Sports

Stanford men get a chance to make soccer history

 

CHESTER, Pa. – Goals in each half by Foster Langsdorf and Sam Werner propelled Stanford to a 2-0 victory over Akron in the NCAA College Cup men's soccer semifinals Friday.

Two-time defending champion Stanford (18-2-2) heads into its third consecutive NCAA final where it will play Indiana (18-0-6), a 1-0 semifinal winner over North Carolina, on Sunday at 10 a.m. PT (1 p.m. ET), also at Talen Energy Stadium.

This will be the second Stanford-Indiana NCAA final. In 1998, the first of five Stanford NCAA-final appearances ended in a 3-1 loss to the Hoosiers in Richmond, Virginia.

Stanford also has a chance to overtake UCLA for the most NCAA team titles in all sports. Each is locked in at 114.

Langsdorf, the two-time Pac-12 Player of the Year, scored on a diving header in the 26th minute to give Stanford the lead. He got on the end of a Corey Baird chip into the middle for his 14th goal. A defender had a play on the ball, but never saw Langsdorf coming.

"We played fantastic," Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn said. "No complaints tonight, the boys were great."

Stanford extended its postseason shutout streak to 11 matches, an NCAA record, and 1,112:17 of match time. It has not allowed a goal in its past two NCAA tournaments.

On the first goal, Stanford's front six was pressing and when the Akron defense was lackadaisical with the ball after a goal kick, the Cardinal pounced. Drew Skundrich blocked a pass from a central defender and the ball bounced directly to Baird, who took a couple of dribbles into the box.

Langsdorf was making a run across the box when he stepped in front of the defender to make a full dive at the top of the six-yard box, connecting with his head just two feet off the ground.

"The defender had the back post cross cut off so I knew I had to get in front of my man," Langsdorf said. "I've been playing with Corey so much, I had a feeling, he would send it right there."

Stanford's second goal also had origins in defense. In his own end, Amir Bashti pressured Akron into a pass directly to defender Adam Mosharrafa, who pushed the ball forward to midfielder Derek Waldeck, who in turn found Skundrich, whose long run put the Zips (18-4-2) on their heels.

Skundrich sent the ball left. Though a defender broke it up, Werner took possession and charged up the left side of the penalty area. It took Werner three touches before sending in a left-footer from a poor angle into the upper right corner of the goal in the 79th minute for the 2-0 lead.

In between, the lead was preserved on a brilliant two-save sequence by Nico Corti, who knocked away two close shots that represented Akron's best chances. It was reminiscent of Stanford's great goalkeeping in its previous meeting with Akron, in the 2015 semifinals, when Andrew Epstein made two penalty-kick saves in the shootout to send the Cardinal into the final.

Langsdorf's goal followed a sequence in which Stanford pressured Akron into giving up two corner kicks. One resulted in a shot by Jared Gilbey that was deflected by a defender wide left.

Only 58 seconds into the match, Gilbey intercepted a pass deep in Akron territory and fired a shot that forced big save from Akron goalkeeper Ben Lundt. A little later, Stanford's Logan Panchot used his skill to gain possession in defense and build an attack that included a nutmeg by Bryce Marion and ended with a Baird shot that was pushed wide by Lundt.

In the second half, a mis-hit Stanford back pass led to an Akron chance, only for goalkeeper Nico Corti to come off his line to tackle the ball away before a shot could be taken.

Moments later, Baird had another chance. Marion won the ball off an Akron throw-in and Baird took a pass in the box, and cut across with a deft touch to avoid a defender. But his left-footed shot was saved by Lundt coming off his line.

Stanford has a chance to become the first to win three consecutive NCAA titles since Bruce Arena coached Virginia to four straight in 1991-94.

"This is huge because this is it for me and a lot of guys here," said Langsdorf, a senior. "Any chance we get to be together again is a blessing."

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