Six Teams in Six Days: Oregon State Men's Soccer Preview
Aug. 19, 2006
A year after narrowly missing out on what would have been its third NCAA Tournament in four years, the Oregon State men's soccer team has every reason to believe that the Beavers will be back in the postseason in 2006.
'I think from top to bottom, it's the strongest team we've ever assembled,' eighth-year head coach Dana Taylor said. 'Though we're still a young team, we've gained a ton of experience. We have good team speed at every position. Everyone has learned a great deal over the last year, which will help us in the new campaign.'
Last season, the Beavers thought they had done enough to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament after going 9-7-4 overall and 5-5 in the Pacific-10 Conference, good for third place. Among the highlights were a school-record 10-game unbeaten streak and three consecutive wins over ranked teams in Pac-10 play.
But, when OSU was bypassed for the tournament, planning began immediately for 2006.
'We don't have to say much about it,' Taylor said. 'We decided to get after it and work harder, so we would be better prepared for this year. We have to treat every game like it's our last chance to get into the NCAA Tournament, knowing one game can make a difference. The players are motivated to not let it happen again.'
OSU put a very young team out on the pitch last year. Due to numerous injuries, several freshmen were thrust into the lineup, and as many as six were starting at one time. Only three seniors departed from the squad.
The Beavers return eight starters, 17 letterwinners and five redshirts from last year's team. They're joined by five true freshmen. OSU is still on the youthful side, as 17 of the 28 players on this year's roster are freshmen or sophomores.
OSU's philosophy is based on an unsurpassed work ethic.
'That's the cornerstone of the program,' Taylor said. 'We are a blue-collar team. Even though we have special players, we recruit players that bring a never-say-die attitude for the entire 90 minutes. Players have to be willing to go until the job is done.'
With all of the talent that Taylor has brought together, the biggest issue will be making the best use of it.
'It's a good problem to have,' he said. 'You look at our lineup and you try to find places for everyone. It may be hard to break into the starting lineup the next couple of years. The depth on the bench is incredible. Each player's role is more clearly defined than ever. It's a win-win situation because all of the players will get better, and in turn, the team gets better.
'A lot of players on this team have played a lot of minutes and have garnered a lot of experience. They'll bring that to the field this year. I thought that last year's was the deepest squad we had ever assembled. This year the depth is even greater.'
Among the newer elements to the program, lights have been added to Lorenz Field (see page four) and the Beavers welcome new assistant coaches Paul Meehan, Jim Cofer and Gary Hamel. The lights will add to OSU's allure, and Taylor is very happy with the expertise that his new assistants bring.
Meehan, the associate head coach, has been an assistant at Marshall and Fresno State. Cofer, an assistant coach, was one of the directors for the Colorado Rush Soccer Club, an assistant coach at Metro State and an assistant goalkeeper coach for the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer. Hamel, a volunteer assistant coach, previously worked with Taylor at the Bend United Soccer Club.
For the second straight year, Dr. Jerry Lynch, a leading sport psychologist who has helped numerous college and professional championship teams and athletes, will advise the Beavers. OSU will again spend a week of its preseason in Bend, Ore., for high-altitude training.
Here's a look at the 2006 Beavers broken down by position:
The likely starters are seniors Robbie Findley (Phoenix, Ariz./Shadow Mountain HS) and Bryan Jordan (Temple City, Calif./Temple City HS), and the duo should be explosive. Findley is a three-time All-Pac-10 selection and was the 2003 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. He ranks fourth all-time at OSU with 22 goals. Jordan, who has had to wait his turn to become a starting forward behind the likes of MLS players Alan Gordon and Ryan Johnson, has 10 career goals.
'Robbie had a great freshman campaign but injuries slowed him down a bit,' Taylor said. 'He's been healthy through the spring and summer. He'll be a handful for everyone he goes against, and he can beat you many different ways. This is his year to showcase his talent and move on to the pros.
'I believe Bryan is going to have a great senior year. The last three seasons he's been stuck behind a great player. Still, Bryan has been a real goal-getter despite his limited minutes. He has worked extremely hard on the technical aspects of his game. He's a guy that wants to move on to the pros, and I think he'll have a dynamic year.'
