In a spectacular Friday night matchup, the No. 9-ranked Stanford men’s soccer team (9-2-4, Pac-12 5-1-1) defeated the No. 11 Denver Pioneers (12-3-2, Summit League 3-0-1) in second overtime with an electric golden goal.
Just by looking at what the two opponents had done so far, it was easy to spot that this one was meant to be a difficult match for both sides. The beginning of the first half included good rhythm and effective short passages but no well-constructed action possessions and no great chances for either of the teams.
Around the 20th minute, the Pioneers started closing themselves more into defense, leaving Stanford forwards and midfielders little space to maneuver an attack. Head coach Jeremy Gunn said, “They are a very good team, very well-coached and very disciplined. Sometimes they invite teams onto them, but we wanted to keep the possession and keep the ball moving, keep them chasing, making the game.”
A great part of the first half went by with Stanford trying to create chances and pose threats on Denver’s goalkeeper, but the Cardinal were unable to find the back of the net. Stanford took nine shots in the first half, compared to Denver’s five.
In the second half, both of the teams intensified their rhythm. As Stanford tried to control the sphere and create occasions, Denver tried to close every little space for Stanford’s passes, hoping to make the home team vulnerable by one of their usual transitions.
“We passed the ball so well, so much possession — we didn’t have to defend as much,” said Gunn. “They put on a shift tonight, and they were defending, but they really needed a little space, one tiny error to score. But we managed not to allow them to have any good chances, particularly thanks to a great performance by the defense and the mid-field”.
With both teams tied at the end of regulation, the game entered overtime. After a scoreless first overtime, the game continued into second overtime. Only 41 seconds later, sophomore forward Charlie Wehan severed the ball into the box from the right side of the field to redshirt freshman forward Zach Ryan, who with just one perfect touch below the crossbar, place the ball inside the goal. Stanford won the game due to the golden goal rule.
“He was in the perfect spot; he had been there before, but these games are decided by single occasions. Fantastic double overtime,” Gunn said. “I really felt fantastic. I think we had an incredible amount of possession; we moved the ball really well, created good chances. Denver kept really tight at the back, always in the game because they have electrifying attackers, but we were always aggressive, always looking and searching. You cannot argue with the result tonight”.
The men will next play at San Diego State at 7 p.m. PST on Thursday.
Contact Didier Natalizi Baldi at didiernb ‘at’ stanford.edu.