Oct. 3, 2006
The University of San Francisco soccer team (7-3-1, 2-2 WCC; ranked #18 by College Soccer News) looks to continue its forward momentum visiting LMU Friday (7:00 p.m.) and San Diego Sunday (2:00 p.m.) in Southern California.
The Dons, selected by WCC coaches to win their third straight conference title, entered last weekend with a three game losing streak, but were able to pull out of the slump in convincing fashion. Friday night, after surrendering an early goal to Gonzaga, the Dons were able to pull even on a Rob Valentino penalty kick and win the game on a goal by Aaron Chandler. It was Chandler's 13th career game-winning goal and his 14th WCC goal. On Sunday, the Dons had to battle back twice against the Pilots, with Neil Stuart's first USF career goal tying the score at one and Aaron Chandler's 15th career WCC goal sending the game into overtime. It was a very short extra session, with USF freshman Conor Chinn scoring his first career game-winner just 33 seconds into extra time.
"We came out against Gonzaga like a team that had lost three straight," said Head Coach Erik Visser. "We played with a lack of confidence and quickly went down 1-0. We were able to fight back and battle for a win.
"Against Portland, a lack of concentration caused up to give up two goals on corner kicks, but we played what I thought was our best game in league play. We had possession of the ball throughout and that is what enabled us to score the three goals we needed."
"Now we have battled back into the WCC race," he continued. "But we have two very difficult games this weekend away from home. We have done a nice job on the road (4-2-1) so far this season, so hopefully we can keep it going."
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A WEEK MAKES: Two weeks ago, USF played well enough but found themselves on the short side of losses to St. Mary's and Santa Clara. Last week, USF was able to fight from behind in both contests and was the only WCC team to get to wins on the weekend. USF notches one goal victories over Gonzaga and Portland.
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.
Last year, when USF won the WCC, they did not have a great weekend when they hosted the Northwest teams, tying Gonzaga and losing in overtime to Portland. This week, the Dons will have equals last year's extraordinary sweep of LMU and San Diego. The Dons topped LMU 1-0 in Los Angeles and the Toreros 3-0 in San Diego.
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 58-42-9 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. USF then lost three straight and was outscored 5-1. Last weekend, USF outscored. its opponents 5-3
The defense has certainly been outstanding this year allowing just ten goals over the first 11 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.
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 13th career game winner against Gonzaga last Friday. He has 15 career WCC goals and can surpass the career WCC mark of Gonzaga's Jeff McAlister with just two more goals this season. He also needs 7 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 ConorChinn (who scored at San Jose State and tallied the GWG vs. Portland) 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 four goals and two assists. Chandler scored his 13th career game-winning goal Friday vs. GonzagaConor Chinn is second in scoring with two goals 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.
ABOUT LMU: Loyola Marymount started the season off with a bang, topping #2 UConn in Connecticut. They are 2-1-1 in WCC play splitting with Gonzaga (1-0 W) and Portland (0-1 L) the first weekend and then winning 2-1 at Santa Clara last Friday and coming from behind to tie St. Mary's 1-1 on Sunday. They are led in scoring by David Niemeyer who has three goals and one assist and they have allowed just 0.88 goals per contest. Robert Flores has allowed just eight goals in nine matches and allowed more than a single goal just once.
ABOUT SAN DIEGO: San Diego came out of the blocks fast. They enter the upcoming weekend outscoring their opponents 32-9. However, after topping Portland 1-0 and Gonzaga 4-0 in theiur first two league games, they hit a skid last weekend, losing 4-2 at St. Mary's and 2-1 at Santa Clara. The Toreros will have the advantage of resting until Sunday to play USF, while the Dons play a tough league game against LMU Friday.
VISSER ON THE MATCHUPS: "These two teams are definitely the cream of the crop, capable of beating anyone in the country. Last year, we were able to sweep on this roadtrip, which was a very difficult task. We have been a pretty good road team so far and we will come ready to play."