Power rankings: Pilots land at No. 10
It was a good week for women's soccer in Portland, Ore. It was a week Clive Charles would have enjoyed.
A few hours after Portland Thorns FC won the first championship in the National Women's Soccer League with a victory against the Western New York Flash on Saturday, the University of Portland remained unbeaten in its new season with a 1-1 draw on the road against No. 2 Stanford. The latter result lands the Pilots in this week's power rankings.
Saturday's games also came at the end of a week during which many soccer fans in Portland paused to remember the 10th anniversary of Charles passing away from prostate cancer at 51 years old.
A product of London's East End, Charles played for clubs like West Ham United and Cardiff City in Great Britain (Cardiff City's upset of Manchester City came the day before the anniversary of his death) and then with the Portland Timbers of the North American Soccer League. He remained in the Pacific Northwest and became one of the driving forces in the area's soccer culture. Already the coach of the Pilots men's team, he took over a good women's program before the 1989 season and transformed it into a juggernaut that, along with Santa Clara, ruled the West Coast.
Angie Kerr (known by her maiden name of Woznuk in college) was one of three former Pilots who helped Thorns FC to the title, along with Christine Sinclair and Danielle Foxhoven. She was also part of Charles' final recruiting class.
"I think that Clive had a very unique style where everything was about playing soccer," said Kerr. "I think sometimes at university, a lot of coaches focus on the physical fitness and kind of your physical ability. Clive was the total opposite, where it was all about playing, getting on the ball as much as you can. Preseason, we never had a day where we didn't see the ball. I think that was a big difference, talking to other players, that I feel thankful for."
His final team won a national championship in 2002. Three years later, his former player and assistant coach Garrett Smith led the school to its second title and its first undefeated season. It grows ever more difficult for Smith and the Pilots to maintain that level of success at a small school with no football money in a non-major conference, but this season's impressive recruiting class and Saturday's point in Palo Alto suggest it is still possible.
And there remains few better places to spend an autumn afternoon than Portland's Merlo Field, where the largest crowds in college soccer count on seeing the Pilots play the way they always have.
"The thing I always respected about Clive, and also Garrett who replaced him, is they have an honest appreciation for the game played at the highest level," North Carolina coach Anson Dorrance said. "The fans out there root for soccer. They're not these bloodthirsty win-at-all-costs kind who want to sacrifice the game to get a victory. I think it's the same with the Portland traditions that Clive started. I think that Clive was such a great soccer man, this was something that was very important to him. Those roots are still very deep in Portland."
The past week showed that what he planted continues growing a decade on.
This week's power rankings are below.
1. North Carolina (4-0-0, last week's ranking: 1)
The Tar Heels didn't miss Crystal Dunn, absent for national team duty, when they rolled to a 3-0 win Sunday against Kennesaw State. But it was a good thing they had her around two days earlier. Trailing New Mexico by a goal in the second half of what would have been an all-time stunner, North Carolina pulled level on Dunn's goal in the 59th minute and pulled out the 2-1 win on sophomore Caroline Lindquist's first career goal. Friday night brings one of the most appealing games of the season, as North Carolina plays UCLA on a neutral field.
2. UCLA (4-0-0, last week's ranking: 4)
Darian Jenkins has played all of four games, and already the freshman shows a knack for big moments. In UCLA's first game at a tournament hosted by Notre Dame, the Bruins fell behind Marquette after just 45 seconds. Not even four minutes later, Jenkins equalized with her third goal of the season and blunted Marquette's momentum. UCLA went on to a 2-1 win. With Sunday's tournament finale against Notre Dame still scoreless in the second half, Jenkins again showed up in the right place at the right time and cleaned up a scramble in front of goal. UCLA won 1-0.
3. Virginia (4-0-0, last week's ranking: 6)
Maybe an 8-2 scoring margin and two wins, including one against nationally ranked Santa Clara, weren't convincing enough the first week? All right, how about an 8-1 scoring margin and two more wins, including a 5-1 victory against a top-10 opponent in Penn State? You made your point, Virginia. Despite playing half its games so far against ranked teams, Virginia holds a 99-19 edge in shots. Sunday's 3-0 win against Richmond marked the first time super sub Brittany Ratcliffe hadn't scored this season. In fact, her four goals are more than the Cavaliers have conceded.
