In a clash between two nationally ranked teams, the 16th ranked University of San Francisco Dons hosted the 25th ranked Stanford University Cardinal on Sept. 7 at Negoesco Stadium, where clear skies were overhead to kick off what proved to be an intense soccer match. There are nine national championships between the Stanford and USF men’s soccer programs, and the last three seasons have all been won by the Cardinal. The evening was the perfect opportunity for the Dons to live up to their recently attributed 16th place national ranking and prove themselves on their home turf.
This was Head Coach Eddie Soto’s fourth game of the season and the third Pac-12 opponent the Dons have met in a row. Both teams entered with undefeated records this season, but the Dons were confident, fresh off their 1-0 win over the then-eighth ranked University of California, Los Angeles Bruins in Westwood, Calif. last week. Ready to see these rivals face off, stands were packed with more than 1,500 in attendance.
The Cardinal kicked off to begin the match, and one could see the determination on the faces of both teams. The Dons were spreading the field well and had spacing between all players. They were communicating and advancing the ball effectively up the field. Stanford came out disciplined, tenacious and hard-working, showing their patented defensive strength when the Dons would approached their net.
Both teams were highly organized and played at a vigorous pace, which led to several scoring opportunities throughout the first half. Senior midfielder Santiago DiGiuseppe had his only shot on goal miss wide left, while sophomore forward Sandro Bradara had chances in the final third. On the other side, Stanford played productively through Amir Bashti, who ended with a game-high three shots on goal. His first attempt of the game was a hard-driven shot that goalkeeper Ruben Stuiver deftly deflected. There were a total of 15 shots in the first half, but the defenses held strong, leading to a 0-0 score at halftime.
“It’s about us matching energy,” Coach Soto said at halftime. This was demonstrated early in the second half by a lovely over-the-top cross by DiGiuseppe to Cameron Martin. Martin’s shot was nearly converted for the first goal of the game. Bradara soon followed with a low, driven shot on frame that ended up snugly in the keeper’s hands.
The match remained scoreless until the 67th minute when Stanford rattled off two quick goals in the span of two minutes. Derek Waldeck delivered his first goal of the season for the Cardinal after he struck a definitive half-volley into the back of the net. The second goal came from a corner kick, finding Adam Mosharrafa in the right place to get his head on the ball for another Cardinal goal. The Negoesco crowd was stunned, and a sense of desperation filled the stands. Stanford remained very well-organized and looked solid in their tight and compact defensive formation.
The Dons didn’t give up and kept pushing and advancing the ball up the field with Sean Bowman and Bradara cracking shots just outside the 18. The will and aggressiveness in the last minutes of the game was just not enough for the Dons, who could not find a way to put the ball in the back of the net. The match ended with a 0-2 loss against the defending national champions.
“Our guys didn’t have the same bite that we had last week,” Coach Soto said. “It is early in the season and this is a lesson we need to learn and not let this happen again.” The coach indicated that the men did nothing tactically wrong –– it was their “effort, and it just wasn’t there.”
On Sept. 10, the Dons lost 4-1 to the San Jose State University Spartans. It was the Spartans’ first win against a ranked opponent since Sept. 1, 2009 when they upset the then-24th ranked University of California, Davis. The Spartans scored their most goals since Oct. 29, 2017. Noah Leong scored the Dons’ only goal and was assisted by Matt Orr from the corner spot. Ruben Stuiver recorded only one save. The Dons dropped to 47-19-4 all-time against San Jose State.