Foster Langsdorf, Stanford's junior striker, scored for the sixth time in his last five games and the Cardinal men's soccer opened Pac-12 Conference play with a 1-0 win over rival Cal at Cagan Stadium on Sunday night.
Langsdorf's goal in the 47th minute was his second winner of the season and sixth of his career. His seven goals in the first nine matches of 2016 ties his career high set last season in 23 outings.
"When we talk about direct soccer, it's about looking to score and looking to play forward if you can," Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn said. "It was great passing and movement and then Foster had a lot to do on the goal. The defender was right on him, putting him off balance, and to finish it how he did was tremendous. It was a special game and it took a special goal to decide it."
Coming out of the break, it was senior co-captain Brian Nana-Sinkam who stepped up to dispossess a Cal player as the Bears were in their offensive half searching for the game's first goal.
Nana-Sinkam played the ball forward to freshman midfielder Jared Gilbey, who showed composure on the ball and slipped it through two Cal defenders and ahead to Langsdorf.
Langsdorf fought off contact and beat Bears' keeper Jonathan Klinsmann to the right post.
The game was largely back-and-forth and brought the crowd of 1,374 to its feet on more than one occasion. Stanford outshot Cal 18-13 and 7-4 in attempts on goal. In an energetic final 45 minutes, each keeper was forced into three saves.
The Cardinal, which was coming off a 2-1 loss at San Francisco to close out the nonconference portion of its schedule, is 3-0-1 in its last four games following a defeat. "
It's a journey through every season," Gunn said. "You're looking to keep sharpening up, keep improving as you go, and I think tonight it really showed two great sides of our team. We were super competitive and difficult to play against. Tough defensively, but then we played some wonderful, slashing soccer.
"When we would attack, they wouldn't all get back in so we had some great looks and some great chances. If the attack didn't complete then they were phenomenal on the counterattack as well. I think for a fan you couldn't have wished for a more exciting game. Both teams came out swinging and I think we had a better guard up than they did in the end."
Stanford is always a tough out, but even more so at home. The Cardinal is 23-1-8 in its last 32 matches on The Farm and hasn't dropped any of its last 18 at Cagan.
Andrew Epstein, who tallied his 16th career clean sheet on Sunday, has led Stanford to a goals against average under 0.60 at home since 2014.
"When I arrived here I saw all these 'Beat Cal' logos and I thought, 'well by default does that mean you don't try as hard against other teams?'" Gunn added. "I actually don't put the emphasis on the local rival, but we know everybody gets thrilled for it. They're a tremendous soccer team and when we face them again and it'll be another incredible and competitive game. It'll always be that way. Coach Grimes is a fantastic coach and they have great soccer players."