Junior Nick Webb (Bellingham, Wash./Squalicum HS/Western Washington), who scored four goals last year after transferring in, and sophomore Robby Christner (Springfield, Ore./Thurston HS), who redshirted last year, are two other returners who hope to make a mark at forward. Freshmen David Gates (Bountiful, Utah/Woodscross HS) and Justin Woodward (Corvallis, Ore./Corvallis HS) add depth and will hope to contribute.
The four midfielders who started the most last year are all back. Senior Lucas Egenwall (Falkenberg, Sweden) was an All-Pac-10 honorable mention selection after scoring three goals in his first season at OSU. Junior Brett Gardner (Portland, Ore./Sunset HS) also made All-Pac-10 honorable mention and has scored seven goals in two seasons. Sophomores Ryan Callahan (Lafayette, Calif./Acalanes HS) and Collin Foster (Hillsboro, Ore./Jesuit HS) fared well after being thrown into the fire as freshmen last year, and more is expected of them in their second season.
'Lucas came in last year and did a great job for us,' Taylor said. 'Brett has been a real staple in the lineup. Ryan has been a very solid player. Collin was injured in the spring, but as long as he's healthy he will be a key player.'
The Beavers have excellent depth at midfield beyond the four incumbents. Junior Mason Webb (Bellingham, Wash./Squalicum HS) has seen a great deal of action in two seasons. Sophomore Tracy Hasson (Lake Oswego, Ore./Lake Oswego HS) is a former state player of the year. Junior Hiroshi Nishito (Tokyo, Japan), a technically sound player, joined the team last year, though he did not appear in any games.
Freshmen Ryan Fitzgerald (Beaverton, Ore./Westview HS), Oregon's prep player of the year, and Kevin Rayo (Katy, Texas/Taylor HS) will also try to figure into Taylor's plans.
The central pairing of junior Alex Christensen (Las Vegas, Nev./Chaparral HS) and sophomore Daniel Leach (Scarborough, Australia) may be among the best in the country. Christensen was an All-Pac-10 honorable mention pick as a freshman and was well on his way to an even better sophomore year, but he suffered a knee injury and missed the last 12 games of the season. Leach was a Freshman All-American and an All-Pac-10 honorable mention pick, and was one of only two players to start all 20 games.
'These two are really making a statement with their play,' Taylor said. 'Alex is healthy and he had a successful PDL season in Colorado. He is sharp, fit and ready to go. Daniel was excellent last year and the two of them together solidify our defense.'
A few different faces will patrol the outside spots this year. Either Gardner or sophomore Josh Cameron (Gresham, Ore./Centennial HS) could be the starter on the left, while sophomore Joey Loreth (Victoria, B.C., Canada/Oak Bay HS) may take over the right side. Cameron played in 15 games last year, largely as a midfielder, while Loreth, a member of the Canadian U-20 National Team, played in nine games last year. He hopes to play in the FIFA U-20 World Cup next summer, which is being hosted by Canada.
'Josh has done a great job learning the left back position,' Taylor said. 'Joey is getting some high-level exposure playing for Canada with matches against the likes of the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Brazil and the United States. His international experience will benefit us.'
Senior Matt Bowman (Tigard, Ore./Tigard HS) filled in admirably as a central defender in 2005 and should be asked to do so again.
'Matt's experience, technical ability and calmness under pressure will be important to the team's success at either center or right back,' Taylor said.
Sophomore Lloyd Fobi (Messa, Cameroon) got his first taste of action last year and will push for time on the right side. Redshirt freshmen Sean Tripi (Hillsboro, Ore./Century HS) and Ryan Vilhauer (Eugene, Ore./Sheldon HS) also return, and true freshman Jordan Harris (Eagle, Idaho/Eagle HS) joins the mix.
Sophomore Packy Deenihan (Pleasanton, Calif./Foothill HS) will look to keep hold of the starting position for the second straight year. He had a 1.29 goals-against average, eighth-best in school history, and posted four shutouts. His backups are junior Jason Mariner (Phoenix, Ariz./Pinnacle HS), the starter in 2004, and redshirt freshman Mike Miller (Portland, Ore./Centennial HS).
'Packy has solidified his role as a starter,' Taylor said. 'His calm demeanor, clear communication and good hands have earned his teammates' respect.'