SportsWomen's Soccer

Soccer looks to end non-conference play with upset win over No. 4 Portland



Oregon soccer head coach Tara Erickson expects to learn a great deal about her team on Friday night.

The unranked Ducks (4-4-2) will take on No. 4 Portland (10-1) in an annual clash which has gone Portland’s way for the last twelve years. The Pilots’ lone defeat this season came in Palo Alto to the nation’s best, the Stanford Cardinal. That contest was just last week, but already Coach Erickson has mulled over the game film.

“They’re good. We want to play these big games though,” Erickson said.

Oregon is an even .500 on the year after dropping its fourth match to No. 13 Santa Clara in Northern California. On paper, the match was just another loss, but the flow of that game gives Oregon reason to think they can beat some of the nation’s best teams.

In Santa Clara, the Ducks outshot the Broncos 12-9, the ninth time this season that Oregon has outshot an opponent.

“We controlled that second half (and) gave them a good match … we are on the road to becoming a dangerous team this year,” Erickson said.

Last year when Portland squared off with Oregon, it was all Pilots. Portland opened its 2009 season with a 3-0 grounding of the Ducks, the first of 21 wins for the program, which made it all the way to the NCAA quarterfinals before losing to UCLA. The Pilots spent the majority of the 2009 season ranked in the top three nationally.

Portland’s last national championship was in 2005, but they have been hot on the trail of another for the last half-decade. Offensively, freshman Micaela Capelle paces the Pilots. She has six of the team’s 22 total goals. Fellow freshman Erin Dees is the Portland anchor in net. Over eight starts, her goals-against average is well below one per contest (0.500).

Oregon will have to contend with a Portland team that has won its last 30 home matches dating back to the very first match of the 2008 season. So far this season, the Pilots have outscored opponents 11-3 in Portland, but within those same scoring numbers exists a quandary.

In the same way the Ducks got off to a slow start in Santa Clara, the Pilots have been slow starters throughout this season. Opponents are outscoring Portland by a 6-5 margin through the first 45 minutes of play, a statistic which Coach Erickson plans to exploit.

Despite outscoring the opposition 17-2 in the second half of matches, Portland’s skewed goal-scoring numbers give the Ducks a well-defined plan of attack.

Senior forward Jen Stoltenberg headlines Oregon’s offense. The veteran has six goals this season, which is good for fourth in the conference. Senior midfielder Kirstie Kuhns has launched her way into the upper echelon of Oregon scorers; she netted all of her four goals on the season in a convincing 6-1 win over Butler two weeks ago. The onslaught of production echoes the senior’s effectiveness all season long on the field.

“Kirstie (and Linsday Parlee) do a lot to motivate us on the field,” Stoltenberg said. “They’re both very helpful in that way.”

Oregon’s plan of attack is no secret — they want to get ahead quickly against the Pilots. The Ducks will do their best to prey on Portland’s tendency toward lackluster first halves. Having won two of their last three contests and having outscored opponents 9-3 over that same stretch, the Ducks finally appear to have established concrete momentum in the 2010 season. The momentum they have and the fact the match will be Oregon’s final primer before Pac-10 play begins makes the Friday night contest all the more intriguing.

Kickoff at Merlo Field in Portland on Friday is slated for 7 p.m. The contest can also be seen live streaming at portlandpilots.com.

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