Earlier this month, the Gopher Soccer program made a splash by signing graduate transfer Cachet Lue - a three year starter at centerback from Texas Christian University. Because we don't typically watch much Big 12 soccer, we reached out to Nick Stephens, a writer for TCU 360 and The 109 to learn more about what kind of impact she may have for Minnesota.
Equal Time Soccer: Thanks for doing this, Nick! Some context from the Minnesota side. The Gophers lost their starting centerback to an ACL tear last spring. That meant their All-Big Ten quality leftback Nikki Albrecht played out of position in the middle before shifting back outside once Emily Peterson was able to return. But the backline absolutely could use a solid centerback to push Nikki back out left. How would you describe her game for the Gopher fans already getting their hopes up?
Nick: Gopher fans have every reason to get excited about the arrival of Cachet Lue. The graduate transfer is a physically imposing center back who has anchored the TCU defense for the last two seasons. Lue was recently called in to the Jamaican women’s national team for their matches against Chile, which shows the potential that she has (Jamaica is World Cup-bound this summer). She’s a solid, fundamentally-sound defender who is excellent in the air and saved the TCU squad with a number of last-ditch clearances this season. She also looked composed on the ball and willing to dribble out of the back, though that’s not something she was asked to do very often in TCU’s system-- I don’t know if that will be any different in Minnesota.
ETS: Cachet started from day one down in TCU and played all 64 games during her time there. But it looks like her only big time conference honors were as an All Newcomer in 2016 and we’ve heard some murmuring that maybe effort and hustle were possibly a reason why she never cracked that upper echelon of Big 12 defenders. The Gophers are known for their grit and hard work so I’m sure they did their homework. But does any of that have merit?
Nick: I would disagree wholeheartedly with those rumors. I mentioned earlier that Lue saved TCU on a number of occasions last season with goal-line clearances and goal-saving tackles, and that often meant putting in that extra bit of effort to get in position to make a play on the ball. The Big 12 has a number of talented defenders, to be sure, which may explain her lack of accolades, though I was surprised at the time that she didn’t at least receive honorable mention all-conference this past year with TCU’s stellar defensive numbers. If I were to identify one flaw in her game, it’s probably her 1-on-1 defending. She was exposed a few times last season by attackers who were able to go at her in space and sometimes went to ground too easily trying to stop them. That said, I definitely don’t think you can fault her hustle.
ETS: There’s a nice piece on TCU 360 about her recovery from a tough injury she sustained as a freshman and how that helped her gain some good perspective while watching from the sidelines. How would you describe her role on the team down there?
Robbie’s a good writer, and I think his piece that you referenced helps explain the way Lue plays. When you watch her, you can tell that she really understands the game. There are some very talented soccer players at all levels who struggle because they just don’t fully grasp tactics or nuances, but she’s never had that problem, and I think her time observing on the bench helped with that. The TCU defense had quite a few injury issues this season, with Tijana Djuricek and Brandi Peterson switching out as Lue’s center-back partner, but she never missed a beat and made sure the defense didn’t either. For what it’s worth, I’ve also heard that she was a good leader and very well-liked in the locker room.
ETS: We haven’t had many starter-quality transfers come in to the U of M recently, let alone from Power 5 conferences like the Big 12. This spring, they’ve already announced Cachet and a rotation player from Baylor (Emily Bunnell). How would you describe the level and style of play in the Big 12 if fans are looking for some context?
Nick: The gap between the top and bottom teams in the Big 12 is still pretty large, but I definitely think the level of play has improved significantly in the last couple seasons. The perennial powerhouses (Texas, West Virginia) have remained strong and there are a number of up-and-coming programs (Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech). If I had to identify one characteristic of the league, I would say that it’s probably the impressive athleticism. The Big 12 doesn’t have the most technically skilled teams and they’re usually not going to beat you with their passing, but they’re going to outrun you, outjump you and body you off the ball. The next step for the league is probably to improve that technical side, and I think we’re seeing signs of that with a few schools.
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