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Stanford 2014 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School – Stanford
Conference – Pac-12
Coach – Jeremy Gunn (3rd Season)
Background – Sanford was 10-7-3 overall with a 3-5-2 mark in the Pac-12 Conference in 2013 that was good for a fourth place finish behind behind Washington, UCLA, and California.  The Cardinal returned to the NCAA Tourney for the first time since the 2009 season and advanced past Loyola Marymount and Cal State Northridge before losing 1-0 to number two seeded Washington in the Sweet Sixteen. Heading into the 2013 season some were eager to elevate Stanford before they had really accomplished anything of substance. The tendency to do that was fueled in large part due to the belief that Jeremy Gunn is a perfect fit for the program and that it would not be long before he would duplicate the success that he had enjoyed at Charlotte where he was the head coach from 2007 through 2011 and prior to that at Fort Lewis College in Division II play. While giving Stanford powerhouse status may still be a stretch, the run the Cardinal had to the Sweet Sixteen last year gives the program momentum and something very tangible to build upon heading into the 2014 season.     
Offense – To grasp how good the Cardinal attack may be in 2014, consider the fact that both senior Zach Batteer (9g, 3a) and sophomore Jordan Morris (6g, 7a) who were First Team All-Pac-12 selections last year, return up-top. Both are playmakers who give Stanford one of the top forward duos in the country. Redshirt senior Bobby Edwards and junior Eric Verso (3g, 0a) also return to ad to the offense up-top. Sophomore forward Mark Verso lends another dimension to the offense and should also be in the hunt for a greater role in 2014. Freshman forward Danya Kafai who Gunn has described as "a proven poacher" is among the newcomers with the potential to make a contribution to the attack up-top. The midfield will require some rebuilding due to the graduation of holding midfielder JJ Koval (2g, 1a) who was a four year starter and a two time All-Pac-12 First Team selection and Aaron Kovar who elected to sign a homegrown player contract witht the Seattle Sounders after two very productive seasons on The Farm. Junior Ty Thompson (0g, 4a) and senior Jimmy Callinan (0g, 3a) are among returning midfielders who were starters last year. Senior Austin Meyer and sophomore Trevor Hyman are among other returning linkmen who will seek to play a greater role in 2014. Stanford's 2014 recruiting class includes several highly regarded midfielders who could be instant contributors. Corey Baird, ranked by College Soccer News as the top player in the class of 2014, will arrive as one of the most celebrated recruits in the nation.  Baird has a ton of very competitive expereince with various U.S. youth natioal teams which should enable him to hit the ground running. Midfielders Tomas Hilliard-Arce, Alex Ainscough, Drew Skundrich, Foster Langsdorf and Sam Werner are among other members of the recruiting class that are very capable of earning minutes in 2014.    
Defense – The Cardinal must replace Drew Hutchins who played every minute in goal last year and back Ty Conklin due to graduation. Junior centerback Brandon Vincent, a 2013 Second Team All-Pac-12 selection, returns to anchor the backline.  Vincent has been a starter for the past two seasons.  Redshirt senior Matt Taylor, a starter last year, also returns. Sophomores Brian Nana-Sinkham and Marshall Glover and junior Slater Meehan are among other returning players who should be in the hunt for playing time on the defensive side of the ball.  Freshman centerback Collin Liberty is among the newcomers who will add depth in the back.  Sophomores Nico Corti and Andrew Epstein will battle for the vacant goalkeeper role.       

Newcomers – Five Star Recruiting Class 

Coach Gunn stated, "We are excited to welcome such a talented class to our program.  We are adding some very special talent and some truly exceptional competitors. They offer flair and creativity in certain areas, while reinforcing the steel and resolve of the program in other parts."

Corey Baird – Midfield – Escondido, California – Vista Grande High School – Ranked by College Soccer News as the top recruit coming out of the class of 2014. Member of various U.S. National Teams which over 40 appearances in international play. Played for Real Salt Lake Arizona.  

Alex Ainscough – Midfield – Canton, Massachusetts – Canton High School – Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 75 player in the class of 2014.  Played for FC Bolts Celtic.  

Tomas Hilliard-Arce – Midfield – Matthews, N.C. – Providence Day School – Played for the Charlotte Soccer Academy.  Named CSA's 2013 Player of the Year.  Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 63 player in the class of 2013.  

Danya Kafai – Forward – Redwood City, California – Woodside High School – Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 58 player in the class of 2013.  Part of the U.S. U-17 National Team residency group in 2011.  Played with the U.S. U-15 and U-14 National Teams.  Played for the de Anza Force.  

Foster Langsdorf – Midfielder – Vancouver, Washington – Mountain View High School – Played for the Portland Timbers Academy.  Named the Portland Academy Player of the Year in 2013.  

Collin Liberty – Defender – Van Nuys, California – Cleveland High School – Played for Ral So Cal U-18 team.  All-League selection in football and ran track at Cleveland High School.  

Drew Skundrich – Midfield – Lancaster, Pa. – Hempfield High School – Played for PA Classics.  Multi-dimensional and soccer savvy player.  

Sam Werner – Midfield – Bozeman, Montana – Bozeman High School – Played for the Portland Timbers Academy.  Region IV team member in 2010-11.  First Team All-State as a freshman and sophomore. 

Prognosis for 2014 – Seven starters return from the 2013 team supplemented by a top notch eight member recruiting class that includes five players ranked by College Soccer News as among the top 100 players in the class of 2013.  With Batteer and Morris up-top they have an offense that will put a lot of pressure on opposing defenders. The loss of Koval and Kovar hurts, but Stanford is still well positioned to return to the NCAA Tourney if several of the newcomers make an impact. This is a team that will be good in 2014 but they are likely a year away from having all the ingredients to challenge for the Pac-12 title. Last year four of the six teams in the Pac-12 earned a berth in the NCAA Tourney with UCLA, Washington, and California earning the one, two,and four seeds.  The Pac-12 should again be very competitive in 2014 which means that Stanford could have a very competitive team and still finish in the bottom half of the conference. In 2013 the Cardinal played everyone close. In fact, they dominated the run of play in several contests in which they came out on the short end on the scoreboard. That can be attributed to that fact that their margin for error against the most competitive teams was pretty slim.  Look for that to begin to change in 2014.  As the talent on board and team depth increases the Cardinal will begin to win more of the close contests that eluded them last year.  Clearly Gunn has the program headed in the right direction.  If the Stanford men's soccer program were listed on a stock exchange, it would be a very sound purchase.  
Posted in 2014 Team Reviews

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