The Stanford men’s soccer team takes the field for its first match in 10 days this Friday at Cagan Stadium. Southern Illinois-Edwardsville will serve as the opponents, and the Cardinal look to continue a stellar run of form. Jeremy Gunn’s side rebounded off of an opening loss at Creighton to win three matches on the bounce, the most recent being a 4-1 drubbing of UC-Santa Barbara.
This match is the third of five consecutive home matches for the Card, and the first of three matches in a week as they careen towards the beginning of Pac-12 conference play. Stanford’s league play is slated to begin at Oregon State on October 2nd.
The SIU Cougars are relative rookies to the Division I NCAA scene, having only been promoted from Division II in 2008. The men’s soccer program, unlike the rest of the athletic department, competes in the Missouri Valley Conference. Last season saw the Cougars compile a 3-3 conference record, with a banner road win in extra time against MVC runners-up Missouri State. SIU finished the season 8-9-2.
Their 2014 campaign has begun rather unimpressively, as the Cougar attack has failed to get out of first gear. SIU has netted only 5 goals in its opening 6 games, yielding a 0-4-2 record. The Cardinal defense will be primarily occupied with SIU’s number 10, Christian Volesky. The all-conference striker has been the only shining light in an otherwise bleak SIU offense, accounting for 4 of the 5 SIU goals thus far.
The Cougars’ other all-conference player, midfielder Matt Polster, is also capable of putting defenders on the back foot. The 6-foot senior out of Nevada led his squad in assists last year (4), and will look to provide link play between Volesky and the rest of the attack.
Stanford, meanwhile, will be looking for a business-as-usual performance. The heavy favorites entering the match, the Card certainly want to keep their standard of play high, and leave nothing to chance.
The offense has been firing on all cylinders as of late, with goals coming from all over the roster. The first four matches for Stanford have produced 6 different goal scorers, with strikers Bobby Edwards and Eric Verso leading the squad with two apiece. The two California natives will look to add to their tallies on Friday, as a suspect SIU defense should result in plenty of chances for the home side.
Among those looking to get his name on the score sheet will be sophomore striker Jordan Morris, who was recently called into the US Men’s National Team for its friendly against the Czech Republic. While Morris did not enter the match, the experience he gained from training with the top talent in the nation figures to do wonders for his confidence. Morris took three shots in his first game back from international duty against UCSB, but will be looking to turn those attempts in goals for his team come Friday.
The concept of home-field advantage will be taken to a new level for Stanford so far this year as well, as this Friday’s match-up will mark the first home game where the majority of students will be on campus. With the NCAA soccer season starting with training camp in mid-August, the Cardinal played a handful of matches before most students even began to pack their bags for The Farm. Thus, with NSO recently completed and upperclassmen beginning to descend on campus, Laird Q. Cagan Stadium should have a much more student-based and partisan feel come kick-off.
The 2014 season is still young for Jeremy Gunn’s squad, but matches like this one can only build confidence for a side that reached the third round of the NCAA tournament last year. The men will be looking to build on last year’s tournament run, and taking care of business early in the season is a stepping stone to that goal.
While this match may not have the marquee feel of a Pac-12 fixture, this is a good early-season examination to test the team’s patience and resolve. Expect SIU to put 9 or 10 men behind the ball and play to get to extra time. The Cardinal should enjoy plenty of possession as they try and break down the SIU defense, and while the Cougars will try to bar the gate, Stanford’s quality should see them to victory in the end.
Contact Will Drinkwater at willydri ‘at’ stanford.edu.