Position shift hasn’t changed defensive focus for CU soccer’s Alex Vidger

Autumn Parry / Camera file
Colorado’s Alex Vidger has settled into a defensive midfielder role this season. She played on the back line last season.

Colorado soccer at Denver

WHEN: Saturday, 7 p.m., DU Soccer Stadium.

RECORDS: CU 5-1-2; DU 3-3-1.


LEADERS: Colorado — Goals: Taylor Kornieck 4, Marty Puketapu 4; Assists: Becca Rasmussen 3; Goalie: Jalen Tompkins 0.35 goals-against average, .846 save percentage. Denver — Goals: Jessie Dancy 5; Assists: Three players with 2. Goalie: Brittany Wilson, 1.15 goals-against average, .742 save percentage.

NOTABLE: CU has won its past four games against the Pioneers and leads the series 12-8-1…Even with a victory Saturday, the Buffs will not win the Colorado Cup for the first time since 2013. A win would give CU seven points, which would still trail Northern Colorado’s nine points…The Buffs’ record shutout streak ended in last week’s loss at Texas at 621 minutes, 10 seconds…After a 3-0-1 start the Pioneers have lost three consecutive games.

Alex Vidger assumed she would have a place along the back line for the Colorado soccer team this fall.

Vidger, after all, was a key component to a defensive unit that was one of the strengths of the team a year ago, a season that ended with the Buffaloes reaching the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four seasons.

But as the Buffs’ first game approached, head coach Danny Sanchez opted for another plan. And for the second season in a row, Vidger adapted to a new position, settling into a defensive midfielder role as the Buffs prepare to visit the University of Denver in their final nonconference match Saturday night.

“It’s definitely a transition going from defense to offense,” Vidger said. “As a center back you stay very compact and you pretty much defend the whole game. At defensive-mid, I get more into the attack and I get more touches on the ball, which I like. But it’s definitely a transition. Morgan Stanton had such a big role there last year and we needed someone to fill it. I think they wanted someone who could hold the fort down right in front of the back line, and I know how to do that.”

While she remains a big part of a defensive-minded club that already has posted seven shutouts this season, Vidger has done so from a midfield role she also played frequently as a freshman two seasons ago. After appearing in 17 games with three starts in 2015, Vidger logged 15 starts a year ago as a central defender, scoring her first career goal in the season-opener at Air Force.

With Stanton gone this season, the defensive midfield spot was one of the few vacancies Sanchez needed to fill heading into the 2017 season. Once freshman Hannah Cardenas showed she could handle one of the central defender spots, Sanchez moved Vidger to the midfield in part to get his best 11 players on the field.

“She played a holding mid with her club (Real Colorado), and her freshman year she played a little bit there,” Sanchez said. “Our objective at the end of the day is to get our best 11 on the field, and she has that versatility to play center back or midfield. There’s still some adjustments and consistency that we’re working on, but she’s a player we’re counting on as we head to Denver and then into Pac-12 play.”

It is perhaps somewhat fortuitous for the Buffs that they play just a lone match this weekend — their first one-game weekend of the season so far — ahead of next week’s home date against No. 1-ranked UCLA in the Pac-12 Conference opener. But CU also will attempt to knock off the Pioneers without Marty Puketapu, who shares the team lead with four goals. Puketapu was called up to the New Zealand national team for a pair of friendlies against the U.S. women’s national team — first on Friday night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, and again Tuesday in Cincinnati.

Puketapu will rejoin the Buffs’ for next week’s showdown against UCLA.

“Playing any Colorado team is a big game, because obviously we want to be the best team in Colorado,” senior defender Joss Orejel said. “This game is probably one of their biggest games too, and we can’t afford to lose a game like that. Every game we try to go in with the mentality that they’re going to be a good team. And I think the one-game weekend will definitely help for next week.”

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07