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#23 Dons Look To Rebound At Home Versus Gonzaga and Portland This Weekend

Sept. 26, 2006

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The University of San Francisco soccer team (5-3-1, 0-2 WCC; ranked #23 by College Soccer News) looks to bounce back from two tough one-goal losses when they host Gonzaga Friday (7:00 p.m.) and Portland Sunday (2:00 p.m.) at Negoesco Stadium.

The Dons, selected by WCC coaches to win their third straight conference title, fell at St. Mary's 1-0 in Moraga on Friday afternoon and lost 2-1 at home to Santa Clara at home Sunday night. The Dons outshot their opponents in both games, but were unable to capitalize on the scoring chances that were presented.

"Against St. Mary's we started slowly, allowed them a goal and then battled back but couldn't score," said Head Coach Erik Visser. "The game against Santa Clara was a very well played, competitive college soccer game. The early goal they scored changed the whole dynamic of the contest.

"Obviously, we are not off to the type of start that we wanted," he continued. "But we've been up against it before and have fought our way back. We have to battle back again."

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A WEEK MAKES: A week ago, USF had a 5-1-1 mark, was ranked in all the top-20 rankings and eager to start WCC play. After a pair of one-goal losses, the Dons are just one of two teams to have not recorded a win in league play, the other being Friday's opponent, Gonzaga.

SLOW STARTS HAVE BEEN A TRAIT: The Dons opened WCC play with a 0-2 mark. Slow starts have been the way that USF has begun the last two conference season, which both resulted in WCC crowns. In 2004, USF started 0-2 also, losing to Santa Clara and LMU on the way to a 9-3-0 mark. Last season USF dropped its first game at St. Mary's and was 2-3-2 at one point before winning the league at 6-3-3.

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 56-42-9 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.

HOT EARLY, COOLER LATE: The Dons opened the season red-hot, winning its first four games and being undefeated in its first six. Over the first six games, USF outscored its opponents 10-2. However, over the past three games USF is 0-3 and been outscored 5-1.

The defense has certainly been outstanding this year allowing just seven goals over the first nine 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 0.76 goals against average.

The defense was honored at the Penn State Classic with Kevin Long being named MVP and Rob Valentino, Chris Rodd and Geremy Uhl being named to the all-tournament team.

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 he 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. 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. Matt Languis scored a goal in the Dons' last contest vs. Santa Clara to give him Ardalan Attar has two goals on just six shots.

LAST WEEK: Friday afternoon, USF traveled to St. Mary's to open WCC play. The Gaels attacked the Dons early and tallied a goal at the 20:32 mark. After a clear by the Dons defense, a cross found Alex Christlieb who volleyed it past Geremy Uhl from close range. The Dons were thwarted in their attempts to tie as shots by Adam Bergman and Matt Languis bounced out off the crossbar. USF outshot the Gaels 11-9, but for the second straight season lost a 1-0 decision.The Dons played their first home game in less than a month and fell to #15 Santa Clara 2-1. The Broncos scored in the third minute when Geremy Uhl saved a shot from Amaechi Igwe, but the rebound bounced to Keith Devey who placed it into the open net. USF battled and had several chances to tie before SCU's Sean Danzeiser grabbed a loose ball in the box at 63:42 and beat Uhl from close range. The Dons got back to 2-1 when Matt Languis scored off a free kick, but despite outshooting the Broncos 10-3 in the second half, the Dons fell.

ABOUT GONZAGA: Gonzaga (3-4-1), who earned a 1-1 tie at Negoesco Stadium last year, opened WCC play 0-2, dropping a 1-0 decision at LMU Friday and falling 4-0 at San Diego on Sunday. The Bulldogs are led by George Josten, who has scored six goals and added three assists. They have impressive wins over UNLV (4-1), Xavier (3-0) and also won at Oregon State (4-1).

VISSER ON THE MATCHUPS: "We did not achieve what we wanted to in the first week of league play. Obviously, the league is very strong again. Last year when we hosted these teams (Gonzaga and Portland) we came up with a loss and a tie. We have to perform and get some results."