The Washington men’s soccer team is in an interesting spot. On one hand, the Huskies have managed a 5-3 record facing one of the toughest schedules in the nation this season, and are ranked 23rd in the first RPI rankings. On the other hand, they have dropped out of the Top 25 and have not scored a goal in over two games. The frustration is real, and it’s mounting heading into conference play.
“I think [our offensive struggles] have been particularly frustrating because it was easy in the start of the season and we came out really flying, but then especially in these last few games, obviously getting shut out isn’t what we want,” redshirt junior midfielder Joey Parish said. “I think some of it could be bad luck, but I think we have to look at ourselves first and realize that you create your own luck, and at this point we’re just unable to score and we have to take better opportunity of our chances and be more aggressive in the final third.”
Head coach Jamie Clark is as equally concerned as Parish is, and feels the team has to get back to basics to find the back of the net.
“Our numbers look the same, but our conversion rates have changed,” Clark said. “We haven’t been manufacturing goals off of set pieces and scoring the gritty, ugly ones. I believe we’ll make the same chances in the run of play but I want us to be grittier and grind out a few opportunities along the way.”
Washington has had its share of bad luck over the past couple of weeks, losing to rivals Portland and Seattle University in back-to-back games. And with the next three games all on the road against conference opponents with winning records, the challenges do not stop.
“We walked away saying good teams wanna be challenged,” Clark said. “You don’t choose to have your backs against the wall, but good players and good teams relish the opportunity to prove the doubters wrong. It’s gonna be hard with the three road games to start the Pac-12 season, but great teams prove they can win in those situations. I got confidence in our team and I believe we’re in a situation where guys will thrive.”
Washington’s first Pac-12 game will come against an Oregon State team that is trending up. After finishing 2016 and 2017 with losing records, the Beavers are currently sitting at 4-2-2. They have played all but two of their games at home so far, and have outscored opponents 10-7 in Corvallis.
“Oregon State most years does well until they get into the conference,” Clark said. “They’re hungry to prove that they can do it in the Pac-12, so that’s on them to do that.”
Senior forward Don Tchilao, an All-Pac-12 Second Team selection last year, leads the team in goals and assists with four and three, respectively, and has already scored as many goals as he did all of last year. Freshman forward Gloire Amanda has emerged as a reliable offensive weapon with his three goals, and junior defender Eric Diaz, an All Pac-12 Honorable Mention in 2017, holds down the back line.
The two teams last met in the regular season finale last year, in which Washington gave up four second half goals after building a 2-0 advantage in the first half and lost 4-3. While the Huskies will be focused on getting revenge in Corvallis, Clark and the rest of the team see the game as a stepping stone to a prize that has eluded them for the past five years.
“For us, we want to win back the Pac-12 title and we know if we can get good results on the road these first two weeks, it’s going to go a long way,” Clark said. “Our focus is obviously on the immediate, but we believe this is the year we can do it if we get our business right, so I’m just excited to get started. We’ve been looking forward to getting our Pac-12 title back, and Saturday’s Day 1 of that journey.”
Reach reporter Chris Angkico at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @chrisangkico