When the NCAA Men's D1 bracket was announced there was a somewhat surprising team left out of the tournament. Despite a 12-4-2 record, winning 7 of their last 8 and being 18th in the Coaches Poll the University of Washington Huskies season did not continue. First year head coach Jamie Clark did see six Huskies make all-PAC12 honors. Three on the first team, two on second team and one with an honorable mention.
In a phone interview Friday Coach Clark (no relation) said;
The only sad part was that for our Seniors their final loss was to a bunch of guys in a board room. No one wants to end that way. You want to lose on the field and go down swinging, play and get beaten by someone. Instead a few coaches and a lot of administrators came to a decision that left us out of the tournament.
The fourth year head coach didn't think it was a downturn in talent in the PAC12, or that it is more difficult for a West Coast program, noting that the conference has a strong history of developing MLS and better quality players. While the success of UCLA has a lot to do with that each program has MLS talent. Looking at the Seattle Sounders roster and one finds several PAC12 connections from the coaching staff (Sigi Schmid, Kurt Schmid and Chris Henderson all with UCLA) to players like Tyson Wahl and Servando Carrasco at Cal, Taylor Graham and Roger Levesque at Stanford, and David Estrada and Patrick Ianni at UCLA.
Coach Clark and the team aren't waiting until the spring exhibition season to start focusing on 2012's title hopes. He adjusted his initial training plan because of the drive of his returning players to get event better.
We're training again as of Monday. We have an energy around this program right now. Guys are asking [to train.] I thought about giving them time off until January but guys want to train, guys want to work. They'll get the holiday break off. They'll [practices] will be much looser, we'll have fun with them. They'll get the holidays off and come January they're back playing. We have to get better. We have to get better on the ball. We need to play better as a team unit, playing in tight areas and handling pressure. I think those things will really help us.
Consistently pointing out that it is players that win games Clark's role, like any coach in college athletics is as much about recruiting talent as it is about developing skills and tactical education. For next season he loses his top two scorers in Brent Richards (10 goals, 5 assists, 1st team All PAC-12) and Jacob Hustedt (6 goals, 5 assists, also 1st Team all conference) as well as defender and assist man Jamie Finch (5 assists, 1st team all conference). Recruiting offense is a major goal this year.
In the end we've got to find a few more guys that can score us goals. We're losing, I think, two of the best 10 attacking players in college soccer we're losing this year for sure in Brent Richards and Jake Hustedt. No matter how well you play, no matter how nice your build up looks you need guys that score you goals. We have one or two potential options on our roster right now, but you can bet that we are scouring close by, internationally, anything to find guys that can score us goals.
Depending on the non-Seniors signed to Generation Adidas contracts Coach Clark feels that both forwards are capable of playing in MLS and worth being picked in the first two rounds of the MLS draft.
There are two things that brightened Clark's mood. The Creighton Blue Jays, the team he coached last year, enjoyed an 18-2 record and #2 overall seed. Secondly, and more important than any season of soccer, his wife gave birth just 10 days ago.