Widgets Magazine

M. Soccer: Urgency level rising as conference play continues

The men’s soccer team is in dire need of a win, and time is not on the Cardinal’s side as it looks to get back to the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in the last nine seasons. This weekend the squad plays host to Washington and Oregon State in a pair of critical Pac-12 clashes halfway through the conference season.

Freshman forward Felipe Noguerol, who has taken 10 shots on the seasons but has no goals, is one of many Cardinal players who have struggled to get on the board. (SIMON WARBY/The Stanford Daily)

Stanford (3-6-2, 0-2-1 Pac-12) has a little bit of momentum after a brilliant Adam Jahn free kick gave the Cardinal its first points against rival California in three years, earning a 1-1 tie at home against the Golden Bears last Sunday.

But the team still has a lot of work to do in order to build up its resume and qualify for the postseason. After dropping the first three matches of the season, Stanford went 3-1-1 in its next five games, including a weekend sweep of Harvard and Vermont, and was finally starting to gel entering conference play.

Two tight road losses against San Diego State and UCLA later, some of that optimism was gone, and the offense’s failure to put the ball in the net has mostly stumped coaches and players alike. Sophomore J.J. Koval noted that the team has actually been creating many scoring opportunities, but has only nine goals to show for it in the first 11 games of the season.

“But [not scoring a lot] means we just need to be playing even better defense,” Koval said. “If we can hold the other team 0-0, we really need to make our goals count. And in order to score more goals, we need to get the ball and counter, add in that little extra effort, just make sure we’re focused and trust our technique.

“The goals will come, it’s the game of soccer, and [if we win] it just means we’re keeping the ball out of our net,” he said.

Washington (6-3-2, 1-2) has had its fair share of struggles offensively, particularly early in the season, but the Huskies will be playing with some confidence after coming back to upset No. 22 San Diego State last weekend at home, 3-2.

First-year Washington coach Jaime Clark knows a little bit about Stanford’s program, having played for the Cardinal from 1996-99. Clark is the program’s first First Team NCAA All-American, earning the honor after a standout senior season in which he led Stanford to a spot in the NCAA Championship match, winning the program’s first NCAA Tournament game along the way.

Stanford cannot show Clark’s squad any mercy on Friday, however, as the Huskies sit a game ahead of the Cardinal in the standings. Washington swept both meetings between the teams last year and holds a 24-16-1 edge all-time.

Two days later Oregon State (3-7-1, 1-2) will be in town, and the Beavers are a tricky side to gauge. On the one hand, they have not been able to string wins together with any regularity at all, and are four games under .500 coming off two home losses to open conference play last weekend. But they have also scored in seven straight games, and five of their seven losses came by just one goal.

If the Cardinal can manage to neutralize Oregon State’s balanced attack — eight different players have found the net for the Beavers — it will be in a very good position to gain some ground in a crowded Pac-12 field.

No. 15 UCLA leads the pack with a perfect conference record thus far, but after them it’s anybody’s guess as to who is the second-best team. And with seven matches remaining, one good weekend could shift the entire season outlook for the Cardinal.

Washington kicks things off Friday night at 7 p.m. with a Sunday matinee against Oregon State scheduled for 1 p.m. Both matches will be played at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium.

About Miles Bennett-Smith

Miles Bennett-Smith is Chief Operating Officer at The Daily. An avid sports fan from Penryn, Calif., Miles graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor's degree in American Studies. He has previously served as the Editor in Chief and President at The Daily. He has also worked as a reporter for The Sacramento Bee. Email him at eic@stanforddaily.com
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