Just 99 miles separate Winston-Salem, North Carolina — the hometown of fifth-year center back Tanner Beason — and WakeMed Soccer Park, where he will finish his career in a Stanford uniform. After five seasons, Beason will be making his fourth and final appearance in a College Cup.
The last time the College Cup was played in Beason’s home state, the future Hermann Trophy semifinalist was a high school senior. In last year’s rebuild, the tournament run was halted in the quarterfinal. This year, Stanford is back.
No. 7 seed Stanford (14-2-5, 6-2-2 Pac-12) will meet third-seeded Georgetown (18-1-3, 7-0-2 Big East) in the national semifinal on Friday.
In his first season, Beason redshirted and watched from the sidelines as Stanford routed Clemson 4-0 in the College Cup final. More importantly, the young Beason diligently practiced penalty kicks.
“I got comfortable with that technique and that process my freshman year when I wasn’t playing,” Beason said during the spring. “I’m pretty comfortable striking the ball with my left so that was something in my redshirt freshman year that I started taking them, and kept taking them.”
In the run of play, Beason has never missed a penalty kick. In an injury-shortened 2019, Beason was 3-for-3, and the year before that he was 5-for-5. Before transitioning to the center of the pitch, he was an outside back. From that position, he converted all four of his opportunities in his redshirt sophomore season, and he buried the only chance he had in his first year of action.
Penalty-kick taking could not be more crucial for the Cardinal, who have advanced twice this postseason on the strength of penalties, as well as in the 2015 and 2016 semifinals. In the past nine postseason games that have gone the distance dating back to 2002, Stanford has come out on top in the shootout.
“[Beason has] been such a cornerstone of the program,” said head coach Jeremy Gunn after the shootout win over Seattle. “Tanner is such a special individual, such a special player, that it’s great for us to have him back in the team.”
While Beason was out with an injury, Gunn turned to senior midfielder Derek Waldeck to take penalties. Stanford’s team-leader in points, with 15 on the season, Waldeck executed his one opportunity. During that period, Waldeck also wore the captain’s armband, joining Beason and junior right back Logan Panchot.
Stanford’s most recent meeting with Georgetown ended in a draw, a 2018 regular season game that saw Atlanta United 2019 MLS SuperDraft selection Amir Bashti ’19 score an 88th-minute equalizer to salvage a 1-1 game. That Sept. 3, 2018 game on the road drew humid, 90-degree temperatures. This Friday, 45 degrees and rain is expected.
Also in that game, now-redshirt sophomore Andrew Thomas made seven saves in what was then just his third career match. Thomas bested that count in the third round of the NCAA tournament against Saint Mary’s last season with 11 saves over the course of 110 minutes, but he has a season high of six in 2019.
Throughout the season and into the postseason, Thomas has been stellar, saving four Seattle penalty kicks and stopping two more in the Elite Eight at Clemson en route to the College Cup berth.
Instead of returning to the Farm only to make the return trip less than a week later, Stanford stayed in the Carolinas after the upset of Clemson to prepare for the College Cup.
Georgetown has its own Hermann Trophy semifinalist, Big East Defender of the Year Dylan Nealis. Nealis was one of four Hoyas named to the All-East region first team. Brian Wiese, who spent five seasons as an assistant coach at Stanford from 1996-2000, was recognized as East Region Coaching Staff of the Year.
Though neither Georgetown keeper is eligible, due to playing fewer than 50% of the team’s minutes, Tomas Romero would be second and Giannis Nikopolidis third in goals allowed average. As a team, the Hoyas have allowed just 11 goals on the season, for an average of 0.48, while scoring 53.
The main offensive production for Georgetown in the postseason, as it has all year long, has come from Jacob Montes and Derek Dodson. Montes has three goals and three assists in the tournament, and Dodson has two of each. Paul Rothrock, who is second on the team with seven assists, has scored two of his three goals on the year in NCAA action.
For the first time since finishing as the runner-up at the 2012 College Cup, the Hoyas will play an NCAA Tournament game away from Shaw Field. Stanford has won three of the last four NCAA titles, but just saw its streak of five Pac-12 titles snapped by the Washington side that fell to Georgetown.
Stanford could become just the second school to claim both the men’s and women’s soccer title in the same season. The only other to do it? Stanford in 2017.
It will all go down in Cary on Friday at 3 p.m. PT.
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.