Dean's Coaches Corner Blog

Sept. 24, 2008

I was excited to learn that my first attempt at submitting a personal blog last fall was well received and I am more than happy to comply with the request to continue these reports. I love talking about our team and telling people about our experiences so I am ready to submit my first blog entry for the 2008 men's soccer season.

It seems amazing to me that five weeks have already gone by since we started pre-season training on August 13th! So, I have a little catching up to do but I am committed to keeping on a timelier schedule for my future 2008 season blog entries.

Reflecting back on the '08 pre-season, I was quite pleased with the quantity and quality of the work we accomplished on the field. One thing that I have learned coaching collegiate soccer here at UW over 16 years is sometimes more is not necessarily better. What I mean is you have be reminded that quality work is more important than the volume of work in regards to getting a team ready for the season.

When I think back to some of the UW pre-season training schedules I implemented in my early years with up to 10 consecutive 'double days' (20 consecutive training sessions), it's amazing how those brave athletes and the coaching staff survived. I'm sure it's likely that I'll hear from some of those hard working Husky alums as they lament that today's student-athletes enjoy the luxury of a more 'modern' pre-season fitness philosophy.

This year's pre-season schedule for example was four days of doubles (eight intensive work sessions) then a rest day to recover. We followed that with another four days of intensive 'doubles' and then played our first exhibition game vs. Seattle University.

Each player also had an individual heart rate monitor that affords the coaching staff with a chance to monitor the physical intensity level for each individual player during pre-season training. With this important fitness information, the coaches can set individual heart rate zones for each player and then be sure that the right amount of physical work we need is accomplished.

Staying current with modern training methods has always been a passion for me and I'm fortunate to be coaching at place like UW where the prevailing attitude has always been to use every possible resource to help your program and players reach the highest possible level. You also might be interested to know that since 2005, I have employed the services of a soccer fitness expert during the fall season to help guide me with the proper analysis and implementation of our fitness data.

After two impressive showings in our pre-season exhibition games, we hit the road to open the '08 season as we normally do down at Portland's tournament. Opening weekend typically provides many surprises for coaches as the 'new team' sees 'real action' for the first time while playing against an opponent we know nothing about.

Surprised we were as most of you know as we opened the season with two consecutive losses! Only one other time (1994) in my tenure here at UW have we come away without a tie or win from this opening weekend! I can assure you it got the full attention of the coaching staff.

The unusual thing about this opening weekend was how similar the two games were in terms of sequence of events. In both games we scored first and early, 46 seconds into the first game and 2:32 into the second game. Then each of our opponents had a player ejected from the game (playing a man up in two consecutive games is very rare). To top that off the opponent each scored their winning goal within the last few minutes of both game (three minutes remaining vs. Fairleigh Dickinson and four minutes remaining vs. Virginia Tech).

These bizarre results could never have been predicted based upon how well our pre- season went and the quality and experience of our players and coaches. The saying goes 'be humble or be humbled' certainly came home to me from the opening weekend and we were determined to put things right for our second weekend of games back at Furman University.

The two games in South Carolina were a huge step forward for our team and we were dominant in fashion that I haven't seen from a Husky team in many years. Scoring four goals in the first game (College of Charleston) and another four goals in the 'final' of the tournament against the host team, Furman, was exceptional. The way in which we played and the maturity of the performance was a delight for a coach and a memory I shall not soon forget. We won the Furman tournament in convincing fashion and optimism had returned to our team.

The next game down in Portland was always going to be a tough game given they seem to really use the home field setting to showcase their attacking play. They won their opening tournament two weeks earlier and their home field record over the years is very impressive. In addition, our game was also the Fox Soccer Channel national TV broadcast of the week and the excitement was building. Still we were flying high from our two big results in South Carolina and were looking forward to playing our Northwest rival!

