No. 16 Stanford men’s soccer left its home fans happy as it defeated Northeastern and VCU in back-to-back shutout wins to improve to 3-1-0.
Playing in Cagan Stadium for their first games of the season, the Cardinal looked to be on the better side in both matches and simply wore down their opponents on the way to victory. The team enjoyed a 34-18 advantage in total shots and looked nimble in possession as it continued to put its season-opening upset loss against Santa Barbara behind it.
Things started off a bit nervously for Stanford against Northeastern, with junior goalkeeper Andrew Epstein being called on after just two minutes to save a header from Frantzdy Pierrot. The Cardinal recovered quickly, however, and found themselves inches from taking the lead just four minutes later when a shot from sophomore midfielder Corey Baird clanked off the crossbar.
The excitement settled a little after that until senior Slater Meehan ripped home the match’s decisive goal in the 38th minute. Meehan perfectly controlled a Baird corner just outside of the box and netted an impressive strike to give his team the lead going into halftime.
Though sophomore forward Foster Langsdorf would twice get close to scoring after the break, neither side could make any further impression on the scoreline as Stanford held on for a 1-0 victory.
The Cardinal were forced to replace star forward Jordan Morris against VCU when word came that he would miss the match after receiving a U.S. National Team call-up earlier on Sunday. Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn moved sophomore-attacking midfielder Corey Baird forward to play alongside Langsdorf, Morris’s regular partner.
The combo pestered VCU’s defense right from the opening whistle, finally breaking through in the 27th minute when an inch-perfect cross from Baird found Langsdorf just outside the six-yard box. The sophomore headed the ball over the arms of VCU goalkeeper Pierre Gardan to give the Cardinal a 1-0 lead.
The goal invigorated Stanford’s offense, and the team created a flurry of chances to keep VCU on the ropes. These efforts were finally rewarded in the 68th minute when redshirt freshman substitute Adam Mosharrafa grabbed on to a deflected pass from Langsdorf in the box and calmly slotted it outside the reach of Gardan at the far post to double the team’s advantage.
The strike was the first for the Arizona native Mosharrafa, who is enjoying a dream start to his Stanford career after earning his first competitive minutes for the team on Friday.
Defense was a highlight for the Cardinal across both matches. The home side held its opponents to just four total shots on goal, none of which proved too difficult for Epstein to handle.
Part of this defensive success came from the low number of corner kicks conceded by the squad. Stanford allowed just four corners over the weekend, a paltry quarter of the total that the team won for itself.
These defensive efforts have earned the Cardinal shutouts in three consecutive matches, the longest such streak for the team since 2007.
“I thought we passed and [kept] the ball incredibly,” Gunn said after the Northeastern game. “It was mesmerizing at times. The players really enjoyed zipping the ball around…it was a great team performance and a great 1-0 result.”
The Cardinal will remain at home this week ahead of its upcoming match against local rival San Jose State. The Spartans are coming off an impressive 4-2 win against Sacramento State which saw attacker Rory Knibbs score three goals in just eight minutes of play.
Stanford will hope to continue its defensive consistency against this explosive threat to prevent the visitors from blowing the match open.
Watch the Cardinal take on the Spartans at 6 p.m. this Thursday on Pac-12 Networks.
Contact Andrew Mather at amather ‘at’ stanford.edu.