Stanford – Four and A Half Star Recruiting Class – The Cardinal are coming off a 9-8-1 season with a 5-4-1 mark in Pac-12 Play which was good for a third place finish behind UCLA and Washington. After losing five of their first eight games last year the Cardinal rebounded to go 6-3-1 in their last ten contests punctuated with a season ending 6-1 thumping of California.
Stanford will look to carry that momentum into 2013 despite the loss of a very productive four-man senior class from the 2012 squad that included All-Pac 12 First Team member forward Adam Jahn (13g, 4a), who had twenty-four career goals, All-Pac 12 Second team selection back Hunter Gorskie, and midfielders Dersu Abolfathi (2g, 2a) and Eric Anderson (0g, 2a).
Expectations and excitement are running high on The Farm where the near future is much more appealing than the recent past. Jeremy Gunn didn't waste any time making his presence felt as the Stanford head coach. Gunn will enter his second season with a solid core of returning players including sophomore midfielder Aaron Kovar who was named the 2012 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year supplemented by a highly regarded recruiting class that features forwards Jordan Morris and Mark Verso who have the potential to immediately add punch and an additional dimension to the Cardinal offense.
Gunn stated, "We bring in eight players in total who will all have the ability to take on major roles as we look to establish Stanford men's soccer as a major force in collegiate soccer." He added, "We said goodbye to four special seniors this year, so this group will help us build for the future while also getting the chance to compete immediately."
Forward junior Zach Batteer (6g, 0a), the team's top returning goal scorer and a starter for the past two seasons, gives the Cardinal an experienced, physical, and dangerous presence up-top. Redshirt junior Bobby Edwards and highly regarded sophomore Adrian Alabi also figure to be in the mix up-top.
The graduation of midfielders Adolfathi and Anderson means that others will have the opportunity for more minutes and a greater role in 2013. Kovar (3g, 2a), a College Soccer News Preseason All-America selection, is among the top returning midfielders in the country and now has the benefit of year of starting experience under his belt. Holding midfielder and team captain JJ Koval (2g, 2a) has been a starter since arriving on campus in 2010. He is an extremely talented player and is the guy who will be a the center of everything for Stanford in 2013. Look for Koval to set the pace.
Junior Jimmy Callinan (0g, 1a), the best pure athlete on the team who is capable of playing in the midfield, up-top, or in the back, and sophomore Ty Thompson (0g, 1a) who is solid on both sides of the ball are among returning starters who give Stanford a very competitive midfield. Redshirt junior Austin Meyer (1g, 3a) and sophomore Eric Verso (3g, 1a) are among other returning players who should play prominent roles in the midfield in 2013. Sophomore Slater Meehan and highly regarded freshman Trevor Hyman from Irvine, California also look to be in the mix in the midfield or in the back.
Gorskie's experience and leadership will be missed in the back. Senior Tyler Conklin (0g, 2a) and sophomore center back Brandon Vincent are among returning defenders who were starters last year. Redshirt junior Matt Taylor is among other returning defenders who will seek to play a greater role in 2013. Marshall Glover and Brian Nana-Sinkam are among the newcomers who should challenge for playing time in the back.
Senior Drew Hutchins who earned the starting role in goal last year returns between the pipes for Stanford. Hutchins will set the pace on the defensive side of the ball and his play will be crucial particularly during the early going as the backline gels. The Cardinal have also added freshmen netminders Nico Corti and Andrew Epstein.
Stanford falls in the sleeping giant category. This is a program that has earned a total of eleven invites to the NCAA Tourney with the most recent being the 2009 season when they advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. Stanford appeared in the NCAA Tourney for five consecutive seasons from 1998 through 2002 and were a powerhouse in 2001 and 2002 when they advanced to the Final Four. They then dropped to 3-15-1 in 2003 and with the exception of the 2009 season and the second half of the 2012 season have played more like a team trying not to lose instead of a team trying to win. Gunn may need another year or two to ingrain a winning culture but it is clear that the stock of Stanford is beginning to rise.
There was a time when it was pretty much a given that the top three teams in the Pac-12 would earn invites to the NCAA Tourney. That is no more the case due in part to the rise of the competitiveness of the teams in the Big West Conference and the fact that California and Stanford have struggled recently. In fact in 2011, no at-large berths were awarded to the Pac-12 with conference winner UCLA being the only representative from the league to go dancing when no invite was extended to Washington who finished in the number two spot in the conference.
In 2012, things improved somewhat when UCLA earned the conference's automatic ticket and Washington, the number two team in the conference, was awarded an at-large berth. UCLA appears to be recession proof so to speak and will continue to field a team that will win on a consistent basis. It also appears that the trend line is moving upward at both Washington and Stanford and the consensus is that it is just a matter of time before California rebounds. All good signs for west coast soccer in general and the Pac-12 Conference in particular.
Stanford will have the opportunity to make some noise on the national scene and to build its resume for NCAA Tourney selection time right out of the gate when they open the 2013 season by hosting the University of Maryland on August 30 and Georgetown on September 1. The Cardinal will begin Pac-12 play on October 3 when they host Washington. The six teams in the Pac-12 play each other twice, once at home and once on the road. One of the big keys to success in Pac-12 play is holding serve at home while finding a way to secure a few wins on the road.
There is already a buzz on The Farm about the 2013 season but to be successful Stanford has to replace the offensive firepower that Jahn provided plus add more. Batteer will be counted on to help fill the void but can't do it alone. The unanswered question is whether newcomers Morris and Verso or perhaps someone else will step forward to add an additional dimension to the offense. The answer to that question will likely determine whether or not Stanford takes the next step in 2013 and returns to the NCAA Tourney.
Marshall Glover – Defender – Alpharetta, Georgia – Westminister Schools – A central defender who played for Georgia United. Ranked by CSN as the number seventy-eight player in the class of 2013.
Trevor Hyman – Midfielder – Irvine, California – Vista Grande High School – Played for Real Salt Lake Academy. Region IV ODP team. Ranked by CSN as the number eighty-seven player in the class of 2013.
Brian Nana-Sinkam – Defender – Lititz, Pennsylvania – Manheim Township – Central defender who played for the PA Classics from 2009-2013. Soccer savvy, athletic, and tough defender.
Mark Verso – Forward – Tujunga, California – St. Francis Highs School – Played for Real So Cal Academy 2012-2013. Ranked by CSN as the number fifty player in the class of 2013. Impact goal scorer.
Jordan Morris – Forward – Mercer Island, Washington – Mercer Island High School – Played for Seattle Sounders FC Academy 2012-2013. U.S. Development Academy Player of the Year. A playmaker.
Andrew Epstein – Goalkeeper – Fort Collins, Colorado – Poudre High School – Played with U.S U-14 and U-15 National Teams. Played for Colorado Rapids Academy 2010-2013.
Cameron Chesnutt – Defender – Portland, Oregon – Jesuit High School – Played for the Portland Timbers Academy Team 2012-2013. Named All-Metro League First Team selection. Earned three letters in soccer.
Nico Corti – Goalkeeper – Westlake Village, California – Agoura High School – Played for Real So Cal Academy from 2010-2013. Two-time All-Marmonte League First Team selection. All-County.