Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - August 17, 2012

The goal is scoring more than the opponent

Cardinal men determined to turn offensive this season

by Rick Eymer

Six of the nine players who recorded a goal last season return for the Jeremy Gunn era. That's the good news.

Those six players combined for a grand total of 12 goals, led by seniors Adam Jahn, who had four, and Dersu Abolfathi, who added three.

Expect a big difference this year under the reigning National Coach of the Year, who came over from Charlotte.

"The players have shown great enthusiasm and have made a lot of progress in the six months I have been here," Gunn said. "Sometimes when you bring in new ideas there could be problems. I am excited for the season because I see the quality of players, I see the areas where we need to improve and I see the opportunity for success."

The four seniors -- Jahn, Abolfathi, Hunter Gorskie, Eric Anderson -- have been to the NCAA tournament at Stanford. The group reached the Sweet Sixteen as freshmen before losing to eventual champion Akron.

Gunn knows exactly what it is like to come so close. He coached the 49ers into the NCAA title match last season, where they lost to North Carolina.

"When I was a freshman it actually seemed so easy to get the postseason," Gorskie said. "The following year we started sliding and I started realizing that even the little things that break down can have a major impact. We do have to take care of things, believe in something and understand team matters."

Jahn entered Stanford as one of the most polished soccer players in the country and highly-touted as a game-changer. He's been at the top and the bottom and knows it takes more than one or two players to make a team.

"We got to the round of 16 and I thought that was normal," Jahn said. "The past two years have not been as fun."

Defense has traditionally been Stanford's forte and it was no different last year despite an overall 6-10-2 season. The Cardinal allowed less than two goals a match and were on the rise (5-3-2 in Pac-12 play) when the season ended.

That's something to build upon.

"One of the most important things is to buy into the program," Gorskie said. "We've done that. It starts with a strong, disciplined defensive mindset and attacking from there."

The idea is to get Jahn the ball as often as possible. The more the forward has it, the better the defense is playing.

There are also just four juniors, giving the Cardinal a youthful presence. Goalie Drew Hutchins may be the key defensively while JJ Koval will add offensive depth. Goalie Jason Dodson and defender defender Tyler Conklin will also be counted upon.

Matt Taylor, the younger brother of women's soccer star Lindsay, leads a deep group of 10 sophomores and seven freshmen.

"We played some tremendous soccer in the spring," Gunn said. "The style of play is definitely different but good soccer players are guys who want to be winners. Adam is one of the best forwards I've seen."

Other sophomores include Simon Basilico, Zach Batteer, Jimmy Callinan, Bobby Edwards, Grant Grafentin, Preston Langholz, Austin Meyer, Felipe Noguerol and Jack Ryan.

"We have been talking about a rock solid, structured defense that leads to an aggressiv, attacking team," Gunn said. "The key is to get to that balance."

Menlo-Atherton grad Aaron Oro is one of the newcomers and can help anywhere on the field. Other freshmen include Adrian Alabi, Eric Fabre, Aaron Kovar, Ty Thompson and Brandon Vincent.

"We're trying to create a specific culture of accountability," Gorskie said. "The team is taking strides toward that attitude by taking care of things on the field and off the field."

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