2007 Men's Soccer Preview: Oregon State

Aug. 27, 2007

Courtesy: Jason Amberg, OSU Media Relations

Dana Taylor can see the parallels between his 2007 Oregon State men's soccer team and his squads that made the NCAA Tournament just a few years ago.

The ninth-year head coach sees similarities when he thinks about things like the camaraderie amongst the players, the leadership, the morale, the blend of experienced returning players and the exciting group of newcomers. The 2007 Beavers are even using a system similar to those earlier teams.

'The last couple of years have been disappointing because we didn't get to the NCAA Tournament,' Taylor said. 'But this year feels like it will be our year.'

Taylor is extremely pleased with the program's continued improvement over the past several years in many areas. More former OSU players than ever are now in professional soccer. The squad's overall GPA is regularly over a 3.15 and 12 OSU student-athletes earned spots on the Pacific-10 Conference All-Academic team last season, far more than any other school. Hours spent doing community service has been on the upswing under Taylor's tenure. Lights were added to Lorenz Field in 2006, creating an electric atmosphere at night games.

'The culture that we are putting together with the Oregon State soccer program is second-to-none,' he said. 'Our guys are part of a tight-knit family. With the coaching staff now having been together a full year, everyone is on the same page. Our student-athletes truly believe in what we're doing, and we're all excited about this fall.'

Taylor's staff consists of associate head coach Paul Meehan and assistant coach Jim Cofer, both of whom are in their second season. Dr. Jerry Lynch will continue to advise the program in his capacity as one of the nation's top sports psychologists.

Of this season's 28-player roster, 17 return from last year's squad (including seven starters and 15 lettermen). There are two transfers that took part in the spring season, and 10 incoming freshmen.

A highly competitive roster should help the Beavers to be a successful 2007 season.

'We're going to be so well-balanced this year,' Taylor said. 'I think we had a very good squad last year and we started off our non-conference schedule strong. But we had some key injuries right down the middle of the park that hurt us, and because of that, we lost a number of one-goal games down the stretch. This year, we hope that everyone's healthy, but we're in a situation where we've also got superior depth at every position.'

After graduation claimed a couple of proven goal-scorers in Robbie Findley and Bryan Jordan, both of whom are now playing professionally, to graduation and pro soccer, the Beavers will revamp their attack while looking at a few players to step up and prove themselves.

'In the past we had success going to the NCAA Tournament with a certain style of play,' Taylor said. 'This winter and spring we changed some things and are playing with a lot of confidence again. In our spring matches, the team's goal production rose and we were very successful putting the ball in the back of the net. We created more opportunities to get service and to be more dangerous around the goalmouth.'

A host of players will compete for starting jobs at forward and for time in the rotation. Seniors Brett Gardner (Portland, Ore./Sunset HS) and Nick Webb (Bellingham, Wash./Squalicum HS/Western Washington) each have seven career goals to lead all returners. Gardner is a two-time All-Pac-10 honorable mention honoree who could set the school records for games started and played. Both had five goals in the spring to lead the team in scoring.

Junior Robby Christner (Springfield, Ore./Thurston HS) has been biding his time as a reserve and looks ready to earn additional playing time. Juniors Josh Cameron (Gresham, Ore./Centennial HS) and Lloyd Fobi (Messa, Cameroon) began their careers elsewhere on the field but have found homes at forward.

Redshirt freshman David Gates (Bountiful, Utah/Woods Cross HS), junior transfer Ross Eshleman (Eugene, Ore./Junction City HS/Yavapai JC) and true freshmen Brian Ramsey (Pocatello, Idaho/Highland HS) and Morgan Zeeno (Gulf Coast, Queensland, Australia) are among the newer faces vying for time at forward. Zeeno was a member of the Australian U-17 National Team.

There's plenty of experience to choose from at the attacking midfield position, as senior Mason Webb (Bellingham, Wash./Squalicum HS) and juniors Collin Foster (Hillsboro, Ore./Jesuit HS) and Tracy Hasson (Lake Oswego, Ore./Lake Oswego HS) are all veterans at OSU. Freshman Mike Parker (Milwaukie, Ore./Milwaukie HS) also looks promising at the position.

Foster and junior Ryan Callahan (Lafayette, Calif./Acalanes HS) are candidates for defensive midfield positions along with incoming freshmen Mike Epple (Phoenix, Ariz./Pinnacle HS) and Zac Zaher (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman HS). Zaher was the Gatorade state player of the year in Nevada.

After suffering season-ending injuries each of the last two years, senior Alex Christensen (Las Vegas, Nev./Chaparral HS) is back at full strength and ready to lead the defense. Both he and junior Daniel Leach (Scarborough, Queensland, Australia) are two-time All-Pac-10 honorable mention selections and should be mainstays at defender.

A couple of returners looking to earn time on the back line are sophomores Jordan Harris (Eagle, Idaho/Eagle HS) and Justin Woodward (Corvallis, Ore./Corvallis HS). Woodward has moved from forward to defender in 2007 while Harris was one of the most-used freshmen of a year ago.

Junior transfer Tim Kelly (Phoenix, Ariz./Centennial HS/Yavapai JC) is one of OSU's top recruits after earning junior college All-American honors and will contend for a starting job on defense.

Other incoming freshmen in the mix at defender include Sean Fincham (Bend, Ore./Summit HS), Chris Miller (Williamsburg, Va./Jamestown HS) and Austin Rogerson (Keizer, Ore./McNary HS).

At goalkeeper, junior Packy Deenihan (Pleasanton, Calif./Foothill HS) has been the primary starter the past two years, but injuries limited his 2006 season. Now healthy, he could be the starter again in 2007, but he has a larger and more talented group of goalkeepers to push him this year. Sophomore Mike Miller (Portland, Ore./Centennial HS) gained valuable experience last season and in the spring, while incoming freshmen Mike McLeod (Boise, Idaho/Boise HS) and Steve Spangler (Scottsdale, Ariz./Brophy College Prep) are highly regarded. McLeod was the Gatorade state player of the year in Idaho.

The 2007 schedule will be as challenging as always. OSU begins with four games on the road, followed by the annual Diadora Classic and Stephen Hensor/Joe Zaher Memorial tournaments. From there, it's on to the Pac-10, which always ranks among the nation's best conferences.

'I think the schedule sets up well,' Taylor said. 'We play some good teams early on. It's a solid non-conference schedule. We're helped at the end of the year by playing our final five games at home, and that could be very important when it's all said and done. Home games are worth their weight in gold in the Pac-10 and there are a couple of non-conference games thrown in there that could hopefully push us into the NCAA Tournament.'

Success in 2007 will be dependent on a veteran group that includes four seniors and 10 juniors.

'One of the overriding keys this year is that we have a core group of returners that are coming back,' Taylor said. 'The spring season really helped solidify who will be playing where. We had a great spring season and the carryover from that gives us a great deal of confidence.'

Leadership will be provided by Callahan, Christensen and Leach, who have been named team captains. But with a veteran group, Taylor believes motivation will be provided from many different fronts.

'There are key leaders all over the field and many of them are looking to step up and be a leader in their own way,' Taylor said. 'Our experienced players will lead us.'

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