Sept. 19, 2006
The University of San Francisco (#11 College Soccer News, #13 Soccer America, #12 Soccer Times), after a grueling non-conference schedule that saw it play all but one of its seven games away from home, begins defense of its back-to-back West Coast Conference titles this weekend. Of their first seven contests, five of the opponents were ranked in the preseason top-25.
USF (5-1-1) opens WCC play with a Friday afternoon contest at Saint Mary's (2-3-3) followed by a showdown with #15 Santa Clara Sunday at 7:00 pm. USF's home game with the Broncos (4-2-1) will be their first home game since August 27th, ending a streak of six consecutive road contests. It will also be the first game of a three game home stand that includes games against Gonzaga and Portland the following weekend.
HEAD COACH Erik Visser: A former USF defender, whose marking of Angelo DiBernardo in the NCAA title game helped the Dons earn the 1978 crown, Visser joined the USF coaching staff as an assistant to NCAA legend Stephen Negoesco in 1982. While an assistant, he also served as the initial head coach for the women's program in 1985. He took over the men's program in 2001, and has had great success over the past two seasons, earning West Coast Conference Coach of the Year Honors in 2004 and 2005. He currently has a 56-40-9 mark in his sixth season. Visser coached his 100th game at USF in the home opener this year against Stanford.
GOING FOR THE TRIPLE: The Dons will be going for their third consecutive West Coast Conference crown. USF won the 2004 title with a 9-3-0 mark and the 2005 title with a 6-3-3 record. The Dons were selected to win the 2006 league championship in a poll of WCC coaches, edging Santa Clara. Both the Dons and Broncos had three first place votes.
WCC COACHES POLL: 1. San Francisco 32 (3); 2. Santa Clara 31 (3), 3. San Diego - 28 (1), 4. LMU 23; 5. Portland, St. Mary's- 12, 7. Gonzaga - 9.
DEFENSE LEADING THE WAY: The defense has certainly been outstanding this year allowing just four goals over the first seven games. In fact the Dons began the season with 437 shutout minutes before giving up a goal to Ohio State in the fifth game of the season.
The USF defense includes 2005 WCC Defender of the Year Rob Valentino, senior Kevin Long, sophomore Kyle Schlumpf and newcomer Chris Rodd. Rodd, a junior from the Bay Area, played his first two years at William and Mary before transferring to USF last season. In goal, USF starts senior Geremy Uhl, who has 21 career shutouts and had the lowest league goals against average in the West Coast Conference over the past two seasons. USF currently has a 0.55 goals against average.
UHL WHITEWASHES: Geremy Uhl has now shutout out every team he has faced in the Bay Area (Cal, Stanford, Santa Clara, St. Mary's, San Jose State) over his career. He has also already shut out every West Coast Conference squad at least once (Portland, Gonzaga, St. Mary's, Santa Clara, San Diego and Loyola Marymount.) He has 22 career shutouts and is nearing the record for most shutouts in WCC play held by Portland's Casey Keller (13).
Last year, Uhl led the WCC in goals against average in WCC play (0.85) and shutouts (5). He needs one more WCC shutout to equal Kasey Keller (of Portland and the US National team) for most shutouts in league play (13).
He also won USF Most Valuable Player last season. As a sophomore helped lead USF to WCC crown with a 0.38 goals against average.
Aaron Chandler: Aaron Chandler scored his 12th career game winner against CS Northridge Friday. He has 13 career WCC goals and can surpass the career WCC mark of Gonzaga's Jeff McAlister this season. He also needs 11 points in WCC play to become the conference's all-time leading scorer.
NEWCOMERS: Although they have won two consecutive WCC titles, the Dons have added a lot of new blood this season. Included is defender Chris Rodd, who has been a key member of the defense. Also joining the team this year and having played significant minutes is junior college All-American forward Ardalan Attar (who scored against Stanford and CS Northridge), high school All-American Jesse Henderson, Seattle University transfer Conor Chinn (who scored at San Jose State) and Tyler Ruthven, who has seen time at midfield and defender.
SCORING LEADERS: Aaron Chandler, who led the team in scoring over the past two seasons, currently leads the team with two goals and two assists. Chandler scored his 12th career game-winning goal Friday at Cal State Northridge. Ardalan Attar has two goals on just six shots.
LAST WEEK: USF traveled to Southern California to face Cal State Northridge last Friday and UCLA last Sunday, both teams that were ranked in the top-25 to start the season.
On Friday, Ardalan Attar put the Dons on the scoreboard first, blasting a shot from the top of the box with just 12 seconds remaining before halftime. After Cal State Northridge tied the game with just over 10 minutes left, Aaron Chandler scored the winning goal on a pass from Conor Chinn with 3:53 remaining in the contest. The Dons fought off atough Northridge squad that would be Santa Clara by a 4-1 count Sunday.
Sunday, the Dons gave up a goal in the 17th minute (the first time the Dons trailed all year) and a goal with under two minutes remaining in the contest as they fell 2-0 to UCLA. USF had several chances to score in the contest, but were thwarted by a goalkeeper save or a wide shot. Close in shots by Aaron Chandler and Brandon McDonald were saved by Bruins' keeper Eric Reed. Strangely enough, UCLA scored on the only two shots they had on goal all afternoon.
ABOUT SAINT MARY'S: The Gaels, who host USF Friday, will not be overlooked by USF as they topped USF 1-0 in the league opener last year on a controversial penalty kick goal. Carlos Diaz is the Gaels' leading scorer with three goals and two assists. David Blanchard has two goals for St. Mary's, who has given up ten goals and scored 10 this year. The only common opponent with USF is San Jose State, who the Gaels fell to 1-0 and the Dons defeated 2-0.Last season after St. Mary's won 1-0 in Moraga, the Dons took the return game at Negoesco 4-1.
ABOUT SANTA CLARA: The Broncos (#15 Soccer America, #17 College Soccer News, #25 Soccer Times) had a rough time in Los Angeles, last weekend, losing 2-1 at UCLA and 4-1 at Cal State Northridge for their first two losses of the season. Like USF, they have had a very difficult preconference schedule (they play San Jose State Friday before Sunday's matchup). Probably their most impressive wins were 4-1 decisions over St. Louis and Niagara. Besides the two losses in Southern California, the only other common opponents were California (1-1 tie) and Stanford (1-0 win), teams that USF defeated earlier this year. Peter Lowry is the Broncos leading scorer with 4 goals (three of them penalty kicks).
Last year, USF and Santa Clara played to a scoreless tie at Negoesco before the Broncos won 3-0 at Buck Shaw. It was the most goals allowed by the Dons last year.
VISSER ON THE MATCHUPS: "We know that there will be no easy games in WCC play. The league is just that good. We also know that last year we lost at St. Mary's and played a 0-0 tie with Santa Clara at home. It would be a big help to start league play better than that.
"Last year we started league play 2-3-2 after seven games and ended up 6-3-3. Its up to us to get off to a better start. Both these teams are very talented. They should be well played games.