The Texas Longhorns struggled to connect with one another throughout Friday's match (Sept. 30) against Oklahoma State with passes often reaching too far away from teammates or sent in too high and too tough to handle. Players had trouble anticipating passes and runs were often off the mark. Texas often gave away the ball with mis-touches, by taking too much time on the ball, or dribbling into traffic. The team's possession game improved by Sunday with the defense moving the ball around the backfield and then connecting with midfielders or checking forwards. However, players rarely made dynamic runs up top to help relieve the lone Texas forward pressured from behind. The offense looked the most dynamic when senior forward Ashley Foster checked into the midfield and senior midfielder Carrie Schmit ran behind and into the open space. Balls sent over the top to Schmit disrupted the opponents' defense and proved dangerous. Often, the forwards opened up space along the backline for attacking midfielders or defenders to break through, but the final pass rarely exploited these areas. The movement up top mostly consisted of checking into the middle or fading to the sidelines. The more successful runs along the wings saw players going endline and then squaring balls back into the box. The Longhorns will have to increase the number of runs endline as well the amount of dynamic runs behind, in order to create more threatening opportunities on goal. Many of the scoring chances this past weekend were off balance and from far out. The goals scored this weekend demonstrate the team's success in penetrating into the box with crosses and through balls. Finding forwards posting at the 18-yard box has also created goals, as the front line has consistently shown.
Defensive miscues and poor clearances allowed Oklahoma State and Oklahoma a few quality chances on goal and they capitalized. The back line particularly found itself in trouble when long balls sent in behind found the 'no man's land' gap between the defense and sophomore goalkeeper Dianna Pfenninger. Pfenninger charged out twice and collided with the Oklahoma forward and her Texas defender as the ball bounced outside the 18-yard box. These balls consistently threatened Texas as they fell into that area where it proved difficult for the Texas defender, pressured by the forward, to take down the ball and clear as well as difficult for Pfenninger to reach the balls before the attacking forward. The Texas defensive line will need to adjust to these long balls by dropping back together and not letting the ball over their heads, either clearing it back forward or heading it back to Pfenninger to pick up. The defense does best when it forces its opponents to play in front of the line. They track players into the midfield and prevent the forward from turning and facing. Junior midfielder Greta Carter helps double team these checking runs and helps force turnovers. Carter can continue to help her defensive line by dropping in on the more dangerous long balls in behind.
THE COMING WEEK
Texas hits the road for more Big 12 action this weekend, playing at Kansas on Friday, Oct. 6 at 4 p.m (Central) and Colorado on Sunday, Oct. 8 at 2 p.m. (Central) -- two more, tough conference opponents. The Longhorns will have to step up the intensity on the road and get more aggressive from back to front against these gritty opponents. Texas will have to challenge for more 50/50 balls in the midfield and up top. If the 50/50 ball is won or lost, the Horns must still fight to win the 2nd ball in order to possess. The key for the Texas back line and midfield is limiting giveaways and taking too long on the ball. Finally, Texas will have to regain its confidence. After such a frustrating weekend, individual players like junior forward Kelsey Carpenter, Foster, and senior forward Amy Burlingham need to take the ball with conviction, put their heads down, and go at the defensive line. Whenever Carpenter and Burlingham attack on the run, they disorient the defense and usually send in a quality cross or force a corner. The forwards need this aggressive mentality against Colorado and Kansas and need to believe they can consistently find the back of the net. The players and team cannot control whether shots hit the crossbar or the posts, but they can prepare this week on sharpening their offensive game plan and approach these road games determined to execute.
STAMPS OF APPROVAL
STAMP'S PLAY OF THE WEEK: Freshman forward Emily Anderson and junior forward Leslie Imber came off the bench to combine for the second goal against Oklahoma. Anderson beat her defender on the right flank, taking the ball deep toward the endline, and then centering it to an on-rushing Imber, who one-touched it into the near post netting, taking the Longhorns into the half with a 2-1 lead.
STAMP'S PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Senior forward Ashley Foster led the team in shots in both Friday's match against Oklahoma State (6) and on Sunday against the Sooners (8). One of those shots found the back of the net, as Foster received the ball at the top of the 18-yard box, turned with one touch and then ripped a shot past the Sooners' goalkeeper. She moves into a tie for second on the team in goals (4).