Sports


Stanford men make soccer history with first NCAA title

 

Two-time All-American and likely national Player of the Year Jordan Morris performed beautifully under pressure, senior Brandon Vincent, also a two-time All-American, was on target and fifth-year senior Eric Verso made it look so ridiculously easy.

As a result, Stanford added another NCAA title to its ever growing record collection and the men's soccer team, which simply refused to play anything less than its best all season, won its first title in program history, which dates to 1911.

Morris scored twice, Vincent converted a penalty kick and Verso added an unassisted goal as Stanford beat Clemson, 4-0, Sunday in the national championship match at Sporting Park in Kansas City, KS.

"It couldn't have gone any better," Cardinal coach Jeremy Gunn said. "We looked sharp. We came out on the front foot and got the first goal. We sat back after that and allowed Clemson to play too much. At halftime it was clear that we needed to get after it, keep scoring goals and play our game because that's when we have the most enjoyment and work our best."

The Cardinal (18-2-3) scored the most goals in an NCAA final since USF beat Long Island, 5-2, to win the 1966 crown and matched the largest margin of victory (also 4-0 in St. Louis' 1969 victory over the Dons) in the 56-year history of the NCAA tournament.

"Getting the first goal early is huge for us," Vincent said. "We were sitting back, letting them dictate the game to us. In the second half we got that fixed and got on the front studs. They got their chances, they're a quality team, so you expect that, but we did a good job of holding them back. We kept going after it. Keeping up the intensity and finishing it out strong."

Stanford became the fifth school to capture men's and women's Division I soccer titles, following the Cardinal women in 2011.

Stanford extended its streak of at least one NCAA team championship in a school year to 40 years, an ongoing record, while earning its 108th NCAA team title and 129th overall.

Gunn, in his fourth year, became one of four coaches to win NCAA titles in both Division I and Division II, following his 2005 crown at Fort Lewis.

Morris, who wears jersey No. 13, finished the year with 13 goals and both Verso and Corey Baird recorded 13 assists, a fitting ending for a team that doesn't believe in bad luck.

Vincent, Stanford's defensive leader, converted five of the six penalty kicks he took this year and finished with six goals overall.

Andrew Epstein needed to make a single save, which came shortly after Morris' second goal and denied the second-seeded Tigers an opportunity to get back into it.

Morris, Stanford's U.S. national team forward, set the pace early, He scored 87 seconds into the contest, the eighth-seeded Cardinal's fastest goal in over two years. He also scored in the 51st minute.

The swiftness of the first goal was a tribute to teamwork. Baird won the ball near midfield, worked a give-and-go with Foster Langsdorf and took off up the left flank. The sophomore sent a left-footed centering pass to the top of the box toward Morris, who faked a pass to Verso.

As Verso drew two defenders, Morris met the pass with a hard right-footed shot into the right side of the net as a defender was left sprawling in his wake.

Early the second half, Vincent headed the ball forward near midfield and Verso pushed it back with one touch to Langsdorf, who in turn, sent the ball forward to Morris making a run.

Morris spun to his left to receive the ball and in the same motion, split two defenders to fire from eight yards.

"Right now, it's all about the team," Morris said. "All about appreciating and celebrating this moment because we've worked, so hard as a team to get where we are and come out as champions is amazing."

In the 71st minute, Morris created Stanford's third goal. Vincent tossed in a throw-in to Morris, who flicked the ball to himself as he got hip-checked to the ground just inside the box, drawing a penalty that Vincent converted for a 3-0 lead.

"It's what we've done all year," Vincent said. "Just keep going and keep fighting. Up, down a goal, whatever the situation, we just keep going and try to get the next goal."

Verso closed the scoring in the 74th minute at the end of a solo run that he capped with a clinical finish and celebrated with a flourish.

"Probably not the best look with the sports bra underneath, but I was just so excited in the moment," Verso said. "I had only one goal on the year. I was just so happy that I had finally scored, especially in the final. I wasn't thinking at that point, just really excited. That was the second yellow of my career, so it was a good time to take it."

Morris was named Offensive Most Outstanding Player and Vincent was named Most Outstanding Player on defense. Named to the all-tournament team were Stanford's Baird, Epstein and Verso.

— Stanford Athletics

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