Coach Clark Meets His Past, Future This Weekend
Sept. 20, 2012
By Gregg Bell
SEATTLE - It's old-new weekend for Jamie Clark. When Washington's second-year coach was the head man at Harvard in 2008-09, the team he felt he had to beat to win the Ivy League was Brown.
Three years later, after restarting the Huskies' program, the team Clark has to beat to give UW a huge boost heading into Pac-12 play that begins next week is ... Brown. The Bears (5-1) are coming to Seattle to play Washington (4-2-1) in the Husky Classic Friday at 7 p.m. at Husky Soccer Stadium.
The game will be streamed live at http://pac-12.com/live/gohuskies.aspx. "One of my old rivals," Clark said in his office this week. "I know them well. "They are incredibly organized. They play hard. They are tough. They are the blue-collar team of the Ivy League."
The "new" for Clark, son of former Scottish League player, Notre Dame coach and now worldwide soccer mentor Bobby Clark? The intercity rivalry he is trying to get going between his Huskies and Seattle University (1-4). They meet Sunday at noon on the Pac-12 Networks television and on http://video.pac12.com/ on the final day of the Husky Classic, which also includes Portland.
Though the Huskies and Redhawks tied last season, UW owns a 38-5-5 advantage all time against Seattle U. "We hope to build it into a new rivalry game," Clark said. "But to do that, we both have to become national powers. That would get it to that true derby-type rivalry that I think would be great for this city." Washington's trying to do its part in becoming a power, moving in and out of the national rankings this month. And it is doing it with defense.
The Huskies were ranked 20th until a 2-0 loss last weekend at Alabama-Birmingham. They have played four overtime games in their first seven contests. Four of their games have been decided by one goal, not including the two-overtime scoreless tie against Cal State Bakersfield in Portland, Ore., Sept. 2.
No match has been more excruciating than the 1-0 loss at No. 2 Connecticut two weeks ago that nearly became Clark's first program-defining win at Washington. UConn controlled play early, taking nine of the match's first 10 shots. Washington responded to begin the second half with great chances to take the lead. Then in overtime, UW freshman defender Michael Gallagher was assessed a red card. UConn converted the ensuing free kick from just outside the 18-yard box with a searing strike by Max Wasserman into the top corner of the net to win it.
"That was a little bit of a bad break," Clark understated. "UConn and UAB are the only two teams that have been able to match us physically so far this season."
Behind junior goalkeeper Spencer Richey - "our man," Clark says, proudly -- and a back six led by Dylan Tucker-Gagnes and Ben Fisk that has consistently disrupted offenses, the Huskies are tops in the conference allowing with a .81 goals against average. They have given up just four goals in five games, a span of more than 477 minutes. "I think we have one of the five best goalies, if not the best one, in the country. Spencer is so steady," Clark said. "He makes the game look easy. He and Dylan and Ben, they never get ruffled."
Brown, though, has allowed just one goal in six games this season. That goal came in their only loss, to Fordham on Sept. 9. And Washington has yet to score during the normal run of play this season. All eight of the Huskies' goals have come off set pieces. Tucker-Gagnes leads UW with five such goals, two behind the national co-leaders. So it would appear goals will be as hard to come by Friday night as rain lately in sunny Seattle. Maybe. "People can come into games like this thinking it will be tight, close, not a lot of goals scored," Clark said. "Sometimes, though, these go haywire and can end up 3-1, 4-1.
"That's what we've been working on all week, scoring in bunches. We need to get the offense going to beat Brown." Washington will be without defender Taylor Peay against the Bears. The key junior got a red card at UAB last weekend and must sit out one game. "Missing Peay will be tough, because they are a tough, physical team. And he never loses the ball in one-v-one battles."
But the Huskies do hope to have Chris Brundage for the first time this season, to combat Brown's physicality. The senior defender has been out with an ankle injury but is moving better this week. Friday's game with the Bears is part of a home-and-home series that will send UW to Providence, R.I., next season. "We wanted to put as many perennial NCAA tournament teams on our schedule as we can in the nonconference season," Clark said. "And they wanted to come. There is no better place in this country to play soccer than Seattle in September. We should be able to get good teams to come here."
The tougher the play is, the better Clark thinks his Huskies will be in the Pac-12 Conference, which in men's soccer is actually just six teams - Washington, UCLA, Oregon State, California, Stanford and San Diego State. These close-game Huskies begin league play at home Sept. 30 against Oregon State.
"I think we are in great shape for holding our own against the heavyweights in our conference because we know we will be in every game," Clark said of his low-scoring, gritty team. "The character and belief of this team is super high. That's the most important thing. "Now the belief and expectations are so great that losing to UAB on the road like that isn't acceptable. "It's fantastic that we've become a resilient group."
INSIDE THE DAWGS: Friday is "Crossfire club Night." The Huskies players ran a clinic 220 kids from the Seattle-area select soccer club recently. All kids in eighth grade and younger from the Crossfire club get free admission. Seven current Huskies played for Crossfire growing up, including Fisk, Tucker-Gagnes, Richey, Bradley McIntosh, Nate Sackeyfio, Alex Klein, and David Gebert. Fish, Klein, Sackeyfio and Andy Thoma played for the Crossfire PDL team this summer.