A Season of Change: A New Era...
It is a year of change for the 1996 men's soccer team. This young squad faces the challenges of working with a new head coach, a new focus and returning Stanford to national prominence.
The direction this team takes will come from new head coach Bobby Clark. Clark, a native of Scotland, was named the Director of Soccer and Men's Head Coach on April 8, 1996. Clark will oversee the operation of both the men's and women's programs in addition to his duties at the helm of the men's team. He brings a long list of credentials to The Farm. In nine seasons at Dartmouth, Clark posted an 82-42-13 record. Most recently, he served as the New Zealand National Team Head Coach and worked with the Senior, Olympic, Under-20 and Under-17 squads. Combined, Clark had a 21-12-3 record Down Under.
In addition to his list of credentials, Clark brings a new focus to his Stanford team.
"This 'Team' is not about 11 players. Rather the game we play is a reflection of the whole squad on and off the field," said Clark. "The Stanford Soccerstyle has an increased work ethic and a solid team orientation in order to see success."
This new focus requires backing from the entire team. Clark began steering the team to play as one unit with a common goal: concentrating on the task at hand. Clark taught this philosophy during the spring and was pleased with the team's efforts.
"The permutations and combinations we as coaches have to choose from are many, but it is very important that all the players grasp the team concept and find a personal role within the philosophy. That way they can contribute to making 1996 a memorable year for Stanford Soccer," said Clark.
The majority of this team will have to overcome the memory of recent seasons. Last year, Stanford ended with a 5-12-1 record after starting the season 3-1-0. The 1996 schedule will not make this an easy task. The Cardinal does not have much time before testing their new focus on top teams. Stanford heads east to play Creighton and Drake before traveling to San Diego State and the University of San Diego.
"I believe if we look after the little things and emphasize the fundamentals of soccer, there will be growth and satisfaction within the team at the end of the season," Clark said.
The Cardinal squad is full of youth, with 15 underclassmen, of which six are new to The Farm. Here's a breakdown by position of the 1996 Stanford Cardinal.
The most contested position this year, Stanford is very deep at goalkeeper. Senior Ryan Craig and sophomore Jon Bruck saw all the action in goal last year. The two combined for a 1.80 goals against average and four shutouts. Grant Brown, who sat out last year with an injury, returns to challenge for the number one spot. The Cardinal also adds two top freshmen to the goalkeeper list: Bobby Randolph and Adam Zapala.
"There will be a lot of interest in this position at the start of the year. Players will not only be competing for the starting spot, but they'll fight to make the travel squad too," Clark said.
Of Stanford's six defenders, only one is new to The Farm. This veteran depth gives Clark the opportunity to find the combination that fits together best. Junior Jason Roeder, senior Jon Manchester and junior Daniel Wytock saw most of the action last year in Stanford's last line of defense. Additionally, the Cardinal is looking forward to the return of senior co-captains Brad Davies, who sat out most of last year with an injury and Matt Foley. Other key players in the back combination are sophomore Jeff Szekeres and freshman Gerard Davis.
"Stanford's style is to use the whole team defensively, not only the backs," said Clark. "The defenders must show ability to stop players, but they also serve as the first line of creativity when we have the ball."
Like the defenders, Stanford has a variety of options in the lineup. The depth of eight midfielders gives the coaching staff tactical alternatives on the field. The Cardinal will look to junior Shan Gaw and sophomore T.K. Inbody to continue creating opportunities in the midfield. Senior Erik Morrison, sophomore A.J. Sauer and sophomore Aaron Jones will also add to the mix. Sophomore transfer Jamie Clark and freshman Andy Hemmerich will compete with the Cardinal veterans for playing time. Junior Eric Vandevelde, the team's leading scorer last season, is questionable for this year after suffering a knee injury in the spring.
"This is an exciting challenge for us to find the right lineup and identify the alternatives to create a strong midfield," Clark said.
The forward line is led by fifth-year senior Steve Kirschbaum. Two sophomores, Dan Traylor and Adam Siegman, return poised to make a major impact on the offense. Stanford also adds freshman Brandon Garinger to the forwards.
"This is an important area for us this year. The team's success depends a lot on how this group performs," said Clark.