Commentary: Energy made all the difference in Arizona's loss to Albany
The Arizona women’s soccer team opened their season with a 1-0 loss on Friday night, despite outshooting the Albany Great Danes 17-5.
The ‘Cats had an equalizer waved off in the 90th minute because Amanda Porter was flagged offsides.
The ‘Cats were flying around the field from the first whistle. In the first few moments of the match, the ‘Cats had several good scoring opportunities.
They were putting pressure on the ball in their attacking third and in the middle-third of the pitch, which was creating turnovers.
UA was also successful in finding players in space and committing players forward on the counter attack.
But midway through the first half, the ‘Cats’ energy waned.
“I think that in the first half, we started out pretty well and then the energy kind of died down,” junior forward Jill Aguilera said.
Once the energy decreased, UA lost its hold on the game. Albany started to break the press, which put pressure on Arizona’s back line — a back line decimated due to early injuries.
After Sabrina Enciso went down in the 40th minute, the back four of the Arizona defense consisted of three backups and a true freshman.
Slightly up the field for Arizona, midfielder Kennedy Kieneker is making it very clear that she will be one of the most important players for Arizona this season.
Kieneker played the center defensive-midfielder role, the “number six” position last season, which sits right in front of the defense.
Now, Kieneker has transitioned to the playmaking, box-to-box attacking midfield role, the “number ten” position, moving higher up the field directly behind the striker, acting as the link between the midfield and the forwards.
Kieneker has not only made a seamless transition, she has produced, assisting on two goals and scoring one of her own in Arizona’s friendly against UTEP last week.
The makeshift backline pulled Kieneker farther and farther into the midfield as the attacking press ceased to work. That weighed hard on Arizona’s attack.
Kieneker appears to be the spark plug on this team early on, and most offensive chances go through her.
Yet, something was missing for Arizona throughout the game.
It’s difficult to pinpoint why a team might go from scoring five goals against UTEP, ranked No. 242 in RPI, to being shut out by Albany, ranked No. 266 in RPI.
But according to Aguilera, it was all about finishing the passes.
“I think it was really just that final pass that we couldn’t get off. We were making really good combinations, but that final pass. We had a lot of shots, but I think that final pass is what we need to work on,” Aguilera said.
The person in charge of delivering that final ball, or the pass that opens up the final ball, is Kieneker. But against Albany, she was playing more on the defensive side to help that happen.
Had Arizona maintained their energy level, perhaps Kieneker wouldn’t have dropped deep into the midfield and could have continued to lead the offense.
Perhaps one of UA’s forwards could have finished a chance she created. Maybe the game could stay wide open and Albany wouldn’t have retreated into a defensive mindset.
A lot of what-ifs for Arizona’s home opener where the team is typically more sound.
Losing to a bottom-feeder team like Albany may come back to haunt the ‘Cats down the line.
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