After starting well yet again and taking a 1-0 lead early in the game, our hopes of getting our third straight big result were put at risk as we conceded an own goal with less than a minute left in the first half. A series of regrettable mistakes by our team led to giving the home team 'something for nothing' as they were greatly lifted by getting the equalizer just before half time.

As coaches, we knew our words at halftime were going to be very important as we had to try to convince our team to forget the bad moment we had just minutes ago and look forward to winning the game in the second half. Just as we had anticipated the players were not in an energized and confident mood so we really had our work cut out for us.

Everyone now knows that I was not able to lift the players sufficiently and we made more defensive errors that cost us two more second half goals. I heard a quote recently that I think relates well to how I felt after that Portland game -'Everyone has a plan until they get hit'...Mike Tyson. So, two steps forward last weekend and now one step back. Such are challenges many of us face in the work place!

If you truly are 'only as good as your last game', we certainly had work to do to get ready for our first pair of home games. Playing at home is always something we try to get our players excited about but experience has taught us that the home field in itself is really no advantage unless we are determined to make it one. We must play better than the opponent to swing the game in our direction. It's an active process!

The games last weekend were important for us to try to recover the great form we had shown only two weeks earlier. Only one other time (1994) in my tenure here at UW had we gone into our Husky Classic tournament with a losing record. A sense of urgency to improve was the message delivered all week at training and I was proud of how the team practiced all week given we went back to two practices a day early in the week.

We know we have a team capable of some special achievements this season so the coaching staff was energized and enthusiastic to add any coaching inputs we thought might help our players to realize more success. While it was certainly a tough week for players and coaches, it was also a great week to recover some our core beliefs that if we work at a high standard in practice we can expect a payoff in future games.

The first game against Fullerton was a big step forward as we played well and won it with a dramatic late goal. One of our new players, senior transfer Josh Swett, deserves special recognition as he came on as a substitute in the second half, helped us to win back control of midfield and then he assisted on the winning goal by George John.

The Sunday game against New Mexico featured the second ranked team we had faced. Always a tough team with a combative attitude, we knew aggression was going to be key for us to overcome their style of play. Early aggression we did see from New Mexico as we were 'knocked back' during the first part of the game. Conceding two goals in less than 20 minutes of the first half was further proof we were in real trouble!

We did catch a slight break just before half time when a New Mexico defender was ejected for taking down Dylan Tucker-Ganges who was breaking towards goal. Normally perceived as an advantage for the team playing a 'man up,' we had already played two matches this season with a 'man up' advantage and lost both of them so weren't ready to celebrate this event as the answer to getting us back into the game.

Once again, halftime provided the coaches with the chance to convince the players that winning this game was still in our control. We told them all we really need is the first goal since that is the key goal that draws us within just one of tying the game and it also tends to put great 'doubt' in the team protecting the lead. Some of the players also seemed convinced we could come out in the second half and get back into this game.

After a couple of formation changes and a few substitutions later, the key moment came for us when Taylor Hoss scored his first ever goal to pull us back within one goal of tying the match. Another ejection of a New Mexico player also seemed to give us more belief that we could still win this game.

The tying goal by Raphael Cox was electric and it gave our team 'new life' in our hopes to still win this game. The mood going into overtime was not to change a thing in terms of the team or the formation we were playing. 'Go for it' was the attitude of the players and we coaches were glad to comply.

The dramatic winning goal by Raphael Cox just seven minutes into the first overtime was another special moment for this team and for me personally. Not only did we beat the odds and come back to win after being two goals down, our sports information contact informed me after the game that this game marked my 200th win here at UW.

I was taken back in the moment and then felt extremely proud as I quickly thanked all the current and former players and assistant coaches who had played a key role in this great personal milestone. After all, everyone one of these prestigious wins really belong to the many great Husky players who have played for me here since 1992!

So, one last game in the month of September remains for us next Sunday against Gonzaga. UW classes will start in the middle of the week so the exciting new demands of being a 'student-athlete' will quickly become a reality. Lots of exciting time still ahead!

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