Saturday, December 29, 2012

MLS Combine 2013: Dylan Tucker-Gangnes Helped Return UW Men's Soccer to the National Stage

Photo credit: Stephen Brashear via University of Washington Athletics

The recent history of the University of Washington men’s soccer program includes several players who jumped from the collegiate to the professional game. Former Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Ely Allen scored off a Dave Beckham assist, FC Dallas defender George John continued to showcase his defensive skills and this past season center back Taylor Mueller earned first-team minutes with the Charleston Battery.

Now, two more former Huskies look to translate collegiate success into a Major League Soccer roster spot as center back Dylan Tucker-Gangnes (6-3/190) and midfielder Ben Fisk recently received invitations to the 2013 MLS Combine. Tucker-Gangnes and Fisk both landed a spot on the 2012 NCAA Division I Men’s All-Far West Region team; for Tucker-Gangnes, it was as a member of the All-Far West Region's First Team.

And unlike John's squad in 2008 and Mueller's in 2010, the 2012 senior co-captains finally guided the team to the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Tournament as the Huskies returned to the 48-team playoff, the first appearance since back-to-back runs in 2006 and ‘07.

“It was satisfying to get back into the tournament; winning the first-round match was big,” Tucker-Gangnes said via phone.

After a 1-0 NCAA First-Round victory over Air Force in Seattle, the Huskies traveled to Omaha, Nebraska succumbing 4-2 to a spirited Creighton squad. “Of course, I am bitter about the Second-Round loss, but you have to give Creighton credit, they won,” the standout from Bainbridge Island, Washington said.

Tucker-Gangnes, critical to UW’s return to the national stage, combined physical attributes with a new-found offensive confidence taken from his trainings with assistant coach Craig Waibel. A 12-year professional for a host of Major League Soccer teams, Waibel, a UW soccer alum, joined the Huskies staff in 2012 after a stop at the University of Michigan.

“I approached my off-season before the 2012 collegiate year a little differently as I was nursing an injury,” Tucker-Gangnes said before remarking, “Coach Waibel and I worked on adding to my toolbox as I wanted to take my game to the next level.”

Player and coach focused on the center back’s offensive game, especially with regards to maximizing his abilities in the box on set pieces.

“Our team lacked some offensive prowess up front so we played for set pieces,” the defender said. With tutelage from Waibel, the Huskies co-captain added knowledge around timing his runs more effectively, losing his mark and finding the ball in the air; the defender ended with eight goals, two of which were game winners.

After a successful collegiate career, Tucker-Gangnes looks now to his professional prospects. The center back, excited to hear of his invitation to the 2013 Major League Soccer Combine, currently is down in Oregon training for the event. “I’m fine tuning everything,” Tucker-Gangnes said.

Video via Jeff Rowland YouTube Channel