NCAA Football

Men’s soccer overcomes sluggish start to draw with Washington

October 13, 2017

After the first 20 or so minutes, just about everything went right for Stanford.

The Cardinal controlled the ball, dictated the pace of play, stayed on their front foot, got good looks at goal and held the powerful Huskies offense to a few countering opportunities and not many meaningful shots.

But despite a statistical domination of rival No. 19 Washington (9-3-1, 2-1-1 Pac-12) for the majority of a cold, hazy Thursday night at Cagan Stadium, a sluggish start by Stanford’s strikers yielded an early Huskies goal, and No. 8 Stanford (9-2-1, 3-0-1) had to settle for a 1-1 draw against its toughest competition for the Pac-12 crown.

“We just completely wasted the first 15 minutes,” said Stanford head coach Jeremy Gunn. “I thought their strikers were lively; dragged the game forward. Our strikers didn’t. We can’t get those 15 minutes back. And unfortunately, they score in that time.”

But slow start aside, Gunn really couldn’t find many negatives about his team’s performance against a well-rounded, battle-ready Huskies squad that had beaten the Cardinal at Cagan last time they visited. The ensuing domination involved Stanford out-shooting Washington 24-9 (including 12-3 in the second half) and keeping heavy pressure on the Huskies’ back line for the majority of the match.

“When we talked about what we needed and we put people in who wanted to do it, we were magnificent,” Gunn said. “If we welcomed like we should do, then we’re on the front foot the whole game. We’re a goal down, but after that, they had some counters, they had a couple of looks, but we took the next eight out of 10 rounds.”

Stanford’s only goal came in the early stages of the second half, when a relentless wave of Stanford pressure in the first 10 minutes led to a Stanford corner kick being cleared to goalkeeper Nico Corti. When Corti launched the ball back into play, it snuck between several Huskies defenders and found senior defender Tomas Hilliard-Arce racing down the left sideline with a step on his man.

Hilliard-Arce drew Huskies keeper Saif Kerawala out of position, which left the net wide open for senior Drew Skundrich, who took the lob from Hilliard-Arce and deflected it in with his knee to tie the game at 1-1 in the 54th minute.

“I just saw the ball squirt through to Tomas, who’s just sprinting past, and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, this is great,’” Skundrich said. “So then I just sprinted up, yelled for Tomas, who just played me a perfect ball, and I just did the rest.”

Stanford’s midfielders and back line played physical and chippy against a Washington offense that entered the match leading the conference in goals per game and second to only Stanford in shots, points and assists per game — and largely won the battle.

Washington’s lone goal came at the end of Stanford’s extended sluggish start, when a Huskies shot was deflected into the air by Hilliard-Arce, before Washington defender Garret Jackson lobbed a header to forward Elijah Rice, who finished with his head for his fourth goal of the season.

But even as Stanford’s team found its groove after that goal and kept the ball in the Huskies’ half for much of the remainder of the game, Stanford just couldn’t find that elusive second goal to take the lead, as Washington’s defenders and Kerawala held fast against a flurry of Cardinal shots.

Despite the result, Gunn cautioned against seeing the game as one marked by missed opportunities; instead, he was largely pleased with the match as a whole because his side battled through early adversity to play at a very high level for most of the evening.

“On the night, we shoulda, coulda, woulda gotten that extra goal, and then we’d be coming away, saying, ‘What a magnificent performance,’” Gunn said. “I thought it was a great game. Unhappy with how we started, but what a great response. You start poorly in some games, and you can fold. So you look at the resiliency of the team, and the mentality was magnificent.”

But Skundrich disagreed.

“We’d like to think that, but the results show a 1-1 tie — one point,” he said. “We just have to take that and realize that we have to step up our game for the next opponent and just take that one and try to get the win there.”

That next opponent will be Oregon State (4-8-0, 1-3-0), which lost a 2-0 decision to Cal in Berkeley on Thursday and has now dropped three of its last four matches. The Cardinal and Beavers will get underway at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Cagan Stadium to wrap up Homecoming Weekend, with a broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.

Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dhpark ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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