With two goals from junior forward Jordan Morris, Stanford took home the College Cup title with a dominant 4-0 win over Clemson Sunday afternoon at Sporting Park. After Morris’s brace, defender Brandon Vincent and midfielder Eric Verso added goals.
“[The national championship is] a special thing,” Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn said. “Obviously it’s a great moment and we’re all super excited. But it pales in comparison to the journey we take as a group.
“You get to see us all celebrating there but the really cool thing for us is the staff that have all worked together so hard, all of the support.”
With the championship win, Gunn becomes the fourth head coach to win titles at both the Division I and II levels. Stanford won its first national title in program history with the win.
Stanford ties the record for largest margin of victory in a College Cup final. In 1969, St. Louis set the record with a 4-0 national championship win over San Francisco. Another 4-0 win in the title game came in 1975, when San Francisco defeated SIU-Edwardsville.
Stanford jumped out in front from the very beginning, with a goal from Jordan Morris in the second minute. Morris made a run into the box from the center of the field as a cross from Baird traced the 18-yard line. Baird’s ball was knocked into Morris’s path by Verso, where Morris finished past Clemson goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell into the top corner at the near post.
“I think that whenever we go out we want to score first,” Morris said after the match. “Scoring early helped give not only me confidence, but the rest of the team as well so it was good to get one early.”
Morris would score again in the 51st minute off of a pass from Baird. Stanford broke quickly to attack on Tarbell’s goal and Morris collected Baird’s pass to beat two defenders before scoring at the far post.
Going down early set the tone in the match at the beginning, but Clemson coach Mike Noonan said the course of the game didn’t really change for his team until the third goal, a penalty kick goal from captain and senior defender Brandon Vincent.
“The third goal was the most critical one, at 2-0, we thought we had a lot still to play for, and we were still in the game and we were playing well,” Noonan said.
Eric Verso closed out the match for Stanford, leading the team on a breakaway against three Clemson defenders and scoring from the top of the 18-yard box. Verso sent his shot into the bottom right corner of the goal.
For Stanford, coming out strong in the second half was a key to victory. Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn sensed his team allowing Clemson to pass freely toward the end of the second half.
“We came out on the front foot and we got the first goal and then I think we sat back a little bit after that and allowed Clemson to play too much,” Gunn said. “[At] halftime, it was clear. Let’s get after it, let’s keep scoring goals, keep playing our game and I think that’s where we found our enjoyment and that’s where we work our best.”
For Clemson, the inability to score came from an inability to possess the ball in dangerous areas.
“They executed their gameplan well, which was to allow us to have the ball in areas that weren’t going to hurt them,” Tigers center midfielder Paul Clowes said. “As soon as we got into areas that would hurt them they did a good job of pressing the ball.”
“We were OK with them having possession in non-dangerous areas so if they’re passing around in their defensive third, that’s OK with us,” Stanford midfielder Ty Thompson said. “As soon as they start to get into our territory, that’s when were on our front studs were really stepping into them hard.”
For Morris, the national title caps off a momentous year for a college soccer player. Morris was called up to the United States national team in April and scored his first senior national team goal in a 2-0 win against Mexico. Morris said adding a team accomplishment at the end of a year with enormous progression was one of the best parts of 2015.
“It’s such a cool thing to experience something like this, something bigger than yourself,” Morris said. “It’s definitely good to have this time with my teammates.”