No. 3 Stanford men’s soccer (4-0, 0-0 Pac-12) blew past Denver (0-4-1, 0-0 Summit) with a pair of first-half goals and a shutout. The win was the 100th in the eight-year tenure of Jeremy Gunn at the helm of the Cardinal program.
“I’m more concerned about how the game went tonight,” Gunn said. “Those milestones you look back on when you get older, right now we don’t celebrate individual accolades that much in the program.”
Out of the gate, the Pioneers controlled possession but were not able to exploit the extra touches on the ball.
“Denver started the game well and moved the ball well,” Gunn said. “We weren’t attacking them like we’d like to, but they also weren’t hurting us.”
In the 23rd minute, fifth-year center back Tanner Beason took over on the ball and found freshman forward Ousseni Bouda. Denver center back Bailey Heller took down Bouda in the box, and Stanford was awarded a penalty kick. Stanford’s specialist, Beason, stepped up to the spot and knocked the ball off of the left post and past goalie Will Palmquist.
The best opportunity to equalize for the Pioneers came just two minutes later, when right back Destan Norman’s shot was deflected by Beason, but redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Thomas denied the effort with a reaction save. After missing last game on national team duty with the U.S. U-23 team, Thomas made the only save asked of him in his return.
Against a team of Stanford’s caliber, failing to capitalize on opportunities is catastrophic, which Denver learned in the 28th minute. A lofted ball from junior right back Logan Panchot bounced around in the area before falling to the feet of redshirt sophomore forward Zach Ryan, who struck it out of the air into the top bin and past Palmquist.
The Pioneers protested, arguing that referee Matthew Buckman missed a foul on center back Liam Johnson. In an unconventional move, Denver head coach Jamie Franks was shown a yellow card for his dissent.
“Once we got the ball moving, we looked really fluid and played some wonderful soccer for the remainder of the first half,” Gunn said.
With three goals in the past three games, Ryan is tied atop Stanford’s scoring table with Beason. The pair finished first and second last year, with Ryan narrowly edging his captain by two goals, 10-8.
The rest of the team added just 15 goals last season, and Amir Bashit ’18, who contributed seven of those 15, has since graduated. The Cardinal could have been in a bind for goal scorers this year, but instead have already netted 10 goals from six different players.
“It’s exciting because sometimes teams can key in on a specific attacker,” Gunn said. “The great thing right now is that we really do have a balanced attack that makes it harder to play against. What are you supposed to say in the scout when you play against Stanford? Who do you need to close down? There’s lots of different weapons, and that means hopefully on any given day it’s someone’s day to step forward and help us win a game.”
At halftime, Stanford led 11-2 in shots and had taken three of the four corners. In the second period, however, the Pioneers would claim the advantage in shots, 8-6, while taking both corners. Despite opportunities, the Cardinal could not add a decisive third goal.
“The second half, we had a couple periods where we looked really lively and energetic, like we’re good for the third goal to put it away, but they’re a good side,” Gunn said.
Denver’s most enticing opportunity came in the 68th minute. The Pioneers earned a free kick at the top of the box, but could not convert.
The Cardinal have now allowed just one goal in four matches. The back line of redshirt sophomore left back Andrew Aprahamian, Beason, freshman center back Keegan Hughes and Panchot played the entire 90 minutes, the only field position players to do so.
“We’ve laid down the mark that we want to be electrifying on the ball when we’re attacking and the hardest working team in the country to play against when we defend,” Gunn said. “It’s never perfect, but it’s solid, and when you look so far, we haven’t given a ton of great chances away.”
Hughes, in his first season, looks comfortable alongside Beason, who is on the watch list for the Hermann Trophy after claiming Pac-12 Player of the Year and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2018. The other freshman receiving minutes, forward Ousseni Bouda, has started all four contests and scored a goal.
“Keegan Hughes has come in and been rock solid in the back,” Gunn said. “Ousseni has been electriying up front. They’ve really made a big impact, and hopefully they can keep their heads down and keep working hard.”
Stanford will close out a three-game homestand on Sunday in a 3 p.m. date with American (0-3-1, 0-0 Patriot).
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.