Who Are Those Guys?
Oct. 4, 2012
SEATTLE - Who are those guys? What do they do? That guy has a cool throw-in! That guy gets a lot of yellow cards. They yell a lot.
These are questions and perceptions that one might have after watching a soccer game about "those" players between the forwards and the defenders. However, the UW men's soccer midfielders now have their chance to explain that they are much, much more than that.
"I like to look at the midfielders as the guys that never get any credit for all of the dirty work because we play defense and we play offense so sometimes we are back there winning the ball and making all the "boring" passes to get the ball forward that get the goals," said senior Patrick Pacheco. "But, you got to do what you got to do and if you are a midfielder you enjoy working for the team."
The forwards get all of the credit for the goals and the defenders for the shutouts. Of course the goalie is always the most noticed on the field, back in the net making the saves in his different colored jersey.
When the UW wins a corner, the midfielders take the kick and lineup in the box. When the UW is defending a corner, the midfielders line up on the goal line to help defend. They are a part of every single play in the game; run more and touch the ball more than anyone else on the field.
Senior co-captain Ben Fisk (Federal Way, Wash.) has started all 10 games in the midfield. Wearing No. 11, he drops back to help fellow senior captain Dylan Tucker-Gangnes with the defense and really push up the offense on the attack.
"I think the midfield is sometimes overlooked because the forwards are scoring and get the credit and the defenders get the credit for the shutouts but the midfield is what really ties it all together," Fisk said. "We are the guys that go 18 to 18. We connect the offense with the defense, provide the opportunities and do all the dirty work."
As these players are involved in every aspect of the game, they have to keep on their toes. And that is one of the jobs Fisk has as the leader and key returner in the midfield.
"One of my main leadership goals is to make sure everyone is on the same page, make sure our shape is good and in general to command the field," Fisk added. "I let everyone know where they need to be when and make sure everyone is switched on the entire game even if the ball goes out of bounds."
Ranahan started as a defender as a true freshmen in 2011 and has now moved to the midfield. Uyehara, who was on the team last year but had to sit out after transferring from Navy, has played all over the field in his career. Harris also started as a defender in his first two seasons with the Huskies.
All of these guys have the collegiate experience, just not necessarily at Washington or in the midfield. But the transition hasn't been overly difficult for this tough-minded, focused group.
Harris said the biggest difference for him moving to the midfield was, "how much time you have on the ball. In the midfield you have people in front of you and people behind you whereas, as a defender the whole game is in front of you so it's a lot easier to play defender to see the whole field. But being able to attack in the midfield you have that back line behind you to help defensively so you can attack a lot more even though you are responsible for defending, you can do both. And that's what I like about it."
Washington leads its opponents in nearly every offensive and defensive category, scoring goals, taking more shots, averaging more goals a game and allowing less shots overall and on goal. On the season the Huskies have also tallied more yellow cards (12-7), with Fisk leading the way with four; which shows the more physical side of the midfield.
"We have a battle with other team's midfields and usually win it," said Ranahan. "Ben leads that and we love the tackles. We love to be physical. We love to be the guys that everyone hates to play against. I think that drives a lot of us and its fun." Although this core group is competitive on the field during a match, they aren't competitive with each other for playing time. They trust everyone and anyone that goes in and make their minutes count when they are earned. With a group that runs the field as much as they do, they sub more than any other position.
Ranahan, who has played mostly off the bench this year said, "I think we bought into a mindset. I think Jamie has done a great job of doing that. We are all really committed over anything, over playing time, over who is going to start. We know whoever comes off the bench and if they play well they will earn more minutes as the game goes on."
Pacheco commented on how close this group is. "I would say we work for each other, on and off the ball, a lot more then I've seen anywhere else. Everyone is just willing to do the work. It's a great group of guys. We all get along which is pretty unique; it's like family here. Everyone loves each other. We spend every second with each other, we all live together, eat together, so we get a ton of each other so I think that's what makes us special."
And of course you can't write a story about the midfielders or Harris without talking about what he is known for the best: the flip throw-in.
When Harris was a freshman at the UW in 2010, he brought something new to the team that Husky fans and college fans in general, weren't too familiar with. Harris used this deadly weapon sporadically in 2010, a little more in 2011 and now throws in the ball for the Huskies nearly every time it goes out of play. Fans, staff and opposing team's alike, "ooh" and "ahh" every time he makes his miraculous throw. Harris can setup at midfield out of bounds and throw the ball into the net. The Huskies have scored several times this year off of his throw, going off of Washington heads and even off of the opponents.
Harris was asked if he ever thought this "trick" he learned from also performing in gymnastics when he was younger would make a big impact in his soccer career.
"No not really. I know it's always been kind of dangerous and hard for other teams to deal with because they don't always see it that often. It's not really a surprise anymore to teams though, they know its happening and its coming but so far no one has really been able to stop it. It's been very dangerous for us. We have scored three or four goals off of it this year so I'm glad I can contribute on offense that way."
So next time you are at a Washington men's soccer game (next Friday, Oct. 12), or watching the men on TV (Pac-12 Networks) at No. 8 UCLA Monday at 7 p.m., keep an eye on the guys in the middle, No. 11, 19, 14, 2 and 23. After all, they do call themselves, "the toughest guys on the team."