By Mark Soltau
As the 100th season of Stanford men’s soccer winds down, Cardinal head coach Jeremy Gunn marvels about the support he has received – near and far – from former players. The program has a rich tradition, reaching post-season play 11 times and was NCAA runner-up in 1998 and 2002. The current team is battling to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, and looks to have solidified its case for an at-large berth with Wednesday night’s 2-1 win over fifth-ranked Cal.
“We’ve had some great alumni events where I’ve gotten to meet a lot of good people,” said Gunn. “Hopefully, we can just keep reaching out and share the wonderful experiences. There’s not too many alums that wouldn’t come back for one more year of school and play.”
Alums like Adam Jahn, now a member of the San Jose Earthquakes. He loved his time at Stanford, and has returned to school during the off-season to complete a degree in management, science and engineering.
“You step on the field, are grateful to put on the jersey, grateful to be standing next to your teammates, and grateful to be at such a great place,” Jahn said. “It was one of the best experiences of my life and I miss it.”
Jahn, a Carmichael, Calif. native, was a four-year starter at forward for Stanford and was a two-time All-Pac-12 and All-Far West Region selection. He scored 24 goals and added 12 assists in 65 career games. Jahn was picked in the first round of the 2013 MLS Supplemental Draft, and was the 15th overall selection.
According to Jahn, one of the best parts about playing soccer at Stanford was the annual alumni game each spring.
“I always thought it was cool because we had two games: one for the guy who could still move around and play against the current team; then there was a whole, separate game for all the guys who went to Stanford in the ’60s and ’70s,” said Jahn. “It was really cool to see how long Stanford soccer has been around and that guys still care about it 30-40 years later. It was cool to meet them, hear where their lives went and hear a few stories about their days and how different it was.”
Two interesting observations emerged from those discussions.
“They acknowledge the game wasn’t as serious,” Jahn said. “The game has gotten more and more fast and physical, and players have great skills. One of the biggest things they mentioned is the jerseys have changed so much. They wore these original, old-school jerseys compared to these modern, colorful one’s today. They got a kick out of that.”
Gunn enjoys having the alums visit and never knows who might drop by.
“We’ve got some people who have been extremely successful in the business world in all different forms,” he said. “But also, we’ve got some great people who have been very successful in the world of soccer. Ryan Nelsen stops by to chat and see his old pitch. That’s pretty special for someone who went on to have an incredible career in the English Premier League, not just playing, but being a club captain for seven years.”
Nelsen played at Stanford for two years (1999-2000) and was a defensive midfielder. He earned team MVP honors as a junior and was named an NSCAA All-American as a senior. He was the fourth overall draft pick in the 2001 MLS SuperDraft by D.C. United, and spent four years in the MLS. After playing in Europe, he captained the New Zealand national team.
“When you get to see people like that, you say, ‘Wow, that’s pretty cool,’ ’’ said Gunn.
Peter McGowan, former President and Managing General Partner of the San Francisco Giants (1993-2008), played four years of soccer at Stanford. The former Chairman and CEO of Safeway led a group to investors that bought the Giants in 1993, preventing a possible move to Florida, and helped spearhead construction of AT&T Park.
“I sort of walked onto the field as a freshman, not having played soccer in high school,” McGowan said. “I did play in grade school from first grade through eighth grade, so I thought I’d return to soccer. I didn’t expect to make the freshman team, then I did. In fact, I was captain of it. And then I made the varsity my sophomore year and we had an extremely good team. I played right wing, and the person ahead of me got injured, and I think we went something like 9-1.
“My junior year, I was back to my customary position on the bench. And then my senior year, I was on the junior varsity. So my career was certainly not one that got better and better, but I very much enjoyed it.”
What does McGowan recall most?
“I remember being on the practice field the day (President John F.) Kennedy was killed,” said McGowan, who earned a political science degree, and then a Master’s at Oxford. “And I remember that the Giants were in the World Series in 1962. Between trying to keep up with them and being on the soccer field on time, it was a challenge.”
So was playing on the Stanford soccer field.
“I was pretty damn wet,” he said. “Somehow the field didn’t drain all that well. The ball would get heavy and I never particularly liked heading the ball. When it got rainy, that ball got pretty heavy.”
McGowan hasn’t stayed in touch with his former teammates but has good memories.
“They were a great bunch,” said McGowan.
One alum who has remained close to the program is Corey Woolfolk (1997-2000). The former high school All-American from Ann Arbor, Mich. helped the Cardinal compete for the national title in 1998 and was drafted by the Earthquakes in the fifth round of the 2001 MLS SuperDraft. Woolfolk, a midfielder, played professionally until 2008.
“He loves Stanford soccer and bleeds Cardinal,” Jahn said. “He’s a great contact and helps a lot of guys find places to play, even abroad, and has really helped the program grow.”
Jahn will always be grateful for his soccer experience on The Farm, and plans to visit frequently.
“The guys on the teams were my best friends and still are,’’ he said. “Hopefully, we’ll be friends for life.”
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