Somebody’s streak is coming to an end, and with it their season.
Coastal Carolina and Stanford are meeting Sunday at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium in Palo Alto, Calif., in the third round of the NCAA men’s soccer tournament as two of the hottest teams in the country.
Both are riding 11-game unbeaten streaks, each going 10-0-1 over that stretch.
The host Cardinal (16-2-1) haven’t lost since falling at St. Louis on Sept. 23. The Chanticleers (14-6-1) haven’t lost since falling to UNC Wilmington on Oct. 3.
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The winner will advance to the national quarterfinals of the tournament known as the Men’s College Cup, and face the winner of Sunday’s game between Butler and top-seeded Wake Forest.
A Coastal victory would end an even more impressive Stanford streak, and become the most momentous win in the 38-year history of the CCU soccer program.
The Cardinal are seeking their third consecutive national championship, and the Chanticleers have never advanced past the third round of the NCAA tournament.
“If we come out and play our game, everyone work for each other, there’s not a team in this country we can’t beat,” said CCU senior forward Frantzdy Pierrot, the 2017 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year. “We’ve just got to go out there and work hard for each other and play our game.”
The Chants have reached at least the second round of the NCAA Tournament in seven consecutive years, and have reached the third round three other times – in 2003, 2012 and 2013.
Two of the three previous third-round games were also in California. The Chants lost 3-2 in overtime at Santa Clara in 2003, fell 5-1 at Maryland in 2012 and lost 1-0 at California in 2013.
Stanford is the tournament’s No. 9 seed and ended the regular season ranked third in the nation in the United Soccer Coaches Poll, which is the ranking recognized by the NCAA, while Coastal was receiving enough votes to be tied for 26th in the poll.
Stanford has won the past two titles with a physical style of play. The Cardinal play a direct, counter-attacking game rather than a passing, ball-possession game.
“They’re all very committed to that style of play,” 20-year Coastal Carolina coach Shaun Docking said. “They compress you very high. I think that’s what they do well. They stop you from playing, they disrupt what you do and they’re very good at it.
“They don’t play a whole lot of soccer. It’s not like facing Wake Forest or North Carolina or a team like that. They play direct, try to intimidate you, get in your face, foul and play off set pieces. It’s a difficult style to play against. They knock it around and look to break you down in those ways. They mentally, physically try to dominate you. They’re a very difficult team to beat. They won’t defeat themselves.”
With two playoff wins including a 3-1 upset of eighth-seed Clemson in the second round, the Chants have earned a No. 8 national ranking from TopDrawer Soccer, which is their highest ranking in that poll since they finished 10th in the final poll in 2003, while Stanford is No. 2 behind Wake Forest.
Coastal and Stanford have never met on the pitch.
Stanford survived the second round in penalty kicks after playing Pacific to a scoreless draw through 90 minutes and two overtimes.
Stanford is led by offensively by Foster Langsdorf, who has 12 goals and six assists for 30 points in the team’s 19 games. Three other players in Corey Baird, Amir Bashti and Drew Skundrich also have at least five goals and 14 points.
Pierrot has 10 goals and four assists for 24 points to lead the Chants, while Martin Melchor has seven goals and three assists and Romario Piggott has six goals and two assists in the team’s 21 games.
Melchor of Texas and Pierrot of Haiti have been hot of late, with Melchor tallying three goals and two assists in the past three games and Pierrot recording two goals and two assists in those wins.
Stanford has been a defensive juggernaut, allowing just nine goals in 19 games with 10 shutouts, including just three goals in its past 11 games. The Chants have allowed 23 goals, and Stanford is statistically a slightly better offensive team, averaging 2.16 goals per game compared to Coastal’s 1.81.
“All it takes is one goal,” Docking said. “They could concede their 10th goal of the season and we win, or we don’t score and try to find a way to beat them in penalty kicks.”
Coastal has been a different team after starting the season 4-6, however, and is averaging 2.28 goal per game in the past 11 games while allowing an average of 0.64 goals per game. Senior keeper Braulio Linares-Ortiz made nine saves against Clemson as the Chants survived being a man down for the final 28 minutes after junior forward Yazeed Matthews received a red card.
“[Ortiz] was exceptional. That was one of the best games I’ve ever seen him play,” Docking said. “We’re going to need another perfect game.”
In addition to Matthews sitting out the first of two games for being assessed the red card, the Chants may be without a few other potential starters because of injury.
Junior defender Sam Strong has missed several games and remains out, and senior midfielder Louis Dargent, senior midfielder Wes White, freshman midfielder Carlos Becerra and redshirt freshman forward Tyrone Mondi are all either out or questionable to play. Docking has been forced to shuffle his lineup all season because of injuries.
“Any time you’re playing the two-time national champion if you’re not fully fit and don’t have the full complement of players it’s going to be a big challenge,” Docking said. “Those six guys have been pretty integral to the team when they’re healthy. For sure if we had those guys we’d have a better chance of matching up Sunday.”
The game features a pair of highly successful veteran coaches. Docking is in his 20th season at Coastal and 22nd season overall and has a career record of 286-137-7, while Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn is in his sixth season at the school and 19th season overall and boasts a 267-86-50 career record.
“Jeremy’s a very good coach,” Docking said. “He’s done a fantastic job at every program he’s been. He just has them working very, very hard.”
While Stanford has recently been winning national titles, the Chants have also positioned themselves among the nation’s top programs. Coastal’s 74.1 winning percentage (78-24-10) over the past five years is the fourth-best in the nation among Division I teams in that time, and its 78 wins are the third most in the country.
What: NCAA Men’s College Cup third round
Teams: Coastal Carolina (14-6-1) at Stanford (16-2-1)
Time: 8 p.m. (Eastern)
Where: Laird Q. Cagan Stadium in Palo Alto, Calif.
CCU vs. Stanford Comparison
Coastal (21 games)
Stanford (19 games)
Goals per game
Goals allowed per game
Shots on goal per game
Saves per game
Corner kicks per game