Season Wrapup: Defense Excelled for Stanford

Nov. 17, 2008

STANFORD, Calif. - There was hardly a match that was ever out of reach for the Stanford men's soccer team in 2008. Stanford was tantalizingly close in nearly every time it played. That only added to the frustration of a 4-11-3 season.

Nine of the losses were decided by a single goal - eight on tiebreaking scores in the second half or overtime. The Cardinal never allowed more than two goals in a single match, the only team in the Pacific-10 Conference to accomplish the feat, but scored only 14 all season.

The play of defenders Ryan Imamura and Tim Jones were among the highlights for the Cardinal, partly because they played so well while on the spot, with little margin for error while the offense struggled. The Cardinal was shut out nine times.

'The defense never had a bad game all year,' said coach Bret Simon, who completed his eighth season at Stanford. 'It was under a lot of pressure. The defense, as a whole, knew it had to play close to a perfect game.'

Imamura, who began his collegiately career at Cornell in 2003, was granted a sixth year of eligibility and had a 'breakout year,' Simon said, in central defense.

'He had the weight of the defense on his shoulders, and he stepped up from a complimentary player into a leader,' Simon said. 'Pro teams would do well to take a good look at him.'

Jones completed his career as a four-year starter and as perhaps the most dynamic defender in the Pac-10.

'We're one of the few teams that attack from the back,' Simon said. 'He was probably the best in the conference at that.'

Other seniors were given greater responsibility and provided strong play, such as Tom Montgomery and Enrique Allen.

Montgomery continued to play with the perseverance and intensity that allowed him to make the team as a walk-on in 2006. Montgomery filled several roles and tied sophomore forward/defender Bobby Warshaw for the team goal-scoring lead, with three apiece.

Allen, another fifth-year senior, had not played all season until given a start against UCLA on Oct. 12. The Cardinal beat the eventual conference champion 2-1 and Allen started the rest of the season, scoring his first career goal in a 4-2 victory over Washington on Nov. 7.

The season began with a sense of optimism, especially with Imamura granted an additional year and fifth-year forward Evan Morgan, the team's top 2006 goal-scorer, returning from a preseason an injury that forced him to miss the entire 2007 season. But Morgan suffered another injury, in the team's second exhibition match.

Simon used several combinations up front, and finished with several young players that did well when given the opportunity late in the season, such as Garrett Gunther, Taylor Amman, Cullen Wilson and Dominique Yahyavi.

In anything, perhaps the returning players can maintain the legacy of hard work and relentless play that characterized this team, largely because of the example set forth by players such as Montgomery, Imamura, Jones and Allen. Simon hopes so.

'A lot of times, you see the level of effort and team performance go up and down,' Simon said. 'Honestly, I look at the level of effort from this season and thought it was uniform across the season. Whoever was on the field played hard and gave their best effort.'

Simon is encouraged by the commitments he has received for next year's recruiting class, particularly in the attack. But he also realizes that certain players will be difficult to replace. The defense must be reconfigured and the team culture will have to evolve without some influential individuals.

The team loses eight seniors, but returns players who gained valuable experience and brings in a class of newcomers that could make an immediate impact.

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