This Friday, No. 19 Stanford (5-1) will look to continue its stellar start to the season as it takes on the Gonzaga Bulldogs (1-5) in a Pac-12/WCC non-conference matchup. The Cardinal’s start, which has seen them rebound from a season-opening loss to No. 3 Creighton by reeling off five straight victories, has been marked by a series of impressive performances.
This is in marked contrast to last season, when the Cardinal were often undone by a lack of clinical finishing in the final third, dropping points in games that they should have won comfortably. This year, however, Stanford’s forwards have been on a tear to start the year, with senior Eric Verso notching three goals and three assists, and sophomore Jordan Morris totaling a team-leading four assists.
Although Gonzaga’s record would seem to indicate that the Bulldogs are a fairly easy opponent, the Zags retain a number of players from last year’s team, which finished 10-6-3. Senior forward Clark Phillips has had a slow start to this year, but he will look to change his fortunes and live up to last year’s 9-goal campaign. Sophomore Jakob Granlund, on the other hand, has already doubled his goal total from last year, scoring two in six games to start the season.
Buy stock in @StanfordMSoccer (5-1), rising in national polls + building for Pac-12 play. Only loss: at Creighton (top-10 most of Sept.).
— Brian Risso (@brian_risso) September 24, 2014
This Bulldogs team carries a mix of experience and youth, with freshmen Ben White and Colton Cavey looking to make an impression and support the more experienced figures like Phillips and fifth-year senior midfielder Lars Ludwigs. As such, the Bulldogs certainly cannot be overlooked, as they will be poised to capitalize on a sloppy Stanford performance.
However, Stanford will take heart from the fact that this season has been refreshingly free of sloppy performances. After last week’s Delaware game, in which the Cardinal picked up an impressive victory over a ranked opponent, head coach Jeremy Gunn was ebullient, noting that, “We have wonderful players who can pass and move so quickly [that] it’s very tough to stop.”
In recent years, we have seen that Gunn is not one to dole out praise lightly, so such praise speaks to the strides that the Cardinal have taken recently with the start of Pac-12 conference play – and potentially worried Pac-12 opponents – looming large. As always, though, before we look ahead to conference play, we must look at the non-conference games. In Gonzaga, Stanford has its next man up. As they have done in five games so far, the Cardinal will look to send the Bulldogs back down.
The match is set to begin at 7 p.m. at Cagan Stadium.
Contact Dylan Fugel at dfugel “at” stanford.edu.