Every week throughout the season, former UCLA and U.S. Under-16 National Team midfielder Jessica Stamp provides color analysis for the Texas Soccer web broadcasts and her perspective on the team's performance over the last week. A Houston, Texas, native, Stamp played for the Challenge Soccer Club before winning a Pac-10 Championship and reaching the College Cup Finals as a UCLA Bruin.
The Texas soccer team faced TCU at home and No. 2 UCLA in Houston on the opening weekend of the 2007 fall season. The Longhorns offense relied heavily on senior forward Kelsey Carpenter (Allen, Texas). The U-21 National Team player and 2006 leading goal scorer finds herself alongside two freshman frontrunners in Alisha Ortiz (Highland Village, Texas) and Brooke Lee (Mesquite, Texas). Carpenter looks to receive the ball at her feet or in through the seams, and use her speed to beat the opposing back line. TCU packed in its defense and covered Carpenter to limit balls consistently finding her out of the backfield. However, Carpenter still got loose, swinging in dangerous crosses and pushing toward the TCU goal on the dribble. While Texas struggled early to get numbers into the box, the team found their stride offensively in the second half against the Horned Frogs.
Texas started to combine and maintain possession in the offensive third.
Their success came more often when other players got endline and looked for Carpenter in the box. Carpenter scored twice against TCU off crosses squared back on the ground near the six by simply stepping in front of her defender.
UCLA would not allow such chances.
The Bruins smothered Carpenter and the rest of the UT offense, allowing only a few shots on goal in the first half. The Horns adjusted in the second half by applying high pressure to the UCLA backline, trying to make something happen up top. This workhorse mentality worked from front to back as UCLA began to make mistakes and UT became increasingly threatening. The freshmen newcomers stepped up their play and broke the game open when Ortiz capitalized on disorganization in the Bruin backfield to get loose with the ball behind the defense for a one-on-one with the keeper. The play led to a penalty kick, converted easily by NSCAA All-American and Texas junior defender Kasey Moore (Mission Viejo, Calif.). The Longhorns continued to press and UCLA could no longer maintain possession. The second goal resulted from another tenacious effort to limit UCLA's ability to clear. While the Texas offense had limited overall production, they fought to make their few chances count.
The Texas defense faced one of the most productive and explosive front lines in college soccer this year. UCLA nearly played with four up top as sophomore forward Lauren Cheney withdrew centrally into the midfield to receive the ball at her feet while senior forward Danesha Adams posted high. The frontrunners included Cheney and Adams, both of whom played for the U.S.
Women's National Team this year, and Under-21 National Team member and Bruin junior forward Christina DiMartino. The threesome represents the most from one team selected as NSCAA Pre-season All-Americans. However, the Bruins offense faced one of the strongest back lines in college soccer. Junior defenders Jill Gilbeau (San Diego, Calif.), Moore, and U.S. under-21 National Team participant Stephanie Logterman have started and played 40 plus matches together for two consecutive seasons. It took just one game for freshman defender Erica Campanelli (Plano, Texas) to successfully assimilate. Although Texas head coach Chris Petrucelli started Campanelli centrally and moved Logterman to left back to start the TCU match, the back line became much stronger when Logterman was moved back to her previous position inside with Moore. The latter formation held UCLA to the fewest shots (9) since their opener a year earlier to start the 2006 season. The UT back line stayed organized for 90 minutes, allowing only a couple quality chances in behind and conceding the only goal on perfectly executed corner.
The back four picked up their pressure in the second half, physically dominating the UCLA front line. The forwards could no longer hold onto the ball long enough to combine or take off on the dribble. The line stepped together and dropped together to maintain their organization, forcing frontrunners offsides or making them retreat to avoid such positioning. This prevented UCLA from successfully playing their trademark through balls and getting one-on-one's with the keeper.
THE COMING WEEK
The Longhorns continue their mini Pac-10 series by traveling to Arizona to play the Arizona State Sun Devils and the University of Arizona Wildcats.
While the success of this past weekend will provide the newcomers with confidence as they adjust to the college game, the team will quickly realize that the season is a marathon and not a sprint. The squad will have to refocus in bringing the same intensity game-to-game, even when facing opponents with much less talent than UCLA. The coming weekend will be their first test away from home. The 2006 season witnessed the most successful Texas road campaign (with a UT school record seven victories) and clearly indicates the team's chances in postseason play. The Longhorns have to learn how to consistently win on the road if they hope to defend their Big 12 tournament title and move deeper into the NCAA tournament. The Arizona match ups provide a great opportunity for Texas to develop this ability against strong teams early before getting into conference play.
STAMPS OF APPROVAL
STAMP'S PLAY OF THE WEEK:
Freshman midfielder Brook Lee redirected a loose ball in the box to score the gamewinner against No.2 UCLA. Lee's header was the first goal of her career and led to Texas' upset over the highest ranked team in their history.
STAMP'S PLAYER OF THE WEEK:
Junior defender Kasey Moore led the Texas defense in stifling the UCLA offense. Moore dominated UCLA and TCU in the air and on the ground, clearing long balls and free kicks, while also preventing forwards from penetrating on the dribble or turning the corners on the flanks. As solid as Moore was in the back, she was just as dangerous on the attack, scoring off a free kick in the 3-1 victory over TCU and putting away the tying penalty kick against UCLA.