Widgets Magazine

M. Soccer: Squad looks for key conference wins against Huskies and Beavers

After Stanford’s close win over Oregon State at Cagan Stadium last Sunday, the men’s soccer team is riding on a precarious, but nonetheless important wave of momentum up north for tonight’s match against Washington. In an interesting turn of Pac-12 scheduling, Stanford (4-7-2, 1-3-1 Pac 12) will take on the Huskies and Beavers for the second time in two weeks, this time on rival turf.

Redshirt senior Garrett Gunther and the Cardinal can't afford to lose any extra games down the stretch if they want to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive. (SIMON WARBY/The Stanford Daily)

The Cardinal’s performance on the road hasn’t been very promising so far this season — Stanford is 0-5 in road matches and has yet to score a goal. However, if the team can capitalize on its offensive opportunities against Washington (8-3-2, 3-2-0 Pac-12), it may be able to secure at least one of the two positive results it needs to qualify for the postseason.

In its last encounter with the Huskies, the Cardinal conceded two goals, one of them to Washington midfielder Jacob Hustedt. Coach Bret Simon noted that the transfer from Cal Poly was a tough matchup for Stanford.

“Washington has some exceptional players,” Simon said. “We just have to do a little better job of finding their No. 8 (Hustedt) and defending him.”

Several months into the season, the physical demands of the season have also started to become a key factor, with several players noting that everyone is feeling the effects of a long season.

“Wear and tear on the body has had a price to pay for the players on the team,” Simon said.

And redshirt senior Garrett Gunther, who authored two goals — including the game-winner — on Sunday and added an assist in the Cardinal’s 3-2 victory, agrees that it can be “taxing on the body to play so many minutes and take so many hits.” But he acknowledged that bumps and bruises are par for the course in the brutal Pac-12, and no team comes out unscathed.

At the very least, Stanford comes to the table with a slightly more promising past against Oregon State (3-8-2, 1-3-1). On Sunday, the Cardinal proved that if it can exploit its offensive chances, it can hold a lead. While Stanford conceded two consecutive goals in a matter of seconds, shortening what started as a three-goal lead into a tight 3-2 match by the 25th minute on Sunday, the team buckled down and had few difficulties as the game wore on.

Furthermore, the Beavers have lost five out of the six conference games they’ve hosted this season, pointing to a potential reversion of the typical home-team advantage that has thus far confounded the Cardinal away from the Farm. And both goals came off of very nice individual plays by Oregon State junior Colin Mitchell, whom Simon said the team just needs to slow down more effectively.

“[Mitchell] is a very dynamic player,” Simon said. “He’s someone we have to pay tighter attention to.”

On the whole, however, Simon suggested that familiarity with both teams will play a decisive hand in this weekend’s matches.
“We know the teams very well, and they know us, so we just have to make some adjustments,” he said.

Gunther figures to play heavily into those adjustments, as he has been a critical figure in the offensive lineup. Simon praised his considerable growth over the course of the season, and noted that his two-footed distress gives him flexibility to play on both sides of the field.

Senior Alexander Binnie, who headed home a Gunther cross for the second goal of the match against the Beavers, is also very effective playing with either foot.

“It’s really nice when both wingers work together,” Binnie said.

Despite its most recent victory, the men’s team still has to overcome a notable challenge this weekend. But the Cardinal can’t afford to lose any more points in order to play its way into the NCAA Tournament in November. Garrett believes the team is primed for the rematches.

“We just have to take what we learned from Oregon State and use it against Washington,” he said.

Friday’s match is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Seattle, with the team moving on to face Oregon State on Sunday afternoon in Corvallis, Ore. at 2:30 p.m.