This weekend’s matches tell the story about the Wildcats this year. They had a strong victory against Florida International, but Sunday they had a nil-nil draw with Loyola Marymount, a team that wasn’t that good despite their stingy defense.
Two things struck me in the FIU match. First of all, the back line was communicating well, best illustrated by the number of times FIU’s attacks were stymied by offside calls. It was hard for them to find any seams in the defense: FIU was limited to three shots on goal and earned only one corner kick. More than that, the defense was calm enough to move the ball to the feet of the midfield, rather than delivering a panicky long clearance to where no forward happened to be.
Secondly, the attack had more bite to it. The team has always taken a lot of shots, but they were not particularly dangerous. Against FIU, they got in behind the defense and got ten shots on target.
Unfortunately, it was hard to find either one of those aspects of the new look Wildcats in the Loyola Marymount game. The defense seemed to be out of sorts, which even Sheridan Cohen admitted to me after the match. The organization wasn’t there, and there were occasional moments of panic that led to bad decisions. The saving grace was that Loyola Marymount seemed incapable of capitalizing on the opportunities that Arizona gave them. Still, much better than last season.
Up front, the Wildcats took nearly as many shots as they did in the FIU match (18 against LMU vs 21 against FIU), but only five were on target. The shots that were taken were either low percentage long range shots or “better dump it now” shots taken when they were about to have the ball stripped from them by a defender.
To be fair, LMU’s defending was good. It may be that the team took a more defensive stance after their thrashing at the hands of the Sun Devils on Friday night, but they marked closely and marked everyone. They were bigger, faster and well organized. The Wildcat front line seemed unable to adapt to the defensive style. The bad news is that they’ll likely find a lot of teams that use it.
Okay, I’ve left names out of it, but here’s my comments on three of the Cats:
Candice Osei-Agyemang: There are two things that must be noted about Osei-Agyemang’s performance against FIU, which included a goal and an assist. One is that it was her first full blown college game. Her freshman year at Pennsylvania was spent recovering from injury, and she didn’t play for Arizona when she was a sophomore, taking that time to train with the Ghana U-20′s.
Secondly, she did all that while playing only 31 minutes. Yep.
I’m liking what I’m seeing out of her so far. She missed a big chunk of August training due to being in Japan for the U-20 World Cup, and it will be fun to see what she can do when she’s ready for more game minutes.
Ana-Maria Montoya: Like Osei-Agyemang, Montoya took time off for international play, hers was with Colombia at the Olympics. Montoya managed only one shot on goal this weekend (probably okay, given her role as a midfielder), but standing on the sidelines I’ve been able to observe her on-field leadership style. She’s constantly pushing her fellow players, even shouting instructions once in a while. Given Montoya’s time with Colombia, where the right choice is as important as athleticism, I’m happy to see that.
Jazmin Ponce: Ponce was visibly frustrated after the LMU game. It is understandable: she was constantly double teamed by the defense and was left with desperation shots. That aside, I still see too many low percentage long range shots from her. Heck, it hasn’t been a bad thing: she’s got three goals and an assist so far, and nearly half her shots have been on target (probably a big reason why she’s got double teamed). If she can get behind the defense or get enough distance to give herself that quarter second or so…she’s going to be deadly.