|School: Stanford University
|Coach: Jeremy Gunn – 6th Season
|2016 Record: 15-3-5 overall – 8-1-1 in conference
|2016 Final Season Ending National Rank: 1
|Key Losses from the 2016 Team: Back Brian Nana-Sinkham and goalkeeper Andrew Epstein.
Five Year Win Total:
|2016 Goals Scored and Goals Against: 38 scored – allowed 14
|Key 2016 Statistic: Stanford did not allow a goal in their five 2016 NCAA Tournament contests.
Background: Stanford leads the nation in winning percentage since 2014 with a 46-8-11 (.792) overall record during which time they secured three Pac-12 titles, and won back-to-back national championships in 2015 and 2016.
The Cardinal have earned a total of fifteen invites to the NCAA Tournament including the last four years in a row and have played their way into the College Cup (Final Four) a total of five times (1998, 2001, 2002, 2015, 2016).
Jeremy Gunn has been a difference maker at Stanford since arriving on campus in 2012. The Cardinal were coming off an 8-10-0 overall record in 2010 and a 6-10-2 overall record in 2011. Stanford had earned only one invite (2009) to the NCAA Tournament in the piror nine seasons.
In the five seasons that Gunn has been at the helm of the program the Cardinal have recorded a 65-23-16 overall mark including a 46-8-11 overall record in the last three seasons. They have earned the Pac-12 Title three times under Gunn's guidance as compared to only once previously (2001) since joining the Pac-12 (then Pac-10) Conference in 2000. Stanford has made four consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament and secured the program's first ever national title in 2015 followed by its second national title in 2016.
Stanford was left for dead by some after beginning the 2016 season with a 0-3-1 record that included ties with Penn State and Saint Mary's, a loss to Notre Dame, and a tie with Indiana. A third consecutive Pac-12 Title and and another national championship didn't appear likely. However, they pulled together as a team and rebounded to conclude regular season play with a 11-3-4 overall record and an impressive 8-1-1 mark in Pac-12 play. An upset loss to a fired up San Francisco team near the end of September seemed to galvanize Standford after which they played the rest of the 2016 campaign with only one loss.
They won the 2016 Pac-12 title and the automatic berth that goes with it and were subsequently awarded the number five seed in the NCAA Tournament. Stanford looked to be a team on a mission when they topped Pacific 2-0, Virginia 1-0 in overtime, and Louisville 2-0 on the road to advance to the College Cup. The Cardinal then advanced past North Carolina 10-9 in a penalty kick shootout in the national semifinals after the contest was scoreless at the end of regulation and extra time. They then topped number two seeded Wake Forest 5-4 in a penalty kick shootout in the 2016 championship match after another scoreless contest to secure their second consecutive national championship.
The Cardinal became the first team to win back-to-back national titles since Indiana did so in 2003 and 2004. They also were the first team since Wisconsin in 1995 to not allow a goal in the NCAA Tournament. Stanford completed a banner 2016 season with a 15-3-5 overall record.
Forward Foster Langsdorf was a 2016 College Soccer News First Team All-American and a NSCAA Second Team All-American. Langdorf was also named the Co-Pac-12 Player of the Year. Defender Tomas-Hillard Arce was a NSCAA First Team All-Amercan and the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Goalkeeper Andrew Epstein was a 2016 College Soccer News First Team All-American amd a.NSCAA Second Team All-American. Langsdorf, Tomas Hillard-Arce, Epstein, forward Corey Baird, and defender Brian Nana-Sinkam were 2016 All-Pac-12 First Team selections. Midfielder Drew Skundrich was an All-Pac-12 Second Team selection. Jeremy Gunn was named the 2016 Pac-12 Coach of the Year.
|Number Starters Returning in 2017: Nine
Offense: Players who scored all of the thirty-four goals that Stanford placed in the back of the net in 2016 are slated to return in 2017.
Seniors Foster Langsdorf (15g, 2a) who netted eight game-winners in 2016 and highly regarded playmaker Corey Baird (3g, 6a) return up-top to power the attack.
Langsdorf played a key role in 2016 in filling the very big gap that existed due to the decison of forward Jordan Morris at the conclusion of the 2015 campaign to forgo his senior season to enter the professional ranks. Morris was the 2015 MAC Hermann Trophy Winner and a First-Team All-American.
