Cal State Dominguez Hills Coach Joe Flanagan, in his 15th year with the program, has his squad in the Division II Final Four for the first time since 2001. The all-time winningest coach in Toros history (as well as their all-time leading goalscorer), the former L.A. Salsa player took time out to answer questions via e-mail from Tampa, Fla., where the Toros are preparing for Friday’s semifinal against Tampa.
Question: CSUDH is back in the Final Four for the first time since 2001. How did this season and the team stack up against the squads you took to the Final Four the previous two times, especially the 2000 national champions?
Answer: Even though in 2000 we hadn’t been in the playoff before we were a more seasoned group, whereas this team is younger and if you compare the stats from the 2000 team they had some big goal scorers and this year we are getting it done as a whole team. This team seems to really play together and rely on each other game in and game out.
Q: Coming into this season off back to back CCAA titles, you expected to field a deep team. Did the season unfold as you thought?
A: The team has definitely exceeded my expectations. It’s not that I didn’t expect us to get this far, but anytime you get to the Final Four you feel very fortunate because we know how tough it is to get out of our region. The depth of our team, as usual, is a key part of our success, because we had guys with injuries and missing games. We had guys step in which makes our team better and healthier because we are not having to push guys who are injured and overworked.
Q: What do you know about your opponents Friday?
A: It is hard to really scout being that we don’t have any common opponents and we never played them head to head. There is no real video tape available so you have to go off the stats and look for certain things. We are not changing what we do, we will make a couple of adjustments on game day, but we will play like we have so far to be the best on that day.
Q: The team has worn black armbands this season in recognition of former player Jaret Minami, who passed away at a young age just before the season began. How has that affected the team?
A: Its always a motivating factor for me to be focused and working hard just like J.T. always was. I think he has been a 12th man for us, he has been out there playing with us and I know it has been a great inspiration for our players, staff and coaches to play for him each and every game”
Q: Is this team capable of winning a national title?
A: Yeah, we are here and we are in the arena, and once we got here anything can happen. In 2000 I was just happy to get to the Final Four. I didn’t know what it was all about. I didn’t know if the field would be above and beyond us, but we won it. The next year I thought we had a great chance of winning it, but we didn’t. If you talk to any coach in the CCAA, they feel that if you get out of our region you are a battle tested team. Hopefully we can get a semifinal win and we will have the chance to get to the championship on Sunday.
Earlier, I did a similar Q & A with Toros goalkeeper Miguel Benitez. Read it here.