SEATTLE -- On the day when the Dawgs travel to Hawai’i to begin the regular season, we continue with the preview of the 2013 squad with the midfielders and forwards. While the Huskies have mostly set roles on the defensive end of the field, the midfield and attack should provide plenty of competition with so many players capable of positive contributions.
The Huskies tend to play a formation known as a 4-2-3-1 with two holding midfielders, a central midfielder and attacking outside mids that act as wingers going forward. The formation adjusts to the game and tempo, making the depth and versatility of the midfield paramount to the Huskies success.
“I think we have a lot of talent in the midfield with players that can play multiple shapes and multiple types of midfield spots,” said head coach Lesle Gallimore. “I think it is strength of our team that we can adapt as the game changes because we have so many players that do different things well.”
Perhaps the biggest addition to the Huskies this year is not a freshman, but someone who was on campus all of last season. Redshirt junior Kate Bennett sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, but will make an immediate impact this season, having already played two seasons of Pac-12 soccer at California. Gallimore views Bennett as skillful player in the middle of the field that can shoot from distance and finish inside.
“Kate is someone that I feel like can quarterback our team from the midfield,” said Gallimore. “Defensively, Kate is good enough, but when she is surrounded by pure ball winners it really frees her up to be the creative player that she is. We hope to use her mostly in that role.”
Outside, both Isabel Farrell and Lindsay Elston have shown the ability to create for their teammates and score goals. Elston led the Dawgs with 11 goals last season, while Farrell was a Pac-12 All-Freshman team player and gained experience with the U-20 National Team over the summer.
“Both Izzy and Elston are tough players to defend and can open up games for you,” said Gallimore. “The best news about both of them is over the last 12 months they have really improved on the defensive side of the ball. It is a lot more difficult for teams to get the ball through the midfield when they are in there.”
Also expected to make big impacts in central roles are Allie Beahan and Chelsea Archer who play attacking mids known as the 10 spot that play underneath the striker. Beahan is another senior with big game experience, while Archer played major minutes in that role a year ago.
Returning in the holding midfield spot are Christina Archer and Allyson Brahs. Archer has been outstanding in a holding midfield role who Gallimore remarked as being incredibly consistent for the Huskies. Brahs has improved drastically as a ball winner and is dangerous on set pieces and in the air.
Others pushing for playing time at the holding midfield spot that will also see time in defense are McKenzie Karas and Amanda Perez. Both can play deep in the midfield, winning balls and spraying long passes to attacking teammates.
Among the newcomers that could make an impact is Becca Scoales who can also play as a striker, but Gallimore sees potentially as an attacking central midfielder as well. She is coming off an injury, but did a great job rehabbing and appears to be adapting to the speed of the college game well.
“We have a really good core of players in the midfield,” said Gallimore. “It is going to give us a lot of flexibility both in-game and resting players from Friday to Sunday depending on results.”
The Huskies generally play with a loan striker and that role should be a combination of Jaclyn Softli, Hillary Zevenbergen, Falon Miller and Schoales. Chelsea Archer and Beahan could also see time up top, but generally will play just behind the striker.
Gallimore is excited that the depth and strength of the team should allow the forward to be used more as a pure finisher tasked with scoring goals. While Elston led Washington in scoring last season from a wide midfield spot, Gallimore hopes to see more goals from the striker position this year.
“The strikers need to be in competition with each other to be double-digit goal scorers,” said Gallimore. “If Lindsay can get 10 goals again and the striker can get 10 goals, we will be a very good team. They know their job is to be creating and finishing. Whoever is the player that is hot at the time is going to be the one that plays. It is very healthy to have completion amongst those players.”
Gallimore considers UW a possession oriented team, but warns that if the Dawgs simply knock the ball around and aren’t dangerous scoring going forward, they’ll be susceptible to the counter attack and it won’t be a successful formula. She knows that amongst Softli, Zevenbergen and Miller, the Huskies will need goals to be the team they hope to be in 2013.
“We have talked about specific areas where we need to get better. Luckily, we have a veteran enough team that our players understand what they need to do. We have to be better at converting crosses by being more dangerous in the air and on set pieces. This isn’t something new; it’s been a 12-month process to be better than we were last season.”