Baird has been a starter for the past three seasons and will enter the 2017 campaign having scored a total of ten goals and contributed twenty-three assists. Baird is a really good player who also understands how to play with really good players.
Together Langsdorf and Baird form a formidable duo up-top. A convincing case could be made that there is no other other forward combo in college soccer who play as well together and compliment each other as well as Langsdorf and Baird.
Senior Drew Skundrich (4g, 3a) who moved from the right back position in 2015 to the important center midfiedler role in 2016 returns to add an additional dimension to the offense and to set the pace. Skundrich is a very talented athlete who has the benefit of three years of starting experience under his belt.
Juniors Amir Bashti (2g, 3a) and Sam Werner (2g, 3a) and sophomores Jared Gilben (0g, 3a), Derek Waldeck (1g, 3a) and Collin Hyatt round out a very solid, talented, and deep group of returning midfielders.
Stanford will welcome a loaded nine member recruiting class that includes plenty of highly regarded newcomers who have the potential to contribute to the attack.
Forwards Arda Bulut who played for the San Jose Earthquakes and Rhy De Sota who played for the Colorado Rapids Academy, and midfielders Carson Vom Steeg out of the Real So Cal Academy and Kei Tomozawa out of the Seattle Sounders Academy are just a few members of a stellar group of newcomers who have the potential to contend for playing time and will add depth to an already talented team.
If the newcomers play to their potential it is reasonable to conclude that they will be impact players before their tenure is over.
Defense: The Cardinal must fill the gaps that exist due to the graduation of center back Brian Nana-Sink (0g, 2a) and All-American goalkeeper Andrew Epstein. Both were three-year starters and team leaders who leave big shoes to fill.
Epstein was huge in goal for the Cardinal and consistently came up with big saves in clutch situations between the pipes for Stanford. He completed his tenure with an impressive 0.68 goals against average and twenty-five clean sheets.
Senior defender Tomas Hillard-Acre (4g, 2a) returns to anchor the defense. Hillard-Arce has been a starter and mainstay in the back for the past three seasons. He looks to be among the best in the country at his position in 2017 and will no doubt again be a key factor in Stanford's defense in 2017.
Redshirt junior Adam Mosharrafa (2g, 2a) and redshirt sophomore Tanner Beason (3g, 2a) who were starters last year also return to give the Cardinal what should again be a very tenacious backline. Redshirt junior Collin Liberty and junior Justin Kahl are among other returning players who will seek to play a greater role in the back in 2017.
Freshmen Logan Panchot out of the St. Louis Scott Gallagher Club and Andrew Aprahamian out of the Philadelphia Union are among several newcomers who are very highly regarded and could challenge for minutes in the back in 2017.
The very important unanswered question, which arises anytime a three-year starter and impact player like Epstein departs, will be the quality of play in goal. Redshirt senior Nico Corti who has appeared in a total of ten contests to date including three in 2016 returns in goal along with redshirt sophomore Charlie Furrer.
Coach Gunn stated, "We are looking for people who have created great skill sets in the sport, but most importantly have a great work ethic and a hunger to continuosly improve. This class is very exciting to announce and only time will tell whether it is worthy of that excitement." Gunn added, "A past resume is wonderful, but only futhre performance and future desire to succeed is what is going to make it in our program today. I truly believe that this group has the personality and the drive to continue to push our program forward."
Andrew Aprahamian – Defender – Malvern, Pennsylvania – Played for the Philadelphia Union Academy from 2013 through 2017. Has played with the U-20 National Team. Ranked by College Soccer News as the number twenty-seven player in the 2016 class.
Arda Bulut – Forward – Los Gatos, California – Played with the San Jose Earthquakes Academy from 2015 through 2017. Named to the 2016 NSCAA Youth Boys All-West Region Team. USSDA Western Conference Starting XI in 2015 and 2016. A talented and tenacious goal scorer. Ranked by CSN as the number thirty-four player in the class of 2016.
Rhys De Sota – Forward – Parker, Colorado – Played fo rthe Colorado Rapids Academy. Prior to that played for the Real Colorado Academy. Participated in the U.S. U-18 Natial Team Training Camp. USSDA Midwest Conference Starting XI (2015-2016). Ranked by CSN as the number forty-four player in the class of 2016.
