Arizona needed two timely goals from Samantha Falasco and Cali Crisler to overcome a 1-0 deficit against TCU on Friday night, as the Wildcats advanced to the next round of the tournament by defeating TCU 2-1. Both of Arizona’s goals, scored in the last 15 minutes of the game, came because Arizona did the little things it needed to do to break down TCU’s defense.
TCU went 1-0 up in the 30th minute. The Horned Frogs carried the momentum into halftime, and game-planned accordingly. TCU played a style of defense focused around defensive help. There was always a defender close by, should the initial pressure get beaten. This required most of TCU’s team to be behind the ball. The Horned Frog’s lack of bodies forward conceded most of the possession of the second half to the ‘Cats.
The ‘Cats had a few chances early in the second, but struggled until past the hour mark to seriously threaten the Horned Frogs, when Cali Crisler found space in the center of the box. UA started finding more and more space the longer the game went on. UA found this space because of the work they did off the ball, according to Crisler.
“People moving off the ball and making different runs kind of opens ip space for other people to have opportunities, even if the people making the run doesn’t get the ball. It can still help with creating the pockets for other people,” Crisler said.
The Wildcats are no strangers to playing a team whose game plan is simply to sit back and absorb pressure. UA played Florida Gulf Coast earlier in the season, who played a very similar game plan. When asked about the difference between the two games head coach Tony Amato referenced the difference between attacking and panicking.
“I think we learned from that game in terms of just, I thought the last 20 minutes of the Florida Gulf Coast game, we became really frantic, pressing, and just rushing everything,” Amato said. “And I think we learned since then, we can be aggressive, we can attack the goal, but we still need to be clam in our approach, and I think we learned from that along the way, and that’s made a big difference in some of those tight games.”
Arizona also showed great maturity from some of its youngest players. In one instance, Amanda Porter was dribbling up the wing into pressure. Maybe earlier in the season she would have tried to take on both her markers, but rather, she stopped, and held up play until Arizona could push more numbers forward. This maturity has been the difference maker in Arizona’s now seven game unbeaten streak. This maturity also is shown by the shots Arizona took. Arizona outshot FGCU 19-2, but lost. Most of Arizona’s shots came late in the possession, after Arizona had exhausted their options, and the defense was cracking down. The shots against TCU came much earlier in the possession, while they were still attacking, and had the upper hand on the defense, where the defense was chasing the ‘Cats, rather than the ‘Cats avoiding the defense. The shots Arizona took against the Horned Frogs were of much higher quality, and more dangerous.
Arizona moves on to play Florida State next week in Palo Alto, CA, in the second round of the tournament. The time and date have yet to be announced.
Follow Max Cohen on Twitter