Coach Jeremy Gunn’s men’s soccer team played host to the No. 11 Delaware Blue Hens on a breezy Sunday afternoon at Cagan Stadium. The No. 24 Stanford Cardinal looked to continue their home winning streak, while Delaware was keen to avenge their first defeat of the season that came across the Bay at the hands of Cal 4-2 on Friday. On paper, the match assured spectacle and grit, as two high-flying attacks set out to do battle. In the end, though, it was Stanford (5-1) who topped Delaware (6-2) by a narrow margin of 2-1.
Both teams came out of the gate at full tilt, with Stanford applying enough immediate pressure to win two corners. Neither resulted in a clear-cut chance, but served as a statement of intent from the home side. Stanford seemed unwilling to concede an inch, pressing high up the pitch and forcing a handful of rushed passes from the Delaware defense.
The Blue Hens were able to respond, however, as striker Joe Dipre was able to create a half-yard of space and fire off a shot, forcing sophomore keeper Andrew Epstein into action. Epstein parried the ball to his right easily, but the effort was enough to yield a collective gasp from the supporters.
A rash challenge at midfield provided the first flash point of the match as Cardinal captain and left-back Brandon Vincent brought down Jaime Martinez. Jeers rang out as the referee reached for his pocket and brandished the yellow card.
The 26th minute brought the best chance of the match up to that point as striker Jordan Morris found himself on the receiving end of a through pass. Delaware keeper Borja Barbero held strong, getting all of his angles right as he rejected Morris and swallowed the follow-up shot.
Gunn made the first tactical switch of the afternoon a minute later, replacing sophomore Marshall Glover, senior Eric Verso and junior Slater Meehan with freshman Corey Baird, senior Zach Batteer and fifth-year senior Austin Meyer, respectively. Gunn kept his traditional 4-4-2 formation, but sought to keep his lineup fresh with the three substitutions.
Cardinal left midfielder Corey Baird was enterprising offensively and gave defender Ignacio Martin fits the entire day. The right back was well overmatched for pace and two tackles on Baird in three minutes had him seeing yellow before half.
The first 10 minutes of the second half were true end-to-end stuff, with both sides tallying chances. A one-two back-heel combination between Morris and Verso should have opened the scoring, but Morris shot wide.
Not six minutes later saw junior Ty Thompson again on the attack, as he pounced on a weak pass from the keeper to the center back. Free on goal, the central midfielder was brought down on the edge of the box. On an obvious goal-scoring opportunity, the referee was left no option but to show the red card to the offender, Thibault Philippe.
The Card were quick to capitalize on their one-man advantage, as Vincent bombed down the left wing and crossed a ball to the foot of Verso, who tucked the ball away in the 54th minute.
Delaware was not going down without a fight, though, as a momentary lapse in concentration allowed Martinez to thread a free kick on the foot of winger Ben Asante, who equalized with ease in a one-on-one with Epstein.
The Card regained their composure quickly, constantly turning the screw on the fatiguing Blue Hens. In the 64th minute, Baird got the better of his defender on a bouncing ball near the top of the box, and had the quality to chip the ball deftly over the keeper and into the net.
From there on, Stanford looked destined to win the match, as it enjoyed more and more possession. Thompson began to really pull the strings in midfield, marshaling his troops and directing the flow of play.
Baird continued to be dangerous, taking on the Delaware defense near every time he picked up the ball.
The 82nd minute saw Vincent beat his marker again and serve a cross to Batteer. The Pittsburgh native hit a first-time volley straight into the body of the outstretched Barbero. Inches to the right or left, and the game would have been rightly killed off.
The final whistle marked the Card’s first victory over a ranked opponent this season.
Contact Will Drinkwater at willydri ‘at’ stanford.edu.