Analysis: Counter service
Arizona was outshot 15-8 by USC in their 1-0 loss on Thursday night, but the Wildcats had their fair share of scoring chances thanks to the counter attack, something the Wildcats haven’t utilized much this season.
Arizona was outshot 15-8 by USC in their 1-0 loss on Thursday night, but the Wildcats had their fair share of scoring chances thanks to the counter attack, something the Wildcats haven’t utilized much of this season.
Many of those chances started in the midfield. The Trojans’ midfield positioning forced UA into a 4-2-1-3 formation, instead of the 4-4-2 that the ‘Cats usually play. The two center mids that sat in front of the defensive line, along with the wingbacks, created a lot of turnovers in the midfield. All the mids or wingbacks had to do after stealing the ball was then to lob a ball up the pitch for one of the three forwards to run on to.
Cali Crisler, who was playing in an attacking center midfield role, instead of on the wing, played a valuable role as a trailer for the forwards to lay the ball off to. Crisler almost scored an absolute golazo in extra time after she was played a through ball and took a strike from 30 yards out.
The Wildcats played with three up top. They had two forwards on the wing, and let Charlotte Brascia play as a true striker. The two wing forwards marked the Trojan outside midfielders until the mids moved too far up the pitch into Wildcat territory. They would then mark the wing backs of USC. This allowed Brascia to be left alone with the SC center backs. Brascia was able to run onto balls played over the top, and even if she didn’t win the ball, she was able to disrupt SC from mounting any real attack, letting the UA defense to find its’ shape, and force another turnover.
Arizona looked somewhat comfortable in this formation, but was very disorganized when SC committed numbers forward. Furthermore, this formation didn’t allow Crisler to get to the wing and cross balls in, which has been Arizona’s most effective weapon. By not looking to cross balls in, Arizona was held to only three corner kicks.
This quicker, more one-on-one style of attack should help Gabi Stoian find the back of the net again. Stoian is best when she takes defenders head on. She had a hard time beating her markers when Arizona was playing in a high defensive press because Arizona forced their opponents to condense their defenses, so after Stoian would beat a defender, another would be close enough to step in and make the tackle. This more open style of play should also open more shooting lanes for Stoian and the other sharp shooters on the ‘Cats.
If Arizona commits to this style of play, they will be better suited to take on better competition. UA’s play at the beginning of the year was able to work against lesser competition, but this allows the ‘Cats to be consistent against some of the best teams in the country.
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