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Full year under new coach could be key

It will be interesting to see what the Lake Oswego boys soccer team can accomplish with Fraser Morrison serving a full year as the team's coach.

Morrison was brought in at mid-season last year, hoping to solidify a team that had been having problems on the field and on the sideline. Before his arrival, the Lakers had a less-than-impressive 1-3-1 record in the Three Rivers League. With Morrison at the helm, the Lakers went 3-2-2 the rest of the way and barely missed making the state playoffs.

'It was a tale of two seasons,' Morrison said of the 2006 campaign.

The worst of the year came when previous head coach Colin Stead had a run-in with an official after a game at West Linn. With pressure from school officials, Stead stepped down from his position the following day. Under Morrison, the Lakers played with a sense of urgency, as if they were trying to make up for lost time.

'They became more disciplined and channeled their energies into playing soccer,' Morrison said of his players. 'They let their feet do the talking.'

For the record, Morrison refuses to take credit for his team's turn-around, saying the players 'demonstrated that they were the difference.'

However, the new coach did admit that he was able to offer 'a different voice' for the players, 'and some of the things that were being said were different.'

Whatever it was, the Lakers went from being a mediocre team in the first half of the 2006 season to being possibly the TRL's second-best team in the second half.

'They realized how talented they were,' the coach said. 'On their day, arguably, they were as good as anyone.'

Because of their slow start, the Lakers didn't get much attention in the all-league voting. They had just one first-team player - Nic Watson. He was expected to be the team's top player this year, but he and his brother, Alex, have transferred out of the district. Also gone is senior Matt Montpas, who has decided to concentrate full time on golf.

But there's still plenty of talent left in the Lakers' camp.

Junior forward Jackson Ray, who Morrison calls 'an impact player,' could wind up being one of the best players in the TRL this year.

Other standouts include senior midfielder Danny MacNaughton, senior defender Joe Ginn, sophomore midfielder Thomas Iwasaki, sophomore forward Rio Asai, junior midfielder Troy Hall and junior defender McGregor Hodgson.

That group played its first game of the season on Tuesday and wound up losing 4-3 to Grant. The Lakers had to endure a truly forgettable opening 20 minutes, when they fell behind 3-0. But they rebounded nicely, eventually closing the gap to 3-2.

After that showing, it's obvious that the Lakers will be scoring a lot on offense, but Morrison admits that his squad is still getting organized in the back.

'I think we'll be trying to out-score our opponents,' Morrison said.

After seeing what happened last year, don't be surprised if the Lakers become an improved team in all facets of the game.

'Hopefully we can concentrate on our strengths and things we can control,' the coach said.

If that happens, don't be surprised to see the Lakers in the playoffs.

'It's one of those things were we could easily be second (best) or we could easily be fifth,' Morrison said. 'It's just a matter of being consistent … Being in the playoffs isn't a divine right. They have to show up for every game.'