What do the men’s soccer team need to do to win the PACWEST for a third straight year?
Justin Scott // Managing Editor
While the term legacy often gets thrown around lightly, the Capilano University Blues men’s soccer team has been working on a strong resume for one over the past few years.
They’ve represented the Paci c Western Athletics Association (PACWEST) in the national tournament in the last two years – one that included an undefeated 2016 season. While a soccer game can be determined by a play or two, the success seen by the men’s team goes far deeper than that. They play to their strengths and are mindful of their weaknesses.
Their identity is built on defence – they just happen to have one of the most prolific scorers the PACWEST has ever seen. However, the team has lost some of its core from the last few seasons and has 11 rookies on this year’s roster. This means that it’s more important than ever for the Blues to play their game and remain composed.
No one knows this better than Andrés Romo. The second-year centre back took a year off last year, but after just missing a national title two years ago, he felt he had to come back and try again. “I came back to the team because I want to win a national title after coming in second [place] my first year,” he explained.
Romo realized that the only way to do this will be to play smart and for the team to play their game and put themselves in winning situations. “In the first few minutes we try to play direct and open up the eld, then try to look to pass and play possession behind the line after,” he said. Once they’ve settled in, the team likes to work the ball forward, eventually looking for an opportunity on the opposing net. In the towering defender’s eyes, the teams passing ability and soccer IQ is what enables them to nd success in this style.
“Moving off the ball, knowing your teammates, knowing your role, offensively knowing when to dribble, when to release the ball,” Romo listed, as he described some of the team’s core strengths. “We’re on the same page,” he said.
Head Coach Paul Dailly shared this sentiment. “We’re a team that likes to play out of the back, play through the mid eld, then when we get up front we look to exploit the defenders.”
Of course, this play style wouldn’t be possible without an imposing defensive squad. While the team did lose many players this year, they’ve held on to their defensive core. Dailly identified the Morello brothers as key defenders, both in terms of skill and leadership. The coach also identified the return of a certain defender as an important addition, saying, “We’ve got Andrés Romo back this year, he’s a big centre back for us who didn’t play for us last year but played for us two years ago.”
The team’s defense doesn’t rely purely on talent either. With ‘trust’ being the team’s motto, it’s clear that it’s more than just a word on their warm-ups. “We have a lot of team chemistry,” said Romo. “There’s trust that if I mess up something, it’ll be my teammates that cover my mistake.”
Although the adage is that “defence wins championships”, the Blues still need to score goals to win games. For this, they have Keith Jackson. The team does have many other talented men up front, but when you’ve got a talent like Jackson on your team, you use him. With four goals in the first three games, his season is off to a hot start. “We have the best PACWEST player/forward in the league. I feel con dent in saying that about Keith,” said Romo.
Soccer, however, is not a one-man sport. For Jackson and other players to score, they need opportunities. While the Blues meticulously move the ball through the first two thirds of the field, their offence is a bit more creative.
“In the final third, my guys are basically given a green light to make things happen,” said Dailly. “If it’s a one-on-one situation wide, I’m encouraging them to take players on and whip good balls in the box, and then we’re trying to attack with numbers as well. We’ve got Keith Jackson up there who’s a veteran guy, who’s scored a bunch of goals in this league for us, and again, he’s got four already in three games.”
Although they’re con dent in themselves, the team does have some things that they’re working on. For Dailly, it’s not wasting chances. “I think we could be more clinical in the final third. In the first three games, we’ve created a lot of chances and we’ve scored our share of goals, but I think in the first game of the year we got four, we could have had more than that,” he said. He then continued to address the following two games as well.
For Romo, focusing on team chemistry will be a key factor for the young team. “The 11 rookies, I trust them, but they’re new to the PACWEST, it’s just like me when I was a rookie. I wasn’t the worst player, but it’s something new, you need to get settled in,” he recalled. Adding, “we still want to gel, you can’t win by yourself.”
The defender also identified composure and remaining within their game plan as something the team needs to be mindful of. “It was kind of like a tennis game against Douglas, long ball here then long balls back,” he said of the team’s lone loss of the season. “Then, for VIU [Vancouver Island University] we connected more passes, we felt comfortable on the ball and con dent, we trusted each other.”
While the team started the season on a strong note, there is still much to prove. Taking cues from their success in the previous season, Dailly said, “Last year we were really tough to score against, and you know, come crunch time if you’re defending well as a team and not giving up too many goal scoring opportunities, and not too many goals against for that matter, then you’ve got a chance to win games.”
It may seem simple, but if the team can stay true to their defensive strength, they believe a third straight trip to nationals is in their near future.