Putting the pieces together
Talented players hoping to find the right chemistry
There's no question junior forward Adam Jahn has all the skills and talent needed to be one of the top soccer players in the country. Can that translate into success for the Stanford men's soccer team?
Cardinal coach Bret Simon, entering his 11th season at Stanford, hopes that is the case as the curtain rises on another season with high expectations. The Cardinal plays at Santa Clara on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Jahn was one of the top recruits in the nation out of Jesuit High in Carmichael and he helped transform Stanford into a national contender as a freshman. He helped the Cardinal reach the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament, was a second team all-Pac-10 selection and was named to topdrawersoccer.com's All-Rookie national team.
He's started every game since he's been at Stanford and will be looking to key the offense once again this time around.
"He struggled with an ankle injury last year but he's back at full speed," Simon said. "He tried to play through it last year and it affected the way he changed directions and struck the ball. He put a lot of stress on his ankles and knees."
A healthy Jahn would certainly give the Cardinal (8-10 last year) the chance to return to the postseason. Even playing with one foot he recorded nine points, second on the team, last year.
Stanford won't be a one-man team by any means. Jahn will be surrounded by eight players who have started at least half of the team's games last year, including a solid group of seniors who will provide leadership.
Four-year starter Garrett Gunther, defender Tommy Ryan, midfielder Taylor Amman, Alexander Binnie midfielder Grant Grafentin, midfielder Clayton Holz, midfielder Adoni Levine and forward Cullen Wilson top the list of the elders.
Gunther may be the shortest player on the field, but the 5-7, 140-pound midfielder is also the team's most dynamic player.
"He's explosive, just an all-around fantastic soccer player," Simon said. "He has great endurance and is a great 1-on-1 player and a terrific play maker."
Ryan, who hails from Marin County, and junior defender Hunter Gorskie were selected as co-captains by team members.
Ryan grew up in a soccer family. His uncle Steve Ryan played for the San Jose Earthquakes and his father Tom, the soccer coach and athletic director at Branson High in Ross, still plays.
"He's been gradually groomed as the central defender," Simon said. "He's a smart player, with a cultured left foot. He's very athletic."
Gorskie will team with Ryan in a backfield that allowed a mere 20 goals last season (1.11 per game average) and helped record six shutouts.
Gorskie proved to be the team's most versatile player, with appearances at outside back and central back as well as central defender.
Juniors Dersu Abolfathi and Eric Anderson return as starters and are part of the attack group that has Simon thinking good thoughts about Stanford's offensive capabilities.
"I like our attacking group a lot," he said. "We lost an important player (Bobby Warshaw, who plays in the MSL) but we have a lot of guys back with experience."
Sophomore Jason Dodson returns as the starting goalkeeper, with redshirt sophomore Galen Perkins and sophomore Drew Hutchins also in the mix.
Sophomore midfielder JJ Koval started 17 of 18 games last year and sophomore defender Tyler Conklin also gained some experience last year.
The large freshmen class consists of six redhirts, including Matt Taylor, whose older sister Lindsay plays for the women's soccer team at Stanford. Simon Basillico, Bobby Edwards, Preston Langholz, Austin Meyer and Jack Ryan also fall into that category.
Freshmen include Zach Batteer, Jimmy Callinan, Grant Gafentin, Felipe Noguerol and Eric Verso.
Even with the addition of two teams to the conference, the men's soccer programs are unaffected. Only five of the conference schools sponsor a men's soccer team, San Diego State is an affiliate for soccer.