2008 Men's Soccer Outlook
Aug. 15, 2008
STANFORD, Calif. - Stanford approaches the men's soccer season with more optimism than at any time since its back-to-back College Cup appearances early this decade.
The reasons? There are many: Experience at every position, another outstanding recruiting class, improved offense, solid defense, and several legitimate conference and All-America candidates.
It's no wonder that head coach Bret Simon is optimistic that the Cardinal will contend for the Pacific-10 Conference title and a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
'This is the deepest team we've had in many years,' said Simon, in his eighth year at Stanford. 'We return strong players at every position.'
With plenty of veteran talent and a large sophomore class that now has some seasoning, the competition should be heavy for starting spots, especially considering the quality up and down the lineup.
Simon is unwilling to hype individual players or concede starting positions no matter the accolades. But 2007 honors can speak for him. Forward Bobby Warshaw became the first Stanford freshman to lead the team in scoring since 1991 and was the conference freshman of the year.
In addition, captain and central midfielder Michael Strickland, goalkeeper John Moore, central midfielder T.J. Novak and central defender Ryan Imamura each earned all-conference recognition. All are back.
The defense remains the cornerstone of the team, a unit that allowed the fewest goals in the Pac-10 last season. And the return of Imamura should help. He was granted a sixth-year of eligibility and last year developed into a fixture on the backline along with rightside defender Tim Jones, who enters the season with 46 consecutive starts.
The attack has the potential to make the biggest leap. Most of last year's young attacking group returns and Evan Morgan is back from an injury that held him out of action in 2007. With Morgan and Warshaw, Stanford returns its top goal-scorers from each of the past two years. In addition, some role-shifting in the midfield has the potential to create greater support and lead to a more dynamic attack. Hence, the optimism.
'We've been on the cusp of being back in the NCAA the last couple of years,' Simon said. 'That's a logical goal.'
With nine returning starters and a talented and athletic recruiting class, Stanford appears ready to maintain its recent upswing. The team was probably one conference victory from an NCAA berth last year, but the season was chaotic. There was a six-match unbeaten streak, which overlapped with five scoreless performances in a six-match stretch. The Cardinal outscored Pac-10 opponents at home, 10-1, but was winless on the road.
Simon realizes Stanford must get off to a good start, and stay healthy, for all its goals to come true.
'We're solid all the way through,' Simon said. 'It could be the strongest team we've had here in quite a while.'
The following is a rundown of each player, position by position:
GoalkeepersJohn Moore (Jr.) - One of the top goalkeepers on the West Coast and a pro prospect. Josh Nesbit (RS Jr.) - A true leader who is regarded as the heart and soul of the team. Brent Stewart (Sr.) - A strong shot stopper coming off a great summer of training, domestically and overseas.
Central defendersShaun Culver (So.) - Showed on the team's spring trip to Spain that he's poised for a breakthrough year. Ben Grafentin (Fr.) - Versatile player with a strong intensity and work ethic. Kevin Huang (So.) - Reads the game well, organizes the defense, and a good distributer of the ball. Ryan Imamura (RS Sr.) - In being granted a sixth-year of eligibility, he provides experience and leadership in a vital area.
Wide defendersEnrique Allen (RS Sr.) - Two-footed player capable of playing six positions. Tim Jones (Sr.) - One of the best outside defenders in the nation. Cameron Lamming (So.) - Has the ability to attack from the back and play multiple positions. Tommy Ryan (Fr.) - The state-champion basketball player brings power to the left side. Ryan Thomas (So.) - High expectations follow a strong freshman season.
Central midfieldersGarrett Gunther (RS Fr.) - Hard-worker with a natural competitiveness. Clayton Holz (Fr.) - Vast experience for a youth player and confident with the ball. Alex Kozachenko (RS Jr.) - Solid goal-scoring and goal-creating midfielder. Adoni Levine (Fr.) - Talented young midfielder with loads of skill. Tom Montgomery (Sr.) - Ball-winning midfielder with incredible work ethic. T.J. Novak (Sr.) - Talented attacking defender set to move into midfield to provide attacking punch. Michael Strickland (Jr.) - Returning captain and respected team leader.
Wide midfieldersMichael Alexander (Sr.) - Move to midfield provides more energy and attacking options. Brant Bishop (Jr.) - Can shoot and score with both feet. Thiago Sa Freire (Jr.) - Maturing into a top collegiate midfielder. Dominique Yahyavi (So.) - Creative attacker who loves to go one-on-one.
ForwardsTaylor Amman (RS Fr.) - Multi-talented player returning from injury for first full season. Alexander Binnie (Fr.) - Fast and clever attacking player. Daniel Leon (So.) - Raised his profile with a strong spring season. Evan Morgan (RS Sr.) - Fully healthy and ready to lead attack. Bobby Warshaw (So.) - First freshman to lead the team in scoring since 1991. Cullen Wilson (Fr.) - Combination of size and skill make him team's most intriguing new player.