Daegu, Perry girls could be on collision course for title
March 8, 2009
Each team posted its best-ever winning percentage last year, and each welcomes back more returning players than ever before.
Could Daegu American and Matthew C. Perry, who met in a memorable 2007 final, be on a collision course to clash once again in a Far East Girls Class A Soccer Tournament title match?
"That’s a possibility," Daegu coach Ed Thompson said. His Warriors (15-6-2 in 2008) are coming off a shutout loss to Faith Academy in May’s Class A final, and return 11 of 16 players who dressed for the Far East tournament, seven of them starters.
That experience means Daegu, which got off to slow starts the past two years, "won’t be as green at the beginning," Thompson said. "It will help us early to have that experience on the field. Usually, we put six or seven back from last year’s team. This year, we’re a lot better."
Likewise, the Samurai are blessed with experience — eight of 11 starters are back. They include senior striker Karla Stroud and juniors Heather Hyson and Kate Cutshall, three-year starters who remember that 2-1 overtime loss to Daegu in the 2007 title game.
"Most of these girls, I’ve had for three years. A lot remember the game two years ago," coach Chris Anderson said, adding that despite a 9-7-4 record last season, "they’re upset with their performance last year. They’ve really worked hard this preseason."
Based on their 3-1 record in last weekend’s Western Japan Athletic Association tournament at Canadian Academy in Kobe, "we’ve had a great start to the season," Anderson said Thursday, a day before the Samurai’s DODDS-Japan season-opening matches against Yokota and Zama. "We’re excited to see how we do this weekend against the bigger teams."
One reason Anderson has to be excited is senior transfer Danielle Dobson. Late of Pensacola, Fla., Dobson scored nine goals in the four matches at Kobe, giving Anderson the finisher he’s not had since Taylor Dunphy left two years ago after her 20-goal freshman season.
"Karla’s a finesse player. If it gets to a situation where it’s between Karla and the goalkeeper, it’s going in the net," Anderson said. "Danielle’s a player. She knows when to pass it off and when to fire the shot."
With four "solid players" up front "who’ll have plenty of chances to put the ball in the net," Anderson and the Samurai have worked on offensive runs, using the whole field instead of cross passing to Stroud for breakaway goals.
"We’re going to see more goals from actual plays than on breakaways," Anderson said.
While Dobson has bulked up the Samurai offense, Thompson and the Warriors will continue to rely on a defense that remains virtually intact except for the graduation of goalkeeper Shawn’Quinisha Simpson.
Dealing with Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference powers Seoul Foreign and Seoul American is always an issue. But Thompson feels Daegu stands a good shot at returning to the Class A title game.
"It depends on what the international schools bring to the table. They were solid teams last year," Thompson said of Morrison Christian Academy and International School of the Sacred Heart. (Faith Academy moves up to Class AA this season.)
One such school, Yongsan International-Seoul, looms as the team to beat once again in the Boys Class A field; the defending Far East tournament champions opened the KAIAC season with two victories by a 16-2 margin, including Wednesday’s 3-1 triumph at Class AA Seoul American.
"They work really well together," Seoul American coach Billy Ratcliff said. The Guardians, he said, compare well to DODDS-Europe Division I powers Heidelberg and Ramstein; Ratcliff coached at Vilseck, Germany, until this year.
The Guardians "control the ball very well. They trap well; they make basic runs well; they’re physically big; they’re fast. They’re experienced," Ratcliff said.