Battles in Seattle Headline Mustang Men's Soccer Opening Week
COMPLETE WEEKLY PREVIEW (pdf)
MUSTANG REWIND: CHRIS GASCHEN LIFTS CAL POLY TO 2010 OPENING-DAY VICTORY (video)
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Backed by five returning starters and 13 returning letterwinners from the greatest defensive season in program history and solidified by the nation's 12th-ranked incoming freshmen class (CollegeSoccerNews.com), the Cal Poly men's soccer program opens its 19th season of Division I action and a three-match road trip when visiting Seattle on Friday, Aug. 24 (5 p.m.) and Washington on Sunday, Aug. 26 (5 p.m.). The Mustangs, who last year set single season program records for fewest goals conceded (17, in 18 games) and fewest goals allowed per game (0.94), are 12-6-0 all-time in season-opening matches and have won four of their previous six road season openers.
FOLLOW THE MUSTANGS THIS WEEK: Livestats for Cal Poly's matches at Seattle and Washington are available HERE.
CAL POLY VERSUS SEATTLE: During the only previous meeting between the Mustangs and Redhawks, sophomore midfielder Travis Heim struck seven from time to deliver Seattle a 2-1, double-overtime victory at Alex G. Spanos Stadium on Sept. 4, 2011.
CAL POLY VERSUS WASHINGTON: The Huskies have prevailed during four of the five all-time matchups against the Mustangs, most recently claiming a 3-1 victory on Sept. 27, 2009 in Seattle. Cal Poly's only previous triumph against the Huskies was a 1-0 neutral site edging on Sept. 15, 1995.
CAL POLY CLIFFSNOTES, A 2012 PRIMER: Entering the 2012 season, players on Cal Poly's roster have appeared in 393 combined collegiate matches and an average of 24.6 games per Mustang. Eight different Mustangs have scored at least one collegiate goal, but only two – seniors Chris Gaschen (above) and Benny Estes – have been selected to an all-conference team during their careers. Below is a brief position-by-position breakdown of the 2011 Mustangs.
• UP FRONT: Cal Poly's most experienced group of returning players lies in attack, where the Mustangs welcome back 53 percent of their goal tally from last season. Senior forward Dakota Collins and junior forwards Ian Clark and Mackenzie Pridham made a combined 23 starts in 2011 and, with two goals apiece last year, rank as Cal Poly's leading returning scorers. Bolstering the aforementioned trio are senior forward Benny Estes and junior midfielder Nolan Moore who both found the back of the net in 2011. Also fueling Cal Poly's playmaking abilities are senior midfielder Chris Gaschen (Cal Poly's active leader with six career goals), junior midfielder George Malki (who started 17 of 18 matches last year) and junior forward Chris Bernardi, who redshirted last season after scoring twice in 2010.
• AT THE BACK: Junior center back Connor Drechsler, who has started all 36 of Cal Poly's matches during the previous two seasons, is the program's lone returner from a back four that helped register seven shutouts a year ago. In the absence of departed All-Big West defensive selections Wes Feighner, Patrick Sigler and Cameron Walters, Cal Poly returns two additional defenders in senior Alex Loeffelman, and sophomore Chris Fisher. Loeffelman and Fisher, however, logged just 259 combined minutes in 2011.
• BETWEEN THE POSTS: In goal, the Mustangs look to fill the void created by the departure of three-time All-Big West selection Patrick McLain, who signed with Major League Soccer's Chivas USA in March after finishing as the program's career leader with a .808 save percentage. Sophomore Chase Hauser appeared in just two matches during his 2011 rookie season, but an eight-save performance in Cal Poly's 1-0 upset of seventh-ranked UC Irvine last fall earned the Chino native Big West Player of the Week praise on Oct. 3. Junior Brett Finkelstein, owner of a career 1.37 goals against average, also returns in goal for the Mustangs.
• READY FOR DUTY: Midfielders Michael Bernardi, Matt LaGrassa and Chase Minter are back in Cal Poly's camp after redshirting their first season on campus last fall.
