Sept. 7, 2003
Tallahassee, FL - The 2003 Seminole soccer season hasn't started the way any of the coaches or players hoped but it isn't all that different than the beginning of the previous three seasons, which all ended with FSU in the NCAA Tournament. In both 2000 and 2001, the Seminoles lost back-to-back games within the first month of the season. Last year, the Tribe scored just five goals in starting the year 1-1-2. This year they are 0-3 heading to Jacksonville Sunday looking for the first result of the season.
"I spoke to the team about my conversation with my good friend at Texas A&M (head coach) G. Guerrieri. Last year the Aggies lost three games in a row and the players and coaches were searching but they kept after it. They went on to win 18 straight games and advanced to the final eight in the NCAA Tournament," said head coach Patrick Baker. "I am not saying we'll win 18 in a row but at least there is a parallel to our program. I told the kids this could happen for us once we turn that corner."
The Tribe will look to turn that corner at 5:00 p.m. against a Dolphin team which they have outscored 19-4 during a five game win streak that dates back to 1999. Florida State has scored at least three goals in each of those games and FSU will look to get their offense on track Sunday.
The Seminoles have scored just two goals this season, the fewest through three games in team history. The lack of production was a problem at the start of the 2002 season also but Baker doesn't think the team's switch to a 4-5-1 formation this year is at the root of the offensive production.
"We feel like we are playing good soccer but we haven't been able to get results. Each time we step out we have played better," said Baker. "We feel very good about the direction we are heading and hopefully after playing three nationally ranked teams we can continue to play hard. Things aren't bouncing our way right now and we just have to keep plugging away. Hopefully we can get our first win Sunday and change the tide a little bit.
"If we implemented this new system and weren't playing good soccer and weren't putting our players in position to be successful then I would say we needed to change some things we are doing as coaches. Right now, our best players and our most consistent players are in the starting 11. We are getting the right people the opportunities to serve into the box. We are getting the right people to defend and we are getting the right people to shoot. Unfortunately they just haven't fallen in the first three games. Hopefully it will get better in game four, five and six and throughout the season."
After coming into the season a consensus top 15 team, the coaching staff is dealing with something this crop of Seminoles isn't used to. The current Seminoles have never been below .500 at any point of their careers coming into the 2003 season and they have never lost three straight games. On top of that, they are coming off just their second loss to Florida in four years.
"As far as the team goes there is some disappointment. We have very high expectations. Although we have played three very talented teams we felt like we wouldn't be in this situation," said Baker. "Our players responded very well after the first weekend. Almost every player put in video time or came in for individual training. They aren't trying to place blame. The team is just trying to improve individually, which hopefully will improve the team collectively when we take the field.
"I told the team that regardless of the outcome Friday in Gainesville, it isn't like the NCAA committee is going to get together Monday and name the 64 teams invited to the tournament. We looked at the landscape of our schedule. We talked about the games left versus teams in state and within our region. Every ranked team in our region except Auburn and Florida, who we already played, is still ahead of us. Head-to-head competition matters and if we can win those, that bodes well in the eyes of the selection committee. We still have great games in front of us versus out of region teams and ACC squads. We feel like we have opportunities to be right where we want to be come November. The season isn't a sprint it's a marathon."
As disappointed as Baker is in the results so far, there are plenty of positives that he believes the team can continue to build on. The Tribe is young, starting four players who have never made a start before 2003 and two players with just a year of experience. When a team is as young as Baker's 2003 squad, the main thing is continued improvement each week and the Tribe coach believes that is happening.
"For the first time ever we went into a hostile environment in Gainesville and outplayed Florida. We just couldn't manufacture a goal," said Baker. "I think we continue to get better. I look at where we were that first night against USC and then where we were versus Penn State and then how we preformed yesterday versus Florida. When we left Gainesville in 2001, we lost 2-0 and we didn't deserve to win. We didn't play well. Last night, I told our team that they could walk out proud of the effort. We took it to them in the second half. We were unlucky.
"That is an element of our game that other sports don't have. You can win a lot of 50-50 balls, be good in possession and create chances but if that ball doesn't go in the net it really doesn't matter. We have been doing a lot of good things up until that point but now we have to make that last step happen. Once we do, we will be hitting on all cylinders."
For photos, stats and a complete game recap from the Seminoles trip to JU log on to the official athletic website for Florida State University at www.seminoles.com.