Andrew Epstein made a monumental save early in the second half, Amir Bashti bagged his first goal of the season in the 78th minute and Stanford went to Husky Soccer Stadium and came out with a 1-0 win over No. 16 Washington on Thursday night.
The victory, Stanford’s first over the Huskies (7-4-0, 1-2-0) in Seattle since 2006, was also the Cardinal’s second straight to open Pac-12 play. Stanford (5-2-3, 2-0-0), the two-time defending league champions, last started a conference schedule with two consecutive wins in 2002. The Cardinal is now 4-0-2 in its last six true road games against ranked opponents.
Bashti and Epstein were the heroes on Thursday night. Seven minutes after coming on as a substitute for Corey Baird, Bashti converted his first of the season using a flick from the outside of his left boot.
Bryce Marion did the dirty work to set up the goal, racing down the right sideline with possession before being taken down by Justin Schmidt in front of Washington’s bench.
Sam Werner stood over the free kick and lofted his service into the middle of the box where Adrian Alabi leapt to try and get a head on it, but the ball fell to space at the top of the six. Stanford’s sophomore found it at his feet and beat a diving Auden Schilder to the Husky keeper’s right.
“That was a sharp, first-time finish and some wonderful technique,” Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn said. “Sam whipped it in, Adrian challenged in the air and then Amir put together a very good finish in the box.”
It was a reward for a dominating second half in which Stanford spent a lot of time on the ball and really was able to take the sting out of the pressure its was under to start the match.
The Cardinal had been 0-9-1 in its last 10 at Washington and hadn’t come out on top since goals from Dan Shapiro and Galen Thompson led Stanford to a 2-0 win over the Huskies on Oct. 9, 2006.
Bashti wouldn’t have had a chance were it not for Epstein in the 55th. Stanford’s redshirt junior keeper was only forced into one save all night, but the lone stop was perhaps the best of his career.
A Cardinal foul led to a free kick from 30-yards out by UW’s Justin Schmidt. Schmidt’s left-footed swing landed cleanly on the head of Mason Robertson racing toward goal, but a split-second reaction from Epstein guided the attempt up and over the crossbar.
“You know if you give them enough set pieces they’re going to be hitting the target with some,” Gunn said. “It was a tremendous finish on their part and an even better save. When you’re in these tight contests you need those key moments to go your way. We’ve had many close battles up here when they haven’t gone our way, but tonight they did.”
Stanford has opened its conference slate with back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 2007, when it began with a 4-0 win over Oregon State and a scoreless draw with Washington. Epstein collected his 17th career shutout to tie Chris Helling (1986-89) for seventh in program history.
The Cardinal bent, but didn’t break in the first 45 minutes. Stanford was forced to deal with five Husky corners in the period and another two free kicks from dangerous spots on the field.
“The first half was really tough for us,” Gunn said. “We didn’t impose ourselves on the game enough and had to soak up an awful lot of pressure. Washington was little bit sharper than us in the quick conditions and was allowed to put a lot of balls into the box. They came close on a couple, but the guys did tremendous job denying in the first half and taking the body blows.”
Stanford will have two days off before it closes out its swing through the Pacific Northwest at Oregon State (4-4-3, 0-1-2) on Sunday at 11 a.m.