• DEBUTANTE BALL: Aiding Cal Poly's 2012 progress and cementing the future is a 10-player incoming freshman class rated by TopDrawerSoccer.com as one of the best incoming units among Division I programs. The heralded class includes forward John Chronopoulos, the 2011 Santa Cruz Coast League Player of the Year selection; midfielder Sean Dhillon, the 61st-ranked player among CollegeSoccerNews.com's top 150 recruits in the class of 2012; midfielder Brad Reilly; midfielder Ruben Duran, the 2011-12 Gatorade Boys Nevada High School Player of the Year honoree; winger Jesse Ham, the 148th-ranked player among CollegeSoccerNews.com's top 150 recruits; center back Mamadou Kebe, the 62nd-ranked player in the ESPNHS class of 2012; outside back Kip Colvey, a member of the New Zealand National Team that reached the round of 16 at the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup; left back Jack O'Connor, a nominee for the 2011-12 Gatorade Boys Arkansas High School Player of the Year award; defender Kody Wakasa, the 2011 Peninsula League Most Valuable Player selection and goalkeeper Wade Hamilton, a member of the United States National Team that reached the round of 16 at the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
GASCHEN SHINES IN EXHIBITIONS: The program's active leader with six career goals, Chris Gaschen was central to success during Cal Poly's 1-1 home exhibition draw against San Francisco (Aug. 11) and 3-1 friendly tuneup triumph at Santa Clara (Aug. 18). With Cal Poly trailing San Francisco into the 73rd minute, Gaschen volleyed a 30-yard equalizing strike. He returned a week later and set the tone with a sixth-minute opening goal as the Mustangs eventually built a 3-0 lead versus Santa Clara.
YOUNG MUSTANGS SHINE IN GOAL: A year after Cal Poly's goalkeepers paced all Big West programs with a 0.90 team goals against average, the 2012 Mustang tandem of freshman Wade Hamilton and sophomore Chase Hauser combined to post a similar 0.90 mark and an .846 save percentage during the program's undefeated exhibition run against San Francisco (1-1, Aug. 11) and at Santa Clara (3-1, Aug. 18).
MUSTANGS ON THE SPOT: Cal Poly has converted 10 of its previous 11 penalty attempts dating to the start of the 2009 season. A perfect 5-for-5 from the spot in 2009, the Mustangs converted all three penalty attempts in 2010. George Malki, the only player on the Mustang roster to have taken a collegiate penalty, missed during a 3-1 loss against Denver last year to break Cal Poly's streak of eight-successive converted attempts.
MUSTANGS BACK IN PRIME TIME: For the fourth time in five seasons, Cal Poly's central coast rivalry with UC Santa Barbara will play out before a national television audience with Fox Soccer Channel set to broadcast the Oct. 19 clash at Harder Stadium. Topping CollegeSoccerNews.com's list of the 14 Greatest Rivalries in College Soccer, the Cal Poly-UC Santa Barbara series has drawn nine of the top 23 regular season crowd figures in NCAA history. Last year's match at Harder Stadium, also televised nationally on Fox Soccer Channel, drew 13,822 fans – the fifth-largest regular season crowd figure in NCAA history. The Mustangs also had home matches against the Gauchos televised during the 2008 and 2010 seasons.
SPANOS STADIUM – WHERE ATTENDANCE RECORDS GO TO DIE: Six of the top 23 best-attended regular season matches in the history of collegiate soccer have occurred at Alex G. Spanos Stadium and all have been recorded since the start of the 2007 season. In total, Cal Poly has been involved in nine of the top 23 best-attended regular season matches.
FORTRESS SPANOS: Seven of Cal Poly's initial 12 matches kick off inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium, a home where the Mustangs are 29-10-8 since the venue's 2007 opening. During the past five seasons, the Mustangs have recorded 18 shutout victories at home while Cal Poly's goalkeepers have kept 22 clean sheets. Additionally, Cal Poly has drawn 1,000-plus spectators during 35 of 47 matches at Spanos Stadium and twice sold out the 11,075-capacity complex.
LOOKING AHEAD: Cal Poly caps a three-match season-opening road trip when visiting San Jose State for a 1 p.m. clash on Sunday, Sept. 2. The Mustangs topped the Spartans, 2-1, during the last meeting between the two sides on Sept. 20, 2009 inside Spanos Stadium. San Jose State hosts Division II Cal State Monterey Bay for an Aug. 24 exhibition before welcoming San Francisco for its Aug. 26 season opener.