Jack O'Brien – Forward – Broomfield, Colorado – Played for the Colorado Rush Academy from 2013-2017. Netted nine goals in thirteen contests this year. Very talented athlete.
Logan Panchot – Defender – Wildwood, Missouri – Played for the St. Louis Scott Gallagher Soccer Club from 2006-2017. Ranked by CSN as the number eight player in the class of 2016. Member of the U.S. Soccer U-17 Residency Program from 2013-2016. Can play in the midfield or in the back.
Zach Ryan – Forward – Chatham, New Jersey – Played for the New York Red Bulls Academy from 2013 through 2017. Ranked by CSN as the number eighty-seven player in the class of 2016. Led the Red Bulls in scoring three out of six seasons.
Kei Tomozawa – Midfielder – Bellevue, Washington – Played for the Seattle Sounders Academy 2014-2016. Participated in three U.S. U-18 camps. Ranked by CSN as the number forty-seven player in the class of 2016. Center midfielder but can also play outside.
Carson Vom Steeg – Midfielder – Santa Barbara, California – Played for Real So Call Academy (2014 – 2017). U.S. U-18 Men's National Team Captain. Father Tim Vom Steeg is the head coach at UCSB. Soccer savvy and talented player. Ranked by CSN as the number twenty player in the class of 2016. .
Charlie Wehan – Midfielder – Laguna Niguel, California – Aliso Niguel High School -Played for Strikers FC Academy (2014-2017). First-Team All-CIF as a freshman at Aliso Niguel High School. Brother Chris played at New Mexico. Ranked by CSN as the number sixty-eight player in the class of 2016.
Prognosis for 2017: It is a given that winning consecutive national titles is extremely hard to accomplish. A three-peat would be even more difficult but it is not out of the questions due to the level of talent and expereince returning along with the fact that Sanford is bringing on board the top recruiting class in the country. Depth does not appear to be a problem. However, all the tangibles as well as intangibles will have to come together and fall into place for a fourth consecutive Pac-12 Title much less a third consecutive national championship to become a reality. (Virginia is the only program that has ever won three consecutive NCAA titles. In fact, the Cavaliers secured four consecutive national championships winning it all in 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994.) .
The fact that a three-peat is even on the table at Stanford is in itself an awesome tribute to what Stanford has accomplished.
The Cardinal will enter the 2017 season with a healthy balance among older and younger players. Stanford is among the programs where a culture exists in which the desired work ethic and goals of the program are now naturally instilled in the younger players by the upper classmen.
There's no doubt that the strength of Stanford's offense in 2017 will reside up-top with Foster Langdorf (15g, 2a) and Corey Baird (3g, 6a). Langsdorf established last year that he is among the most dangerous goal scorers in the country. Barid is a competitive playmaker who has established that he is capable of holding his own with anyone.
Senior midfielder Drew Kundrich is a versatile player who could prove to be the X-Factor in the offense. Kundrich, Tanner Beason, Sam Werner, Amir Bashti, Bryce Waldeck, Derek Waldeck and Jared Gilbey combine to add diversity and balance to the attack in the midfield. Back Tomas Hilliard-Arce will add yet another dimension to the offense. In addition several of the newcomers with a little seasoning appear very capable of adding to the attack.
The bottom line is that neither experience, depth or talent appear to be missing at Stanford on the offensive side of the ball heading into the 2017 campaign. .
It is not a conincidence that defense played a key role in Stanford's improvement as the season progressed last year and was a big factor in their ability to repeat as national champions. The backline should remain solid in 2017 with Hillard-Arce, Adam Mosharrafa, and Tanner Beason returning.
However, the Cardinal will clearly miss the experience and the presence that graduated center back Brian Nan-Sinkam and goalkeeper Andrew Epstein brought to the pitch. Epstein was a consistent force between the pipes who performed well on the big stage as reflected in his stops in both regulation and shootouts in the College Cup.
The effectiveness of the transition on the defensive side of the ball particulaly in goal looks to be the most critical success factor and the biggest unanswered question for Stanford heading into the 2017 season.
The Cardinal will enter the 2017 campaign with plenty of momentum and a ton of energy based on the success the program has enjoyed. However, each season ultimately stands on its own and the target on the chest of the Stanford players will be bigger than ever before. Nonetheless, expectations are justifiably high.
Now all the Cardinal have to do in 2017 is once again come together as a team, take it one contest at a time, and accomplish a three-peat.