(Photo: Trey Lanthier/WCSN)
Arizona State soccer’s tie against top ranked UCLA showcased its skill on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
For their efforts, the Pac-12 awarded senior Brianna Gonzalez with the Defensive Player of the Week award, and junior Cali Farquharson with the Offensive Player of the Week award. This is the second time this season that Farquharson has received the award, and she is no stranger to these types of accolades. However, the recognition for Gonzalez goes to show that her hard work has not gone unnoticed.
Gonzalez has been disrupting opposing attacking midfielders’ play in front of the Sun Devils’s back line from a defensive midfield position all season.
“She’s doing the unsung hero work, which is chasing players off the ball, staying goal side sometimes for 50, 60, 80 yards and then that ball never arriving,” head coach Kevin Boyd said. “So you exhaust yourself, killing yourself, to do the work even though it might not arrive for that one time it does arrive.”
Playing as the holding midfielder in a 4-1-3-2 formation against the Bruins, one of Gonzalez’s roles in the game was to decrease the impact of UCLA senior midfielder Sam Mewis, who has seven goals and two assists in 10 games.
“She is a great player, but I couldn’t have done it without my team because I wasn’t marking her the whole entire time,” Gonzalez said.
Mewis, who had seven shots on goal Friday, has been considered “by most of the opponents that have played them so far to be their best player, most impactful player,” Boyd said. “Bri basically shut her down. She kept her scoreless. The girl had very little influence in the actual game. Everybody helped with that chore, but the bulk of it fell on Bri’s shoulders.”
Gonzalez had not been in this role for the Sun Devils until the 2014 season. Her collegiate career began at UC Riverside in 2011, where she played outside back as a freshman and center back in her sophomore season. She transferred to Arizona State before her junior year, the 2013 season.
“I wanted to come to a better program,” Gonzalez said. “I just wanted to come play with the best of the best, and I definitely think I got that here, coming into the Pac-12 and ASU.”
Despite not playing in the midfield for the Highlanders, Boyd felt she could impact ASU’s program as a holding midfielder, he said.
“To be quite honest, [Gonzalez] wasn’t ready last year,” Boyd said. “She didn’t know our system. The speed of play was higher. The demands were higher. The tactical demands were higher. All were things that pushed her out of her comfort zone a bit.
“To her credit, she spent a year getting comfortable and has been fantastic for us this whole season,” he added. “She looks confident. She’s playing well. She’s powerful. She’s winning balls in the air. She’s been doing everything we’ve asked her to do.”
Gonzalez played in nine games in 2013 and has enjoyed her position change that went along with her transfer.
“I love holding mid just because it gives me the opportunity to go forward as well,” she said. “Even though I am the holding mid, so I am still mostly on defense, I love being involved in the transition part of the game.”
With the recognition Cali Farquharson (Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week) and Gonzalez received from the conference Monday, Gonzalez and Boyd both said these were more of team awards than individual awards.
“Whenever we have players that get awards like that, it’s to the compliment of our team,” Boyd said. “You know obviously Cali got awarded as well because she scored that goal, but she wouldn’t have got that goal if we didn’t have a slide tackle to shake a ball loose off a throw-in, and then Aly [Moon] didn’t pick her head up and play her in behind. So we had two other players directly contribute to that as well. If Chandler didn’t play the way she did in goal, we wouldn’t have gotten a tie.
“There are a lot of things that go into it,” he added. “While it’s a nice compliment to each of them, those are team awards.”
You can reach Anthony Prosceno via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @The_A_Pro.