Each Tuesday throughout the season, former UCLA as well as U.S. Under-16 National Team midfielder Jessica Stamp, who is a Houston, Texas, native and current color analyst on Texas Soccer Web Broadcasts, will give you her perspective on the team's performance over the last week.
The Texas Longhorns started the 2005 season by adding two more wins to their now 14-game home win streak while testing their young newcomers early with tough opponents in SMU and Auburn. It was not only important that the Horns won both games, but that they did while clinging to one- or two-goal leads speaks volumes as they have generally failed to pull out wins during these closer contests in the past. This 2005 team, which has nine new players and includes six different starters from a year ago, already exhibits several qualities absent in recent seasons.
An obvious concern this year is creating offensive opportunities and scoring goals without Kelly Wilson and Kelly McDonald. However, 2004 All Big-12 Newcomer Team member Kelsey Carpenter came off the bench and immediately contributed to the Longhorns offense with her pace and ability to put the ball in the back of the net. The Longhorns were then faced with the question of how to generate offense without even Carpenter this past weekend as the sophomore received a red card in the second half of Friday's match and was forced to watch the Horns play Auburn from the stands. The apparent game plan against SMU was to pick up the ball and send it forward for Carpenter to run onto as it had been throughout spring play. Yet, the team found themselves up against a wall offensively on Sunday as they were compelled to make adjustments for her loss. The team focused on getting endline on the flanks rather than constantly going up the middle versus the Tigers. The tactical adjustment contributed not only to more crosses and opportunities in front of the net, but also drew six corners in the match. In the past, Texas struggled to score off corners and set pieces. However, they now have more consistent service into the box on corners from freshman Erin Davis and on free kicks from freshman back Kasey Moore. Both goals in the Auburn match came off the foot of Davis as her bending corners found a number of Longhorns open in the box. If anything, the Auburn matchup without Carpenter's services revealed that Texas has multiple attacking weapons in their flank service, set pieces and penetration out of the backfield.
With freshman U.S. National Team players Stephanie Logterman and Kasey Moore anchoring the Texas back line, the team has an entirely new dynamic across the board. Perhaps now more dominant defensively than in previous seasons, the Longhorns have focused on using the stability of their back four in order to secure wins in closer games. This weekend revealed the international experience of Moore and Logterman as well as the maturity of outside backs Karen Haight and Julie Gailey. The back line rarely broke formation or found themselves beaten. In fact, Logterman and Moore had the confidence to bring a long ball down or win a ball, solve pressure and then maintain possession. With more confidence at the back comes the ability to take risks offensively. All four players came out of the backfield and pushed forward into the attack against Auburn. By pushing numbers forward, Texas will further support the front line and provide more service into the box.
THE COMING WEEK
The past weekend illustrates how Texas can create offensive opportunities by combining throughout the midfield and getting endline, by sending through balls on the ground and over top for Carpenter, and on set pieces. Combining all these elements into a mixed attack will produce more dangerous opportunities on goal against Michigan and Michigan State this coming weekend. The defense can support this simply by maintaining composure on the ball in the backfield, finding feet throughout the midfield and picking out opportunities to contribute to the attack. The younger players simply need to maintain focus for the whole 90 minutes to avoid any mistakes that the Michigan forwards might capitalize on. Working on possession this week will minimize the flurry of giveaways apparent against SMU in particular. By playing one- and two-touch soccer, the team will move the ball around the field quicker and maintain control. The trip up to the Great Lakes will help the Horns move up in the rankings if the team can continue to find a way to win and pull out victories in a pair of tough road environments.
STAMPS OF APPROVAL
STAMP'S PLAY OF THE WEEK: Kelsey Carpenter's game-winning goal in the final two minutes of the first half against SMU, giving Texas their first-ever win over the in-state rival
STAMP'S PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Junior midfielder Carrie Schmit not only started both contests for the Longhorns, but also turned in a career-best, three-point effort against Auburn with a goal and an assist.