Q & A With Men's Soccer Coach Dean Wurzberger

Sept. 1, 2005

Husky men's soccer opens the 2005 season at the Nike Portland Invitational this weekend and head coach Dean Wurzberger sat down with GoHuskies.com just prior to the team's departure for Portland. Wurzberger discusses the upcoming tournament and how his team is coming together after preseason training. UW will face Cal Poly in its opener Friday (Sept. 2) and then No. 12 Creighton Sunday (Sept. 4).

GoHuskies.com: With two weeks of training under your belt, how is the team coming together so far?
Dean Wurzberger: 'I've been very pleased with what I've seen. The effort from the players has been there, the routines that we've used seem to be in concert with what they're looking for, a lot of ball touches, a lot of contact. We seem to be in a rhythm. Between staff and players, I feel a coordination where they're giving us what we want and they're enjoying the process. We look ready and that should show tomorrow on the field. We won't be perfect, it's never been the case to be perfect. Can we be just that little bit better than Cal Poly, be a little better than we were Monday night in our scrimmage? Those are the things we're looking for.

'We are looking at tweaking our lineup a bit, we will not have Kevin Forrest and Ty Harden, two starters normally. Especially missing Ty, it will affect the way we defend. We're going to put a new wrinkle on that. We're going to play three at the back, as opposed to four. So we're changing up a little, but we think it suits our personnel. Offensively we look ahead of where we'd normally be. We look very fluid in the attack; our forwards are scoring goals at practice. I'm anxious to see it on the field in a game. I think we're ready to play an outside opponent, we've been scrimmaging each other in high intensity practices. Right now I feel a good camaraderie, a real team spirit which is very important, it's priceless.

'We've been very fortunate with a minimal amount of injuries. Ty brought his injury (hamstring) in from the summer; Forrest has had a history of nagging injuries (currently plantar fasciitis). So none of them were picked up in preseason. We've been very fortunate there.'

GH:Which individual performances have stood out so far in preseason?
DW: 'Our two front guys who picked up right where they left off in spring. We keep saying how important a year-round program is, but Ely Allen and Spencer Schmidt have looked absolutely great in preseason. Spencer had five goals in the month of April and Ely had four. They picked up right where they left off which is very impressive. As you know, goal scoring is the hardest part of the game to get going and again, it hasn't happened in matches but it's happened in training and we train against a pretty good standard of defenders. We're pleased with that.

'Derek Crismier has shown he's a very versatile player, we're looking at him at the center of the back for the first time since he's been here. With three players in the back, he'll be the central defender. So he's looked good. Mike Chabala has been steady as always. Evan Cummings looks like he could have the year of his career. He looks to be razor sharp. Leo Totev is always a threat.

'Our goalkeeping has looked great but it's hard to say - we only had the one exposure. Chris Eylander looks ahead of preseason form, he looks in midseason form. Optimism reigns - we now are devoted to making sure that we can put practice into game strategy and game performance.'

GH: How are the freshmen adapting to the system?
'The freshmen are adapting well. It's what we thought - George John and Jo Jo Katz would be close - and they are close. They're both outstanding. They will see major minutes right away. The other three are finding their way, we're seeing improvement. From the very beginning, our plan was to redshirt Rylan Hawkins. He's an outstanding goalkeeper but we have a senior goalkeeper who we think is going to carry the weight.'

GH:You open the season with five-straight road matches. What will be the key to starting strong?
DW: 'Good defending. We'll stay in every game through our defensive effort, which will give us a chance to score and win. I don't think it's (starting on the road) a negative. We played extremely well on the road in the early part of last year and the majority of those players are back. We return 20 players so that's a heck of a veteran start. We really didn't have to go back to square one in preseason, we more picked up from spring. So the key is staying focused. I think you come with a little more focus when you're on the road; there is that little bit of uncertainty, which kind of sharpens your nerves and your senses. I don't see a problem.'

GH: What are your thoughts on your first two opponents, Cal Poly and Creighton?
DW: 'Cal Poly is an unknown. We played at their place a few years ago. It was a scary affair because they had a very narrow, bumpy field and it was windy and they played direct. We managed to get a goal at the end to win the game. They were very direct and physical, and I'm sure we can expect that. Creighton's a legitimate playoff team every year. We played them last year in Las Vegas. They are a playoff team, as we are, so that matchup proves to be our first big test, not to downgrade Cal Poly, they have a track record of success and we need to make sure we're on our toes.

'We're ready to go. Portland's a comfortable place for us, but it's not home. A lot of people think it's home for us. It's a comfortable environment, beautiful grass field, good width that favors a possession based team - which we think we are. This team may be more confident at putting the ball on the ground and keeping possession, not using as much direct play but building the game from back to middle to front. That's been kind of a theme that started in spring. We seem to have a very good ability at being able to keep possession by putting passes together before we make an entry into the final third. But a goal scorer will make the difference. We've been scoring in practice and now we need to score in games.'

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