No. 3 Stanford men’s soccer (4-0-0, 0-0-0 Pac-12) is right where it needs to be with conference play looming and a matchup with No. 7 Creighton (2-1-0, 0-0-0 Big East) on Friday. Thursday afternoon, the Cardinal shutout a fellow Northern California school — UC Davis (0-2-0, 0-0-0 Big West — 3-0 in Cagan Stadium.
Sophomore midfielder Shane de Flores, sophomore forward Jackson Kiil and junior midfielder Layton Purchase were the goal scorers for Stanford. On Sunday evening, the Cardinal recorded another shutout against a NorCal opponent, this time besting San Jose State (1-2-1, 0-0-0 WAC) 4-0.
The Cardinal put pressure on the Aggies from the opening whistle, but unlike its first two matches of the season, it took Stanford some time to settle into the match and get on the scoresheet. Once they did, the match was never in doubt as the Cardinal dominated the rest of the proceedings.
The opener came in the 32nd minute. On as a substitute, de Flores collected a loose ball on the right side of the field and sprinted towards the box. Once inside, he slotted the ball over the goalkeeper and into the back of the net for his first career goal.
That would be the only goal of the half, as Stanford went into the break with a slight advantage. The Aggies did have chances of their own, including a shot that slowly rolled just wide left of the post late in the half.
The Cardinal wasted little time getting the second half started on the right foot. Within a minute of the start of the period, Kiil dribbled his way through a crowd of Davis defenders before firing a shot past the goalkeeper to double his team’s lead.
Stanford did not let up from there and kept applying its trademark pressure on the opposing defense. In the final minutes of the match, Purchase took advantage of an Aggie gaffe, as he deflected the goalkeeper’s kick into the back of the net for the third and final goal of the night.
Head coach Jeremy Gunn used his bench more in this comprehensive victory than he had in his previous matches. Sophomores defender Nico Rei McMillan and midfielder Kwabena Kwakwa made their Stanford debuts off of the bench, while junior midfielders Aiden Weaver and Connor Evans made their season debuts.
“Very happy with the attitude that we came into the game with. I thought we had a great mentality throughout,” said Gunn. “We certainly put Davis on the back foot from the beginning of the game and throughout the game, we’re always looking to try to score goals.”
In Sunday’s match, Stanford carried over its aggressive play but was not able to convert much of their chances in the first half. The team took 11 shots in the opening period but only one made it past the goalkeeper.
That goal was scored by redshirt junior forward Carlo Agostinelli. Freshman midfielder Fletcher Bank had a shot saved by San Jose State’s keeper, but it was only parried out. Agostinelli was right there to knock the ball home for the opener.
The second half was also dominated by Stanford. A 10-minute stretch later in the half saw the Cardinal add three more goals to their total.
After getting an assist in the first half, it was Bank who then got a goal of his own thanks to an assist from freshman forward Liam Doyle. Barely four minutes after, Stanford was threatening the Spartans yet again. Doyle passed the ball out of the box and sophomore midfielder Will Reilly hit a rocket with his first touch into the top left of the goal.
Four minutes after that, Doyle also scored a goal to add to his earlier assist. The freshman from Tokyo cut onto his right foot and hit a shot on the ground that nutmegged a defender and rolled past the keeper. Coming off the bench in each match so far, Doyle has two goals and two assists to his name already this season.
Stanford ended the match having outshot San Jose State 26-6. Only two of the Spartans’ shots were on target.
One of the things that has played a part in the Cardinal’s great start to the season has been the stellar play of some of its freshman class. Midfielder/defender Will Cleary and Fletcher Bank have started in each of the team’s matches so far this season and have played well. Doyle has played significant minutes off of the bench, while midfielder Zach Bohane has also seen time in a few of the matches.
“I’ve been so impressed [with the freshmen],” Gunn said. ‘How ready they were coming into preseason, it’s a huge jump coming from the youth game into college. And quite often, it’s a very tough jump to make, and it often takes a long time to be up to speed. I’ve just been amazed by how well they’ve been playing.”
Stanford came into the season unranked and was predicted to finish fourth in the Pac-12. However, their undefeated start has already garnered attention from coaches around the country as the Cardinal debuted in the rankings last week at No. 3. Gunn wants to make sure that does not change his team’s mindset.
“Getting recognized is a nice pat on the back for some of the great work that people have been doing. But it’s still so very early that I really don’t read too much into it. If we’re in that position at the end of the season, that means that we’ve had an incredible body of work,” Gunn said. “Right now we’ve performed well in the early games, which is a great start. Naturally we’re wanting to kick on from that.”
The team’s next two matches will be against top-10 opponents, with a trip to Omaha, Neb. on Friday to face No. 7 Creighton at 5:30 p.m. PT. After that, No. 4 UCLA (3-0-0, 0-0-0 Pac-12) will come to the Farm on Sep. 15.