Game of the Week: Men’s soccer kicks season off with win over Wildcats

Aug. 25, 2022, 10:57 p.m.

This article is part of The Daily’s series, “Game of the Week,” where The Daily highlights one top performance by a Stanford sports team as chosen by our editors. 

Ahead of Thursday’s season opener, head coach Jeremy Gunn knew he was going to need new blood to perform for the team to replace some of the attacking firepower lost from a season ago — and perform they did. The Cardinal freshmen and sophomores impressed on Thursday night, powering Stanford men’s soccer (1-0-0, 0-0-0 Pac-12) to a 1-0 win over the visiting Villanova Wildcats (0-1-0, 0-0-0 Big East). 

The Cardinal took down the visiting Villanova Wildcats (0-1-0, 0-0-0 Big East) 1-0 Thursday night, thanks to a 10th minute goal from sophomore forward Jackson Kiil. Villanova is on a two-match Bay Area trip and will take on Cal (0-1-0, 0-0-0 Pac-12) on Sunday.

Stanford broke out of the gates strong, pressing with intent and controlling the vast majority of the possession during the first half. The team’s first chance came in the third minute when sophomore forward Jackson Kiil sent a ball into the box toward freshman midfielder Fletcher Bank, but the Bakersfield, Calif. product missed with a header. 

It would not take much longer for the Cardinal to find a breakthrough. Seven minutes later, the Wildcats dangerously lost the ball in their own defensive half. Redshirt junior forward Carlo Agostinelli stepped in with the steal before laying it off for senior midfielder Cam Cilley, who then fired a left-footed shot that was saved at the goal line by a Villanova defender. With the ball still up for grabs at the mouth of the goal, Kiil found himself in the right place at the right time. He tapped the ball into the back of the net, giving Stanford the early 1-0 advantage.  

Kiil was making his official Cardinal debut after not appearing in any of Stanford’s matches last season. The forward from San Diego had an impressive youth career, playing for clubs such as Fulham and Chelsea of the English Premier League, Servette FC in Switzerland and the Columbus Crew of the MLS. He has been the man so far tasked with replacing Zach Ryan ’21, having started both of last week’s exhibitions and scoring a goal in one of them.

Stanford did not slow down through the match. The team’s aggressive style of pressing clearly caused problems for the Wildcats and was one of the reasons the Cardinal were able to get the game’s only goal. 

Gunn made three substitutions in the first half, introducing junior midfielder Layton Purchase, freshman forward Liam Doyle and sophomore midfielder Shane de Flores. Doyle had an opportunity to score in the 39th minute when he received the ball just outside the box with two defenders on him, dribbled in and switched the ball to his right foot, unleashing a shot at the left goalpost. Villanova keeper Kent Dickey had to hurry to that side of the goal but was still able to clean it up. 

At the break, the Cardinal had outshot the Wildcats 10-6. 

Villanova had the biggest chance of the second half early on in the period, as junior forward Akinjide Awujo found himself with the ball and some space barreling towards the Stanford goal. Luckily for the Cardinal, senior defender and team captain Keegan Hughes was able to recover and lunge in front of the ball to stop Awujo’s shot from forcing redshirt senior goalkeeper Matt Frank into action. 

The second half was considerably slower than the first, and the Cardinal did not dominate possession as much as they had in the opening period. Both team’s defenses had firmed up and were making life difficult for opposing forwards. 

Agostinelli would get one last chance in the 86th minute when a Frank goal kick went unaccounted for into the Villanova defense’s final third. The opposing goalkeeper was off his line, but a flick by him came up short of the goal line. 

The match would end 1-0 in favor of the home team, giving Stanford an opening day victory over a team that made it to the NCAA Tournament last fall. The defense’s dominance from last year carried over to Thursday night’s performance, but Gunn will be happy to have seen the contributions from a pair of freshmen midfield starters in Will Cleary and Fletcher Bank. Cleary played the full 90 minutes, while Bank went 84. Bank seemingly popped up everywhere during the match, linking up with senior defender Keegan Tingey on the left side of the field and asserting himself in Cardinal attacks. 

With Kiil wasting little time getting on the scoresheet and Agostinelli also showing his creativity and knack for drawing fouls, the potential is there for Stanford to go on and string together a successful season. The Cardinal will be back in action Sunday night at 7 p.m. to take on SMU (1-0-0, 0-0-0 American) at Cagan Stadium. The Mustangs opened their season Thursday night with a 4-0 win over Oral Roberts (0-1-0, 0-0-0 Summit).

Ells Boone is the managing editor for the sports section. He is a junior from Virginia Beach, Virginia, studying communication and economics. You can catch him waking up early on weekend mornings to watch his favorite Premier League team, Tottenham Hotspur, play. Contact him at eboone24 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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