When the Portland State Men’s Soccer Club was traveling to the University of Oregon World Cup soccer tournament on May 16, they knew something was different from the two years they had traveled there before. And it was. The team had recently hired a new coach who had pushed them at their practices and insisted on the best. Seriousness had increased within the club, and there was a shared dedication to the sport.
When the Portland State Men’s Soccer Club was traveling to the University of Oregon World Cup soccer tournament on May 16, they knew something was different from the two years they had traveled there before.
And it was.
The team had recently hired a new coach who had pushed them at their practices and insisted on the best. Seriousness had increased within the club, and there was a shared dedication to the sport.
The team ended up placing second of seven universities at the weekend student-run tournament–its highest ranking yet. In the two previous tournaments, it had not won a single game.
“Both times we went, we lost really bad,” team coordinator Petter Dahlgren said. “We were very unorganized and we lost some games 6-0 and stuff like that. So this is our best performance in this tournament.”
The team ended up losing in the finals 4-0 to the University of Oregon team. The tournament is held every spring as preparation for the fall tournament of the same name, which will send the winning team to a regional competition.
Their tournament placing was an ongoing high note for the 25-member team that has, according to Dahlgren, already succeeded more this year than it has in its recent past. Since its league started in April, the team has won all of its games, with the exception of the first played, which it tied.
A major part of the change in performance and attitude, Dahlgren said, was the hiring of coach Luis Zambrano a few months ago. Four years ago, Zambrano came to Portland from Chile, where he played soccer professionally in the 1980s. He doesn’t speak English, so Dahlgren, whose mother is from Chile, acts as a team translator.
Dahlgren thought the difference in languages would be a huge barrier, but found that it wasn’t.
“Soccer is one language,” he said.
Practices are held twice a week, and the soccer team is in the middle of its league schedule, which continues through summer. Zambrano insists on running serious practices and drives the team, Dahlgren said. Before their games, they take time to reflect together on what they have to do to win, and after, they talk about how to improve.
Dahlgren, who has been coordinator since 2006 and played on the team before that, said respect for the PSU team is growing–at Portland State and around Oregon. The Soccer Club has been around for 20 years, according to its constitution, but Dahlgren said he is unsure how accurate that is.
What he does know is that the team is making large strides in its organization and attitude.
The team has a slogan: “18 nations, one passion, one team.” Dahlgren said the team represents nationalities around the world, and even though many may differ politically, they all share the same unifying passion for the sport.
Some of the team’s regular players will be leaving this summer, and Dahlgren said they will open up tryouts at the start of summer.
Their showing at the UO tournament and in their league has been good for the team, Dahlgren said. When the fall UO tournament comes around, he said, the team will be ready to go all the way.
“This was a really good experience,” he said. “Next time we will be ready to win it.”