OMAHA, Neb. – The rains came, lightning hit and then Eric Verso thundered home the game winner in the 95th minute to send Stanford back to The Farm with a 2-1 victory over Omaha at Caniglia Field late Sunday night.
The match start was moved up one hour, to 6 p.m. CT, early Sunday morning in the hopes of avoiding projected storms rolling through Eastern Nebraska. The forecast was correct, but the adjusted scheduled proved unable to save the sides from an extended delay. Following a little over 12 minutes of action, the two teams were forced to restlessly wait for three hours as strong storms pummeled the region. It was nearly 9:20 p.m. local time before play resumed and after 11 p.m. when Verso netted his timely tally.
With Stanford (1-1-0) displaying a good bit of possession, Alex Ainscough started the decisive run when he played the ball through to Zach Batteer. The senior forward managed to get off a good cross to Bobby Edwards, who unleashed a strike on goal that was saved by Omaha (0-2-0) keeper Josh Christiensen. Verso was first to respond to the rebound and smashed the ball into the roof of the net from close range.
“We had a great mentality tonight,” Stanford head coach Jeremy Gunn said. “I think everybody took care of their jobs and put in a solid performance. With the delay and the downpour there were difficult conditions all throughout the weekend and we responded well.”
The Cardinal was dominant throughout the first half, firing off seven shots to Omaha’s two and earning five corners to the Mavericks’ one. Stanford’s relentless pressure paid off in the 41st minute, when redshirt senior Bobby Edwards registered his first career goal off an early cross to put his team on top, 1-0.
Verso and Batteer combined to set up Edwards for his mark. Sunday marked Verso’s first three-point affair since scoring and assisting in a 6-1 Cardinal victory at Cal on Nov. 9, 2012.
“We started the game in great style,” Gunn added. “I thought we were very sharp and were in a good groove when the delay came. It’s tough being cooped up, having to wait and then wait again, but we came back out and definitely deserved to take the lead.”
Omaha was able to reassert itself a bit in the second half, putting a bit more pressure on sophomore keeper Andrew Epstein, who earned his first career victory on Sunday. In the 68th minute, Logan Mendez took a pass from Jake McCain and deposited the ball in the bottom right corner to knot things up, 1-1, providing a platform for Verso’s heroics.
Stanford has not lost an overtime game since Nov. 1, 2012 at UCLA (2-1, 2OT), a streak that has now reached nine. The Cardinal is 5-0-4 in such contests over that span.
“We were pressing to go 2-0 up and would have been more comfortable, but didn’t quite get that lead,” Gunn added. “After dominance in the first half, Omaha managed to have some counters in the second and got back into the game. Then it’s game on. It was a gut check for the team and they responded well.”
Stanford returns home for a run of five straight at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium to close out the non-conference portion of its schedule. It will be a welcome change following an intense weekend of weather in the Midwest. The forecast for Saturday’s 7 p.m. start against San Jose State calls for clear skies and temperatures in the mid-60s.
“We played in two great soccer environments this weekend and have to give wonderful credit to the UNO athletic department for creating and maintaining a first-rate soccer facility,” said Gunn. “With the amount of rain there has been over the few days, most facilities would have been struggling to even host a game, but the staff here was fantastic.”