away contests with each of the five Pac-12 opponents. 

With the departures of volunteer assistant coach Collin Audley, who accepted an assistant coaching position in the women’s soccer program at Kentucky, and assistant coach Charles Rodriguez, who joined the Yale staff, Gunn welcomes in two new coaches, Shane Carew and Ben Moane. 

Carew, the newly hired assistant coach, spent the previous two seasons as head coach at Cal State Monterey Bay, after a stop at San Jose State. Before accepting the role of volunteer assistant coach on the Farm, Moane was the head coach of the Boston Bolts’ U19 and U17 U.S. Soccer Development Academy teams and served as the organization’s director of goalkeeping.

While only five freshmen joined men’s soccer last year, a fact Gunn attributes to Stanford’s admission standards, eight members of the Class of 2023 have joined the Cardinal ranks. Even with the coaching and roster changes, the most significant addition this year may be that of The Forest, a newly-minted supporter section for Stanford soccer. Filling the corner of Cagan with smoke, TIFOs, and chants, the energy for Stanford soccer will begin to match its spot as the decade’s most successful soccer program.

Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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