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Men’s soccer visits Penn State for season opener

True-freshman forward Oussei Bouda (above) was named to the Preseason Freshman Best XI list and highlights a third-ranked recruiting class. (JOHN P. LOZANO/isiphotos.com)

No. 5 Stanford (0-0, 0-0 Pac-12), the nation’s most successful men’s soccer program over the last five years, visits unranked Penn State (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten) on Friday for the first non-exhibition game of the season.

The last time the two teams met, Stanford had just won its first NCAA title and opened the ensuing season with a scoreless draw against the Nittany Lions on Aug. 26, 2016. Since then, Stanford has added two NCAA titles (2016, 2017) to its trophy case and extended its dominance in the Pac-12 to five-straight conference titles, making the Cardinal the most successful program of the last half decade.

Under the direction of head coach Jeremy Gunn, Stanford has accumulated a 38-14-8 record on the road and 96-29-23 record overall over the last seven seasons. The team embarks on the 2019 campaign after a 12-4-5 season that ended abruptly in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Tournament last year. No. 3 Akron — Monday’s opponent for the Cardinal — defeated the three-time defending NCAA Champions on their home turf, halting Stanford’s consecutive appearances in the College Cup at three. 

Nine starters from last year’s squad return to the pitch, including redshirt senior Tanner Beason, who was named to the Preseason All-Pac-12 team, the Hermann Trophy watch list and Top Drawer Soccer Preseason Best XI first team. Beason was the Pac-12 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 and led the conference in goals (15) in Pac-12 play. A central defender by trade, he was listed as No. 1 on the Preseason College Soccer Player rankings by Top Draw Soccer. 

Beason’s award-winning defense will be complemented by undeniable talent in the net from redshirt sophomore goalie Andrew Thomas. The duo will likely cause frustration for the Penn State strikers, who averaged 3.06 points per game last year, good for No. 159 in the country. For comparison, Stanford averaged 5.19 points per game last year, No. 30 nationally.

Thomas, who sat at No. 18 on the same preseason rankings as Beason, finished eighth in team goals against (0.625) last year. It was only his first year in goal for the Cardinal, but his stats were those of veterans. He was third in the country in save percentage (0.854), sixth in solo shutouts (11) and 13th in total saves (82).

Stanford welcomes the third-best recruiting class in the country according to Top Drawer Soccer. The most notable addition is true-freshman forward Oussei Bouda, who was named to the Preseason Freshman Best XI list. He was quick to make noise in the preseason, scoring a goal in the team’s 3-0 exhibition match victory against Saint Mary’s. His list of accolades includes being named the 2018-19 USA Today All-USA Boys Soccer Player of the Year and 2017-18 Gatorade National Boys Soccer Player of The Year.

In terms of team history, the Cardinal have had mixed starts to the season. Last year, the team opened with three consecutive draws, but the year before, the eventual national champions began on a four-game hot streak that included three shutouts and an 11-1 scoring margin.

This season could go a multitude of directions. The excitement begins Friday at 4 p.m. PT at University Park, PA. Live stats and a game broadcast can be found online. 

Contact Alejandro Salinas at asalinas ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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