UC Davis needed a goal-scorer.
The Aggies lost their two top forwards to graduation and were in need of a replacement.
Coach Dwayne Shaffer found that different scorer by converting defender Lance Patterson into a goal threat.
After not scoring in the 2009 season, the 6-foot-4 junior has adapted to his new role, leading the team with five goals.
Patterson sat down with Aggie sports writer Trevor Cramer to talk about changing positions, his early career and playing in Aggie Stadium.
As you made the transition from defense to a more attacking offensive role, did you expect to start the season as fast as you did?
It came as a surprise to me. I just tried to help our team out as much as I could and good things happened. I figured if the goals come then they come.
You’ve played both as an attacking midfielder and a striker this season, which position do you prefer?
I like playing striker better. I really like being able to make runs behind the defense. That’s harder to do from the midfield.
In the world of professional soccer, strikers are probably the most well known athletes. Is there a professional player that you model your game after?
I’ve always liked [New York Red Bulls striker] Thierry Henry. I love the way he goes straight at the goal. He makes really great runs through the defense. I think if I can play like him I’ll be doing pretty well.
You’ve said your grandmother is your non-sports hero. Why is that?
Well, she’s lived a tough life, but she always keeps a positive outlook. Nothing seems to get her down. When I talk to her she keeps me in a positive mind-set. She keeps me on-track.
You’ve been on track sneaking through defenses this year while teamed up with several freshmen. How have you been able to create chemistry with them so fast?
We bonded pretty quickly. They came up [to Davis] early on and we got together before the preseason and played together. They’ve gotten so much solid experience this year it doesn’t even feel like they’re freshmen anymore. Gaining that chemistry has been key for us.
Speaking of freshman, your first career goal came as a first year in an NCAA tournament game. What was that like?
It was crazy. It definitely meant something to me and I’ll never forget it. Not only was it a big game, but we were playing the University of Denver in Colorado and being from that area I knew some of the guys on the other team. It seemed ironic that I would score my first goal there.
It must have been difficult to leave Colorado for California to play soccer. You were the first UC Davis soccer player to come from outside California in 12 years. What brought you to Davis?
I really wanted to play Division I soccer and there weren’t very many options in Colorado. UC Davis has a great program. Dwayne [Shaffer] has created a solid team here, so it was good choice for me.
This is the first year soccer has played games in Aggie Stadium. Do you prefer Aggie Stadium to Aggie Soccer Field?
I prefer Aggie Stadium, mostly because I’ve always liked playing night games. It’s a different atmosphere and it usually means better crowds. I think the energy of playing in a bigger stadium contributes to the way we play.
You’ve played a couple overtime games here at home. Is there one goal you’ve scored this season that stands out in your mind?
The [game-winner] against San Jose State was big, because it was an important home game with a really good atmosphere. The crowd was into it, so it was nice. My goal against UC Santa Barbara was pretty big too, because it was a huge game on the road in front of a big crowd and the score kept us in the game.
With the way your defense has played at points this year, it seems like if you score just one goal you have a good chance to win. How does that make you feel as a striker?
Everyone says defense wins games and it’s true a lot of the time. If they hold the other team scoreless and we just need one goal it takes a lot of pressure off us as attacking players. They’ve done a great job this year.
The strong play of the defense has kept you in the race for a Big West Conference Tournament bid this season. How do you feel about your team’s chances to make the tournament and ultimately the NCAA Championships?
I think we have an excellent chance to make the Big West Tournament. We have some big games coming up against Cal Poly and [Cal State] Fullerton, but we’ve put ourselves in a good spot. We control our destiny and once you make the Big West Tournament, who knows what can happen.
TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.