Stanford men’s soccer enters the 2022 season in unfamiliar territory. The Cardinal are coming off of a 6-6-6 (2-4-4 Pac-12) 2021 year in which the team narrowly missed out on postseason play. It was only the second time in head coach Jeremy Gunn’s tenure that his team did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Under Gunn, Stanford is well-accustomed to being among the nation’s best, having won back-to-back-to-back national championships in 2015, 2016 and 2017, and most recently, making it to the NCAA Semifinals in 2019. This year, Stanford enters the season in an unfamiliar spot: without high outside expectations. The team was voted fourth in the Pac-12 Men’s Soccer Preseason Coaches Poll.
The Cardinal need their numerous new faces to hit the ground running this fall — it will be no easy task to replace the firepower that has departed Stanford’s attacking ranks. Gone from a season ago are forwards Zach Ryan ’21, Ousseni Bouda and Gabe Segal, as well as midfielders Will Richmond ’21 and Ryan Ludwick ’22, and defender Andrew Aprahamian ’21 M.A. ’22. Ryan finished his Stanford career with 31 goals and 13 assists, and is now playing on a homegrown contract for the New York Red Bulls of the MLS. Bouda entered the MLS SuperDraft after an impressive final season in which he recorded five goals and nine assists. Bouda was selected eighth overall by the San Jose Earthquakes. Segal, earlier this summer, signed with German Bundesliga side FC Kӧln, cutting short his collegiate career.
Richmond signed a homegrown contract with the Earthquakes and will be sorely missed on the left side of Stanford’s midfield. Ludwick and Aprahamian, both key contributors as well in midfield and defense, respectively, graduated.
This new edition of Cardinal men’s soccer will need to quickly figure out who will step up to contribute on the attacking side, but Gunn should still be able to rely on his experienced backline and midfield. Redshirt senior goalkeeper Matt Frank is back after starting 17 matches last season. Senior Keegan Hughes and junior Noah Adnan will once again anchor the defense as the center backs. Hughes played the most minutes of any Cardinal player last Fall and is a team captain. Senior Keegan Tingey returns at left back. Tingey has shown a great ability so far in his career at pushing down the field to attack with his crosses into the box. He will be relied upon to provide assists this season. Right back is open to competition after the graduation of Aprahamian. Juniors Conner Maurer and Ryan Dunn both received minutes there last season.
“I feel that’s where we have some phenomenal experience. We absolutely need those players to really take ownership of the season and I think they are doing very well,” Gunn said. “You look at returning captain Keegan Hughes, [he] has been a dominant force and really should be a very mature leader in the central defense. Keegan Tingey has had a fantastic career, and we’re really hopeful that he has a senior year fitting of the career he has had here.”
In the midfield, senior Cam Cilley and redshirt junior Mark Fisher return and bring toughness to the center of the field. Cilley finished with two assists last year while Fisher had three. Junior Layton Purchase is also set to play an increased role after starting four matches a season ago. So should sophomore Will Reilly, who received the most playing time of all the freshmen last season, scoring the winning goal against San Francisco in November. Junior Aiden Weaver has also shown some promise in a wide role.
As for the forwards up front, redshirt junior Carlo Agostinelli is the only one who has seen any real minutes in the past. The Paris native started 10 matches last Fall, scoring a goal and adding five assists. Sophomore Jackson Kiil did not see the field last season, but started in both of the team’s exhibition matches this past week, and scored a goal. He may be primed for a starting role.
Stanford has a promising freshman class to break in, and one that has Gunn excited.
“I think the freshman class as a whole have come in amazingly well prepared. Very physically ready and by everything so far, very mentally ready. So I’m really happy with how they’ve approached it,” Gunn said. “I think that’s been a big positive, because it’s such a huge jump from club and high school to college. And so normally it’s a jump that is quite difficult for people. And I’m just thrilled to see how many of the players are really, really well prepared.”
Among the new members of the team, midfielders Fletcher Bank, Will Cleary and Zach Bohane received starts during the exhibitions. Bank — whose twin brother Palmer is a defender on the team — hails from Bakersfield, Calif. and was responsible for a hockey assist in the exhibition against Sonoma State.
Freshman forward Liam Doyle also made an instant impact, scoring in the opening exhibition. He figures to factor into the competition for minutes at the forward position. Fellow freshman forward Alfonso Tenconi-Gradillas had a successful youth career with Slough Town FC in England, earning the club’s golden boot last season. He also could be a major player for the Cardinal.
The exhibitions provided Coach Gunn with an opportunity to test out lineups and see which players are ready to step up into bigger roles. Last Wednesday, the Cardinal beat Sonoma State 3-1. Kiil, Purchase and Doyle were the goalscorers. In the second exhibition, Stanford beat San Francisco 2-0. This time, Adnan and sophomore midfielder Shane de Flores made it onto the scoresheet. Both matches were played at Cagan Stadium.
“We always start off the season with the foundations of defending,” Gunn said. “Then we work our way forwards in the game towards more and more attack-minded ideas. And so with the first competitive exhibition, we’re really looking for our attitude, our compete level and our desire to work hard. And if we get those things right, we feel there’s lots more coaching and lots more growth to [come].”
Even though exhibitions are a time for a coach to learn more about their team, Gunn only made one change in his starting lineup from the first match to the second, replacing Bohane with incumbent starter Fisher. We will see if he sticks with a similar lineup come the season opener.
The Cardinal’s success on the pitch this season will be determined by them finding consistent goal scorers. The defense returns a group that has done a good job of limiting opposing attacks in the past, and key contributors in the midfield are back. Agostinelli and the younger forwards will ultimately decide the ceiling of this team. Nevertheless, there is one thing that has Gunn hopeful and confident about getting back into the NCAA Tournament this season: the team’s togetherness.
“I think we’re much more together. I think we had some internal issues last year that really didn’t help the program,” Gunn said. “I’m very happy and excited to say that I think we’ve got a really great group of players who I think we can really work towards keeping them laser focused on performing to the best of their ability. I don’t think we did that last year.”
Stanford will officially kick off its 2022 season this Thursday at home against Villanova (0-0, 0-0 Big East) at 7 p.m. PT. The match can also be viewed on the Pac-12 website.