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Soccer breakdown: Conservative defenses causing Wildcats fits

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Pearl Dixon | The Daily Wildcat

An Arizona player attempts to make a goal during the UA-Texas Tech game on Sept. 10.

Texas Tech forced the Arizona Wildcats to be creative on Sunday night, in Arizona’s 1-0 win. The Wildcats were able to find the back of the net for their first home goal, which led to their first home win.

Arizona played very conservative teams this weekend, and played their best soccer of the year to date, according to head coach Tony Amato. The conservative style of both Texas Tech and Florida Gulf Coast allowed Arizona to maintain most of the possession, and play most of the game on their attacking half of the pitch. Despite that, Arizona struggled to find a way through the defense and score, outside of a Samantha Falasco header. For Arizona it was much of the same on every possession. The Wildcats would connect on a few consecutive passes, hold the ball 25 yards away from goal and try to combine to find a way behind the defense. Time after time, Arizona failed to connect on the final pass, turn the ball over, press high to try to win the ball back and force a weak clearance, all to begin again.

Arizona once again outshot their opponent by a ridiculous margin. On Friday night against FGCU it was 19-2, and on Sunday night it was 18-2. UA is faultless for being able to crack these two defenses, because they positioned an unusually high number of defenders behind the ball at all times. Usually only center backs stay behind the ball, because they are typically the goalkeeper’s last line of defense, but Texas Tech kept all four of their defenders behind the ball. Instead of their outside backs pressing forwards with the ball, Texas Tech’s midfielders stayed back to cover forwards and outside mids.

Arizona right back, Morgan McGarry, conversely, got on the score sheet with a shot, and spent most of her 90 minutes marking the Texas Tech left mid, disrupting the Texas Tech attack. She also made runs up the touchline, getting involved with the offense.

Arizona faces BYU on Friday night. BYU plays a much different style of soccer than what Arizona has seen recently. The Cougars average 12.3 shots per game. Similar to Arizona, BYU has been able to shoot the ball a lot, but they haven’t made those shots count. BYU has been outscored by opponents 9-3, so expect Arizona to be able to create better chances, and score more goals. Arizona has trended upward in every game since UC Irvine, and looks to do the same against a team that is willing to attack and try to score.

Good spacing and ball movement can beat the high press style of defense that Arizona plays. However, it also leaves teams without every single player behind the ball and at the mercy of Arizona’s attack.

Arizona’s goal off of a corner is also a very good sign for the Wildcats. Coach Amato has several plays scripted for the 'Cats on corners, but the simplest play is the one that resulted in the goal. The Wildcats loaded the six-yard box, and Cali Crisler lofted a ball right over the keeper, and onto the head of center back Samantha Falasco, a la John Brooks vs. Ghana. Arizona earns themselves a lot of corners over the course of a game. Success on corners can help Arizona stretch their opponents on defense because a set piece goal can put pressure on Arizona’s opponents to score. That would force them to commit numbers forward, leaving their defenders at the whim of Arizona’s attack.


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