Rebuilding years are seldom easy. Add injuries and a tough road schedule into the mix, and BYU men's soccer coach Chris Watkins isn't exactly surprised with what has transpired.
Roughly halfway through their 2008 schedule, the Cougars began this week with a 2-3-1 record, in fifth place in the Northwest Division of the Premier Development League. Before Friday night's 2-1 home victory over Yakima, BYU had dropped three of its last four and hadn't played a home game since May 17 until this weekend.
"We knew it was going to be tough," Watkins said. "It seems those things go hand in hand."
The Cougars entered 2008 on the heels of their best season since joining the PDL in 2003. The Cougars advanced to the final eight of the Western Conference Finals in 2007, finishing 13-1-2 and winning their division.
Following the season, however, the Cougars lost seven of their 11 players, forcing a rebuilding situation. Despite all the new faces, the Cougars started off the season strong, winning two of their first three games.
But then they went on the road and stumbled, losing three of four the last being a 4-1 thrashing by the Vancouver Whitecaps on May 31. In their last two road games, the Cougars have been outscored 6-1.
The Cougars have spent much of the season alternating schemes, trying to find the right fit. Although things haven't looked pretty for the Cougars as of late, the team remains optimistic.
"As they should," Watkins said. "All hope is not lost. We work hard and we believe hard work equals success."
BYU welcomed a two-match set at home this weekend, including a 2-1 victory Friday night against Yakima and and a 1-0 loss Saturday night to Tacoma.
One of the bright spots for the Cougars so far this season has been midfielder Jonathan Junca. "He's got incredible pace and endurance out wide," Watkins said.
Junior Zack DeFrancis, one of the four returning players from 2007, likes what he has seen out of the team despite the losses.
"We've played our toughest games of the season and we've played well," DeFrancis said. "You see the kind of talent we have. I feel like we're a fit team. We just have to be mentally tough."
DeFrancis also noted that even without most of their players from last season, the amount of talent on the team hasn't been reduced. Senior and team captain Clay Christensen said the Cougars' success through the second half of the season will come down to personal accountability.
"If you're a forward, your job is to score goals. If you're a defender, your job is to stop goals," Christensen said simply.