Eight done. Nine: Dons.
The Gauchos take their eight-game winning streak up north to the University of San Francisco with hopes of extending it to nine tonight. With a win against the Dons, the Gauchos will break the 1971 record of eight consecutive victories at the start of the season. The Dons will undoubtedly be fired up for a chance to knock off the top-ranked team in the country.
“They are feeling real good about themselves, they are coming off a couple of wins,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “The biggest challenge is [the Dons] are playing on a Friday night at home with a chance to knock off the #1 team – you’ve got a team that’s going to play with a lot of energy and spark.”
This year’s Gaucho squad has stifled opposing offenses with their impenetrable defense and the virtual brick wall goalkeeper senior Danny Kennedy. Their defense currently ranks top in the nation by shutting out their opposition 88 percent of the time and giving up a miniscule 0.12 goals per game.
“When you find the right combination, you know you seem to really gel and work together and play off of each other; we have the right combination of players,” Kennedy said.
In their eight victories thus far, the Gauchos have given up only one goal. Kennedy attributes their stellar defense to their influx of youth coupled with experienced veterans.
“We’ve got some new players, three new guys, three vets and me in the back,” Kennedy said. “With the older guys like (senior defender Tony Lochhead ) and (sophomore defender Greg Curry) and me we have a lot of experience and youth so we have a little bit of the best of both worlds.”
While past Gaucho squads were known for their prolific offenses, this year’s squad struggled to find their rhythm early on. This past week, however, the offense found its groove and is starting to play like past squads – only better. According to Vom Steeg, the Gauchos want to attack the Dons’ defense early and often.
“We’ve got some pretty decent scouting reports, our plan is to really attack their defense,” Vom Steeg said. “I think we’re going to try and get the ball up to our forwards really early and try and run at their defenders, nothing special, just emphasis.”
Their recent offensive surge has ascended them to the 25th-ranked offense in the country with a respectable 2.25 goals per-game average. The offenses’ resurgence is due largely in part to senior forward Neil Jones sudden offensive onslaught. While being held scoreless through the first six games, Jones has poured on five goals in the last two games, including a hat trick last Sunday against Riverside .
The Dons enter the match with their best starting record since 1991 at 5-1-0. They have received votes for national rankings but have yet to crack the top 25. Their only loss this season was a 3-0 shutout at the hands of 20th-ranked Brown University. The last time these squads hooked up senior forward Drew McAthy scored an overtime goal to knock off USF last year at Harder Stadium.
Earlier in the week the Gauchos were awarded a consensus #1 ranking in the nation as opposed to being ranked #1 on several polls, but #2 on others.
“We just want to be better each and every day,” Kennedy said. “We’re putting ourselves in good position to get a good seed in the tournament, that’s the best we can do.”
Now that they are at the top of the polls, they expect their games to bring a lot more hype, and a lot more teams will be aiming to get the king off of the hill.
“All you have to do is look at the Web site of USF,” Vom Steeg said. “We accept that challenge though, it also helps fire your own players up in a different way when you know other teams are gunning for you.”