4. Stanford (2-0-1, last week's ranking: 2)
The Cardinal were the most difficult team to rank this week after a 1-1 draw at home against Portland. It was far from an embarrassing result given the quality of opponent. Unlike in its two games a week earlier, Stanford generated an abundance of shots, particularly in the second half. And the draw came exactly a year to the day after Stanford last dropped points at home, against a nationally ranked Boston College team. That result didn't exactly begin a slide. But as freshmen pop up all over the field and lineup tinkering continues, it's difficult to get a read on these Cardinal.
5. Florida State (4-0-0, last week's ranking: 7)
Soccer fields surrounded by running tracks are aesthetic aggravations, but they don't usually do any actual damage. And then there is Florida, which may want to reconsider its layout after Florida State's Megan Campbell used all the extra room around the field in Gainesville to decimate the Gators with long throws. Campbell only got credit for an assist on the throw she placed right on Dagny Brynjarsdottir's head in the 6-yard box, but she played a role in all of the goals in a 3-0 rout by the Seminoles. A 1-0 overtime win against UCF wrapped up an impressive weekend.
6. Wake Forest (3-0-0, last week's ranking: 3)
The drop here has more to do with what ascending teams did than anything the Demon Deacons didn't do. A 2-1 overtime win at home against North Texas was too close for comfort, but there are a lot of one-goal wins against unranked teams represented in these rankings. A chance to add a win against Louisville vanished along with Wake Forest's lead when Sunday's game between the teams was abandoned after halftime because of severe weather. Katie Stengel did score her third goal of the season, leaving her two shy of younger sister Jackie at NC State.
7. Notre Dame (3-1-0, last week's ranking: 5)
Unlike Virginia, Notre Dame couldn't pass the big test of a home-loaded nonconference schedule. Even with the normal caveat about the perils of reading too much into shot totals, UCLA's 20-1 edge in South Bend was an eye opener and indicative of the flow of a game -- more indicative than the final score. Illinois, Northwestern and even Oakland aren't bad sides, so there's no need to now dismiss Notre Dame's scoring binge in its first three games, but this is still a young team. This week's lone home game against Detroit is all that remains before ACC play begins.
8. Duke (3-1-0, last week's ranking: 9)
Whether you prefer to see the glass as half full or half empty, Duke can't continue to leave the opponent's goal so barren. The Blue Devils piled up nearly 50 shots in games against Kennesaw State and New Mexico last weekend, but they had to settle for 1-0 wins on both occasions. That makes four games and four 1-0 results for the Blue Devils, who don't appear to lack for talent on the offensive end. The good news is that a new-look back line and two inexperienced keepers lead a defensive effort that has conceded just one goal.
9. West Virginia (3-0-1, last week's ranking: NR)
A year after they scored five goals in their first six games, the Mountaineers have scored 10 goals through four games this season. That's their most prolific four-game start since 2006. Sharing a stage in this weekend's Nike Classic with so many players in the national system from Duke, North Carolina and UCLA is a chance for Kate Schwindel and Frances Silva to turn some heads. With games against the Blue Devils on Friday and Tar Heels on Sunday, it's worth noting that West Virginia has at least one win against a top-10 team in each of the past eight seasons.
10. Portland (2-0-1, last week's ranking: NR)
Portland defeated Stanford and UCLA by a combined 7-0 margin en route to the 2005 national championship (the 4-0 win against the Bruins, of course, coming in the title game). That was the last time the Pilots took a point from either of those Pac-12 programs that have made so many College Cup appearances in the years since. So Saturday's 1-1 draw against the Cardinal in Palo Alto is a big deal. It's a nice mix of old and new for Portland (three freshmen started against Stanford) as the Pilots host Central Michigan on Friday and play a huge game against Wake Forest on Sunday.
Next five: Penn State, BYU, Baylor, Florida, Michigan
Ten games to watch this week (rankings from NSCAA Top 25)
• No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 3 UCLA
• No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 19 West Virginia
• Oklahoma State at No. 2 Florida State
• No. 3 UCLA at No. 12 Duke
• No. 16 Maryland at No. 4 Stanford
• Rutgers at No. 5 Virginia
• No. 7 Wake Forest at No. 15 Portland
• No. 9 Baylor at No. 24 Texas A&M
• No. 22 Pepperdine at No. 11 Michigan
• No. 19 West Virginia at No. 12 Duke