October 24, 2006
Our team has been through A LOT since I last wrote! Since then we dropped from an 8-0 start to 10-5-1. The distraction of school, a disappointing injury, as well as some unfortunate results all worked together to remove the drive behind my writing efforts for a few weeks. Nevertheless, I am happy now to write again with the light at the end of the tunnel in clear view. What is that light you might ask? It's playoffs!
Our second Pac-10 game took us down to Westwood, CA, pitting an undefeated Husky team against a talented UCLA team who rarely loses at home. After a 90 minute battle we finished at 1-1 and headed for overtime. Both teams had chances, and as the last seconds ticked away in the 2nd overtime we would be satisfied with a tie. But it wasn't to be. With 18 seconds left in the game we gave up a follow-up goal which sent the UCLA players and fans into an absolute frenzy. We walked off the field shattered unable to grasp the fact we had taken a loss like that. The San Diego State game that followed didn't leave us on a higher note; we were emotionally and physically spent and took a 1-0 loss in an ugly game. In the first half I slid in to block off a clearance, (mostly out of frustration, I don't recommend it), and my knee was jolted in on contact. The prognosis was a sprained MCL and at least a week or two of rest.
After that rough, disappointing weekend I was very upset about having to sit out the next weekend, but I was also thankful my injury wasn't more serious. Back at the sideline, I sat and watched us host Stanford and Cal at home, picking up a pair of 2-0 losses. We didn't play badly, but we didn't play great. We definitely exposed some weaknesses in both our defense and our attack, and instead of our coaches getting down on us, they saw the bigger picture and looked to fix those weaknesses. Watching from the bench took me back to last season when I watched our team underachieve from the sideline, and it can be easy to lose perspective and get frustrated, but I was impressed with both the players and the coaches' ability to keep pushing on, preparing for the next weekend.
The theme of the following weekend was Seth's cheer, "Turning it around on National TV." And what a better place to do it? Our game at Stanford was televised on Fox Soccer Channel and we were excited to show what we could do. Thankfully I was given the okay to play by Doc Drezner as long I had a tape job and protective knee brace on. I was nervous about playing because I still felt pain, but I trusted the trainers and doctor that the brace would protect it. I am glad I did, too! We beat Stanford handily 2-0 and felt resurgence in our confidence. Our Sunday game took us straight to Cal Berkeley, a team who had won 7 of their last 8 at the time, and were riding a hot streak. We felt up to the challenge as we took a 1-0 lead in the game off Bobbak Talebi's first goal of the season, they tied it 1-1, then we took a 2-1 lead off a George John goal, they tied it 2-2, and the game cruised into overtime. I had a great chance to win it in overtime off a pass from Ely Allen, but I didn't hit the ball clean and the goalie saved it, they went down right afterwards and split our defense up and scored the game winner. Another blow for the Huskies.
One of the most difficult parts of playing forward is not taking yourself too seriously. Every forward misses good chances, even the best in the world, and the key is to keep persevering and improving and not dwelling on mistakes. I have found that dwelling on misses only carries that weight on to the next game, just making it worse. So even though I had to watch the Cal players celebrating knowing that could have been us if I had finished, I learned from the experience. Best of all, Coach Dean spoke to us with greater confidence than ever that our team is special and has the potential to make a run in the playoffs, possibly leave a legacy. We won't forget the Cal game, and we may see them again at their place in playoffs, who knows…
At last we arrive at this weekend, where we hosted San Diego State and UCLA at home. There is not much to say about the San Diego State game, where at one point in the second half we were had out shot them 16-1 (it ended at 20-6). We finished 0-0, in a tie that definitely felt like a loss. We had a penalty from Jo Jo Katz hit off the inside of the post, as well as two more shots of the post in addition to many other great chances. We couldn't score! We left frustrated on the offensive end of things, but satisfied with the return to dominance by our defense. We had just finished another 110 minute game (because of two 10 minute overtimes), and now had to rest up for UCLA. In the locker room before we walked to the field on Sunday for the UCLA game, we watched a tape of UCLA celebrating after their last second goal weeks earlier, and we took that memory with us to the field. We jumped to a 2-0 lead with goals from Ely Allen and George John, and were able to hold that lead all game. The game was physical…but none of that mattered as we walked off the field winners against a top 10 team.
Now, with only three games left in the regular season, we are nearing the end of the tunnel. The win against UCLA was pivotal, not only for tournament seed, but proving to ourselves that we can beat the best. We have 3 games left this season, and chance to finish 13-5-1 if we get the results, which is a respectable record. We are not looking past any one game though; our focus is dead set on our next game - HOME against Gonzaga on Friday at 7pm. This will be the last regular season game for our three seniors Matt Fischer, Ty Harden and Mike Cusenza. So come out and cheer us on as we make our final push towards playoffs!