Game Preview: No. 24 Huskies Host No.3 Portland Sunday
Aug. 28, 2009
SEATTLE - Following an exciting season-opening win over cross-town rival Seattle, the Washington women's soccer team is gearing up for a battle with No. 3 Portland on Sunday at Noon, looking to knock off the always-highly ranked Pilots for the first time since 2004.
The Huskies are looking to establish themselves as one of the top threats in the nation this season after a 15-6-1 campaign in 2008 and an NCAA Second Round appearance. A win over Portland would go a long way in proving they are indeed one of the West Coast's elite.
Portland advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight last season despite playing the end of the regular season and the entire postseason without three of their starters, who were playing with the U.S. U-20 National Team. This year marks the first time since 2005 the Pilots will not lose any players due to USA commitments which was also the last time they won a National Championship. In fact, both of their national championships (2002, 2005) have come when the team was at full strength the entire season.
Portland is in the midst of a three-game swing against Pac-10 teams which started with a season-opening 3-0 win over Oregon. They will host Cal on Friday night before traveling down I-5 to face the Huskies, who have given Portland all they can handle the last two seasons.
UW pushed the Pilots to overtime last year in Portland before the Pilots prevailed, 1-0, the same score by which they defeated the Huskies in 2007 in Seattle.
The Huskies unfortunately suffered a bad break just three minutes into their season when junior midfielder Kellye Joswick went down with a knee injury. UW gave up an immediate goal to Seattle to go down early in the game but recovered well enough to come back for a 2-1 win. The Huskies will no doubt miss Joswick's solid play for as long as she is out, but a deep bench should help UW alleviate some of the sting of the injury.
UW can always rely on senior Veronica Perez to provide the scoring punch but head coach Lesle Gallimore sees a more balanced attack this season with more weapons, including junior McKenna Waitley who is finally healthy and was impressive in the opener on Wednesday
Whether it will be enough to put points on the board against Portland for the first time since their 2-0 win in 2004 remains to be seen.
'The big thing with Portland, and I own up to it, is they're a bogey team for us. They're good and they have our number more often than not but I will say this: with few exceptions, it's a game. Our kids will not be nervous for that game,' Gallimore said. 'We have everything to play for and nothing to be nervous about. We know we have to be ready because Portland has speed, they're tactically smart and you talk about sticking with a game plan, they are one of the more composed teams you'll ever see, I don't care what their roster looks like. Year in and year out they're just so consistent in the way they play soccer.'
The Huskies will look to come out strong on Sunday after a slow start on Wednesday.
'I could be disturbed by the fact that a fairly veteran team came out with some jitters (Wednesday) but to be honest, I had jitters on the bench too,' Gallimore said. 'I said to the team Tuesday, `I can guarantee one thing for sure, the game will not go perfect and everything will not go right for you but if you can just show you're resilient and weather any kind of storm or anything that comes at you, it will say a lot about where we're headed in our season.' We have a huge task coming out of this game in facing Portland and we're going to have to make some huge adjustments, especially with Kellye out. The good news is we have some depth on our team and can change things around. We get Portland here and hopefully we play like we played the second half: more comfortable and less jittery.'
Players to watch on the Portland side of the field include three players on the Hermann Trophy Watch List: goalkeeper Kelsey Davis, midfielder/forward Michelle Enyeart and forward Sophie Schmidt.