Creighton brings toughness, discipline to Harder Stadium

Tough, disciplined, organized and well-coached.

That’s the kind of opponent No. 8-ranked UCSB will be facing Tuesday when Creighton visits Meredith Field at Harder Stadium for a nonconference men’s soccer match at 7 p.m.

Creighton, located in Omaha, Neb. is one of the storied programs in college soccer. The Cardinals appeared in 17 consecutive NCAA Tournaments from 1992 through 2008, before narrowly missing last season’s tournament with a 7-4-5 record.

Creighton prides itself on playing great defense, and this year is no exception under new coach Jamie Clark. The team opened with shutouts over UNC Greensboro (4-0) and Loyola Chicago (2-0).

Clark took the Creighton job after guiding Harvard to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments in his first two years in Cambridge, Mass. He replaced Bob Warming, who was hired a Penn State.

“I had an incredible experience at Harvard and it took a very special opportunity to pull me away,” said Clark at his introduction in June.  “After speaking with Bruce Rasmussen, I knew this was the place that I wanted to continue my coaching career. I’m following two fantastic coaches (Bret Simon and Bob Warming) and I hope to continue the fine tradition of Creighton soccer.”

“Jamie Clark is one of the great young soccer minds in the country,” said Creighton Director of Athletics Bruce Rasmussen.  “He is passionate and extremely intelligent about college soccer and has high character.  Jamie is a great recruiter and has an outstanding relationship with his players.”

Clark is familiar with UCSB, having played against the Gauchos when he was a two-time All-American defender at Stanford (1996-98). In ’98, he helped the Cardinal advance to the College Cup final, finishing as national runners-up.

He played for his father Bobby Clark, who is now the coach at Notre Dame and worked as an assistant at Notre Dame with his father and at New Mexico with Jeremy Fishbein, helping the Lobos reach the College Cup final in 2005.

At Creighton, Clark has one of the top forwards in the country in Ethan Finlay. Selected as a Soccer America Preseason All-American, Finlay scored eight goals and had 19 assists last year. He tallied two goals in the Blue Jays’ 4-0 win against UNC Greensboro.

Kris Clark is another scoring threat. He has two goals in the first two matches.

“We’re trying to have a collective effort scoring this year, not putting pressure on any one guy,” said Clark after the Greensboro win. “That way we can fight for goals, grind out goals. The more we do that, the more of those we score, the more we’ll believe.”

Newcomer Jose Gomez gives Creighton some flair in the midfield and Kyle Deremer leads the defense.

UCSB is off to a 0-1-1 start, losing its opener at Cal State Bakersfield 1-0 in overtime and gaining a 1-1 tie at New Mexico.

Coach Tim Vom Steeg said after a subpar effort at Bakersfield, the Gauchos took a big step forward at New Mexico.

The team is off to slow start scoring goals, but it’s played well defensively.