Hoping to bounce back from a midseason three-game losing streak, the UC Davis men’s soccer squad enters into home bouts this weekend with a blend of determination and refinement through strife.
Perhaps no one optimizes that Aggie motivation better than sophomore Brian Ford. The center defender has literally spent hours battling to ensure that UCD (3-4-4) ends the 2012 campaign as contenders for one of the Big West Conference’s top spots.
“Brian is one of the hardest workers on the team, and he’s certainly the fastest,” said Aggie head coach Dwayne Shaffer. “He’s one of those types of players that every coach loves to have on the team.
“He is a close-down defender, and what I mean by that is he is so quick that he can just close players down in the attack. Nobody can outrun him or get behind him because his pace is incredible.”
Ford’s work ethic is clear through his playing time — all 800 minutes throughout the eight games of the 2012 campaign. As a freshman, he led UCD’s roster in the minutes on the field as well, only sitting out a total of 30.
Ford, whose parents were both UCD graduates, was familiar with what it took to compete for a starting spot after his four years of starting on his prep team, Corona Del Mar High School in Newport Beach.
However, the Aggie defender expressed that being on the field at the beginning of every game of his collegiate career was welcomed but entirely unforeseen.
“Looking back at that freshman year, to be the leader of the team in minutes was something I did not expect,” Ford said. “I’m more than happy to do it. That’s why you play — for the minutes.”
The fatigue of nonstop play did start to wear on him, Ford admitted, after some of last season’s lengthy contests. UCD stretched matches into overtime periods in 11 instances throughout 2011, including six 110-minute, double-overtime games. Earlier this season, the Aggies played four straight double OT matches.
“The only way I was able to keep my endurance up (last year) was by having other people do the work,” Ford said. “We’re focused on communication in the back, so we’re often getting other players to do the running for us.”
While the position of center defender allows Ford the chance to play prolonged periods without substitution, it also is not necessarily the most prestigious role. He is not usually scoring or assisting on goals for the Aggies.
One statistic that does reflect his ability, and that of his fellow defenders, is the scoring of UCD’s opponents. The Aggie defense was able to achieve shutouts in its first three matches, and has held competitors to one goal in three games since.
“I have a pact with my back four, and our job is get a shutout every game,” Ford said. “We set a goal at the beginning of the year to get 10 shutouts this season, which is something we’re working at. When we give up a goal, we’re disappointed.”
The local men will follow up last week’s 3-1 victory at UC Irvine with an upcoming three-game homestand. It starts on Friday when the Aggies host UC Riverside at 4 p.m.
Also on the agenda for UCD on its home turf is Cal State Fullerton (Sunday at 3 p.m.) and UC Santa Barbara (Oct. 13).
Shaffer and Ford both expressed confidence going into the games at Aggie Soccer Field.
“The morale of the team is really good right now,” Shaffer said after Wednesday’s practice. “I always hear the same comment from people, ‘I didn’t think the game would be that exciting, physical and fast.’ I really encourage anybody, even non-soccer fans, to come out and support us.”
— Reach Brett Johnson at [email protected] or (530) 747-8052.