Aug. 29, 2004
Tallahassee, FL – The fifth-ranked Seminole soccer team (1-0-0) opened the 2004 season with a 3-2 victory over No. 15 Arizona State. Just 40 hours later things don’t get any easier for the Tribe as they complete Nike Seminole Classic play by hosting Southern Cal (1-0-0) at 1:00 p.m. A win would avenge a season opening loss suffered at the hands of the Trojans in 2003 when USC ended head coach Patrick Baker’s Friday night unbeaten streak, which dated back to 1998. More importantly a victory would put the Tribe at 2-0 for the first time since 2001.
“They (USC) are the only team to beat us at home on a Friday night since 1998 so the fact that a lot of those players from last year are back and they know they can win here,” said Baker. “That is a huge mental plus for them. We are such a different team than we were at that point last year. We played a 4-5-1 that day, it was the first game with the new substitution rules and they beat us. I look back to the way we played when we got out to the 1-4 start last year and the team we became just weeks later with the same personnel and it was remarkable. We’ve watched each other play Friday and whoever can best imprint their system on the game will have the edge.
“Compared to where we were a year ago, to start 2-0 would be remarkable. It is going to take a tremendous effort versus USC to get that accomplished. If somehow we could find a way to beat two teams like ASU and Southern Cal, we could feel very good about the start of the season.”
Few teams in America are starting their season with two games in three days versus teams as good as ASU and USC. It is a strategy that has been employed by Baker since he took over the program in 1999. Since then FSU has opened twice with Florida, including the Gators first game as National Champions in 1999, and then twice with ranked teams in both 2003 and 2004. Last season the Seminoles faced two ranked teams in Penn State and USC. Despite the 0-2 start in 2003, Baker has not shied away from starting with big-name opponents.
“Last year we played Southern Cal and Penn State and this year its Arizona State and Penn State,” said Baker. “We know exactly the quality of teams we are playing and the reason we are playing them is because win or lose we are going to get better.
“We learned so much about ourselves versus ASU because the quality of the game was so high. The individual players and combinations were so dynamic. When you play high quality teams sometimes you are the ones making the plays and sometimes you have to defend that level of play. There were some ebbs and flows as there will be with USC. The Trojans are very talented and we know that too well from last year. They have the personnel and capabilities to beat us and we are probably going to have to play even better than we did versus ASU to come away with a victory.”
Despite a loss to USC last year, one of the reasons the Tribe will enter Sunday’s match with confidence is because of the productivity of the offense. The last two games, a preseason match with Tennessee and Friday’s win over ASU, Florida State has scored six goals. One thing that concerns Baker is that most of the offense has come straight down the middle of the pitch. That problem won’t last long and is a product of trying to replace four-year starter Amber Tollefson. While the wide play is a work in progress, there were plenty of other offensive areas performing at midseason form.
“The offense is coming from a lot of different people but mostly right up the middle of the park,” said Baker. “On the other hand, we have also had a set piece goal in every game this season, both preseason and regular season. We fully understand and appreciate what that brings to our offense. We feel like we can also score goals in the run of the play so there’s great balance. ”
Julia Schnugg, a 2003 Soccer Buzz first team freshman All-American, keyed the offensive effort Friday night with two goals including the game-winner. It was the second multi-goal game of Schnugg’s career and after a six goal, 10 assist freshman season, the forward looks ready to explode as a goal scoring compliment to consensus All-American Leah Gallegos.
“It is nice to see Julia emerge as more of a scorer than just a creator,” said Baker. “She still can set people up to score but Leah (Gallegos) is already receiving a lot more attention this year than last year and it has allowed Julia a little more freedom. She has been running with it.”
Camie Bybee had the other goal for FSU and the senior is off to a dream start to her final campaign. The attacking midfielder scored in the first game of the season for the first time in her career. She also raised her career goal total to 24 and moved into a tie for third all-time with 19 career assists.
“Camie has been very, very good in the midfield,” said Baker. “I think she is one of our most underrated players. She has skill, she is tactical and the things she sees other players don’t. She proved that again Friday night against one of the best midfields we’ll face all year.”
Defensively, the Seminoles held a very talented Arizona State team to just one goal through the first 79 minutes and after allowing a goal at 1:09, the Tribe held the Sun Devils off the board for 78 minutes. A late goal put the result in play and that was a concern for Baker a day after the game.
“I think with the group that we have, we should expect to shut people out,” said Baker. “It’s early and I think it would be different if that whole backline had been together all preseason. We have progressed each time they have been together. We were cleaner in the back Friday than we were against Tennessee. The problem was that in the second half the game became so direct and then it is just a law of averages. When you have to receive that many balls in the air you aren’t going to be clean technically every time. That was the game. We just have to be a little bit better. To play a team of that quality and to be up 3-1 with 10 minutes to play, we’d take that. We were disappointed to give up the late goal but happy with the result.”
The Nike Seminole Classic opens it final day at 11:00 a.m. when No. 14 Arizona State (0-1-0) and Rhode Island square off. The Tribe and Trojans will then close out the tournament at 1:00 p.m. Both matches are free and live stats are available for both games at seminoles.com. A live Internet radio broadcast will be available for the FSU game as well.