Aztecs kick off Pac-12 play against No. 11 Stanford


Photo by Weicheng Han

Redshirt sophomore forward Pablo Peleaz prepares to shoot during SDSU’s 0-1 loss to Utah Valley on September 10.

by Tony Zarate, Staff Writer

With Pac-12 Conference play right around the corner, San Diego State men’s soccer is looking to build on a strong 2016 season, which ended in a bid to the NCAA tournament.

A first round loss to University of Nevada, Las Vegas ended the Aztecs’ season, but they will begin the mission to return to the turnament.

The Aztecs have little-to-no room for error in a tough conference that includes Oregon State University, UCLA, University of Washington and the defending NCAA champions, Stanford University.

The Scarlet and Black will open Pac-12 play against No. 11 Cardinal. Stanford is 6-2 this season, and will be coming off of a 0-2 loss to University of Saint Louis.

The Aztecs finished third in last season’s campaign with a conference record of 4-3-3, while Stanford took the top spot in the Pac-12 with a record of 8-1-1.

Last season, SDSU didn’t have much luck against Stanford as the team dropped one game, 1-3. They met once again two weeks later and that contest ended in a 1-1, double-overtime tie.

The Scarlet and Black are accustomed to contentious matches.

“If we continue with our resilient defending and quick combinations, in the final third we will be a very difficult team to beat,” said redshirt sophomore forward Pablo Pelaez.

Pelaez is coming off of an outstanding 2016 season where he earned second-team All-Pac-12, Pac-12 All-Academic Honorable Mention, along with National Soccer Coaches Association of America Division I First-Team All-Far West Region.

SDSU’s strong defense will also play a big role in its success this season. In 2016, the team allowed 13 goals on 231 shot attempts, an average of less than one goal per game.

Redshirt senior Adam Allmaras played a major role in last season’s defensive success. Starting each game last season, the goalkeeper made 77 saves.

“I think that defense is more important,” Allmaras said. If you don’t get scored on then you can’t lose. We gotta stick to the process and grind out victories in the Pac-12.”

Grinding out victories is something that the Aztecs have done so far this season.

Coming off of two shutout victories, SDSU is 4-4, and there is great upside in its scoring efforts leading up to Stanford, said senior midfielder Thom Van den Berg.

“We are going to be very successful in conference,” Van den Berg said, “because we always create chances with the creativity and connections we have with our midfield and attack. With the support of our home fans we have proven to deregulate the back-to-back national champions.”

The Netherlands native has scored one goal and dished two assists in 2017 after going scoreless in only one start last season.

Attacking alongside Van den Berg is senior forward Jeroen Meefout.

He is proving thus far to be the Aztecs’ main offensive focus.

Already tying last season’s goal total with four goals, Meefout looks to to be a force to be reckoned with as the Aztecs look to claim another trip to the NCAA tournament.

Expect the Aztecs to resort to their defensive tactics as well, as they were able to put together an astounding stretch of 11 shutout victories last season.

The Aztecs start conference play this Thursday, Sept. 28 at the SDSU Sports Deck against Stanford.