The Bay Area Derby will come to town this Wednesday night at Cagan Stadium and luckily for spectators, both sides will have a lot to play for. Stanford (8-6-3, 2-5-2 Pac-12) will welcome the No. 4 California Golden Bears (12-3-2, 6-2-1 Pac-12) to its home turf and will look to grab a result that will secure its place in the NCAA tournament.
As of now, the Cardinal is the very definition of a bubble team, with its strong nonconference record of 6-1-1 being mitigated by a tough season in the stacked Pac-12 conference. Although Cardinal supporters will point out that all of Stanford’s losses this year have come to teams that were ranked in the top five of the NSCAA Coaches Poll at the time, it would still shore up Stanford’s resume if it can come away with the three points against Cal. The Bears will be looking to complete a season sweep of the Cardinal after defeating Stanford 1-0 in Berkeley on a hotly disputed penalty.
That is not to say that Cal has nothing to play for. Cal will be looking to secure the Pac-12 title for the first time since 2010 but does not control its own destiny after a loss to No. 2 Washington on Sunday. With a win over Stanford, Cal would move to a total of 22 Pac-12 points, which would force Washington to top Oregon State on Saturday to secure the title.
Among the danger men for Cal are senior centerback Steve Birnbaum, who leads the team with nine goals, and senior midfielder Alec Sundly, who has five goals, three of which were of the game-winning variety. However, Cal’s foundation is based upon its solid defense, which has conceded only 0.83 goals per game thanks to the sterling work of Birnbaum, junior centerback Christian Dean and junior goalkeeper Justin Taillole.
The Golden Bears will have to contend with the dangerous talents of the Cardinal’s attack, paced by junior Zach Batteer and freshman Jordan Morris, who have combined for 13 goals and nine assists. Stanford’s sophomore midfielders Ty Thompson and Aaron Kovar each have four assists on the year and will be looking to play those dangerous through balls that can break down Cal’s often obdurate defense.
Usually, it would be enough just to make mention of the fact that this is a game between Cal and Stanford. However, considering the stakes that are in play and the talent level on both sides, a fantastic game can be expected on Wednesday night, which also happens to be Stanford’s Senior Night, in which the Cardinal’s seniors playing in their final home game will be honored. The match is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at Cagan Stadium.
Contact Dylan Fugel at dfugel ‘at’ stanford.edu.