There’s no denying the difficulty involved with ASU soccer’s road swing, playing at No. 11 Cal Friday and at No. 2 Stanford Sunday.
ASU (6-3), won its conference opener at home, but now play five consecutive road games, including a challenging trek into the Bay Area this weekend.
“Home and away factor has become very big,” ASU coach Kevin Boyd said. “Especially in the Pac(-12), everybody has an advantage or a disadvantage whether or not they’re home or away. Just the quality of the two teams is very good. It’s a smaller field surface, so that’ll impact things a little bit. Teams at home are just much more aggressive.”
Cal (8-0-3) is off to its best start since 2000, when it recorded a school-record 17 wins with Boyd as its head coach.
“I think the biggest thing is (Cal) believe(s) right now,” Boyd said. “They look to me like a team that, no matter who they’re playing against, they’re going to stay in it and find a way.”
The Stanford (8-0-1) game appears to be even more treacherous considering the Cardinal’s recent success. Stanford has lost a grand total of six games in the past five seasons, four of which came in the semifinal round or the championship game of the NCAA postseason.
In addition, the Cardinal hasn’t dropped a conference game since 2008 or a home game since 2007 (current home undefeated streak of 72 games).
Those kinds of staggering numbers could get anyone uneasy, but Boyd says ASU isn’t nervous or intimidated by the hefty challenge.
At least not anymore.
The difference this year to Boyd is that his team has gotten better.
He believes that now in his seventh season as ASU coach, the 2013 team is the best ASU team that he’s coached.
Last season, ASU played at Stanford, and held the Cardinal to a scoreless first half. The Sun Devils couldn’t keep up in the second half, but that first half gives ASU confidence.
“I’m hoping what we started last year we can continue this year,” Boyd said. “We put two halves like that together, and who knows what the result will be.”
-Stanford senior goalie Emily Oliver was forced to retire after a string of concussions. Oliver allowed just 0.36 goals per 90 minutes in her Stanford career, but ASU’s not catching a break as Stanford freshman goalie Jane Campbell has experience with the U.S. National team. “It’s not like they’re really dropped off a lot,” Boyd said.
-Under Boyd, ASU holds a combined record of 0-9-3 against Cal and Stanford.
-ASU’s last victory against Stanford was in 2003 at home. The Sun Devils’ last victory at Stanford was in 1998.
-The Sun Devils last defeated Cal in 2006, in Berkley, which was Boyd’s final season as Cal’s coach.
Reach the reporter at Justin.Janssen@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @jjanssen11