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 teamıs 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 Longhorns struggled on the weekend to get numbers forward and consistently create dangerous chances on goal. While the additional numbers in the midfield help Texas win 50/50 balls and the second ball, the regained possession rarely turned into a threatening attack. The midfield often misconnects with the frontrunners when trying to play into feet or in behind. Rarely does a midfielder play a ball into a forward and then combine to get themselves in behind centrally or on the flanks. The most dangerous looks on goal come when senior forward Kelsey Carpenter and freshman forward Nikki Arlitt penetrate endline and send a cross into the penalty area.
Though these runs are few and far between, the Texas midfield along with the remaining forward successfully press forward into the box and create a quality chance on goal. The Longhorns simply need to do this more often in order to improve their chances of converting. Clearly, the most consistent weapon on offense in recent match-ups has been set pieces off the head of junior defender Kasey Moore, specifically. Moore finds a way to get on every free kick and every corner, making each a threatening shot on goal. She most often leads the team in the shot category by simply connecting on these plays. Therefore, the Longhorns should work to earn more of these opportunities by driving on the dribble and sending balls deep in an attempt to force a corner or produce a foul.
Another long ball out of the backfield in behind the opposing defense broke open the Texas offensive stalemate against Missouri when Arlitt took a brilliant first touch and put away a one-versus-one opportunity. Many of these balls in behind simply do not find the forwards when headed out by the defense, called for off-sides, or off the mark in general. Every once in a while, Texas finds the perfect connection and springs loose a speedy frontrunner. However, because this mode of attack doesnıt put UT in a dangerous position consistently, the Longhorns need to balance their attack with a more dynamic approach. The two forwards need to continue to play close to one another so that they can combine with the midfield and with each other. When Carpenter and Arlitt move off one another with one checking and the other showing at a diagonal or spinning in behind, the two look much more threatening than when they are isolated amongst a few defenders looking for a through ball. Too often a forward is alone up top and flick on a header in the air to no one in particular. With the other forward nearby to run off these headers, Texas can put pressure on the opposing defense and look to win the ball off the backline. High pressure has clearly affected the Texas backline in creating turnovers and chances for their opponents, but the Longhornsı offense rarely does the same to the opposition. By forcing mistakes in the back, Texas can use their blistering speed to capitalize. Ultimately, Texas needs to be constantly movingmoving off the ball, changing speed, and pressuring the defense.
The Texas defense came out unusually flat against Missouri on Friday, relinquishing two goals in less than eight minutes. The team appeared to play in slow motion, failing to attack the ball immediately in the box or play with urgency out of the back. The early deficit no doubt stunned those present at the match, but it would be the Texas response that set the tone for the gameıs duration. The team rallied and quickly turned the game around. The defense solidified, giving their offense the opportunity to cut the Tigersı lead. The team put away the equalizer nearly ten minutes before the first half ended, revealing the teamıs determination to recapture the momentum. The errors in the Texas backfield usually result from inadequate decision-making on the ball in the defensive thirdmore specifically, when to gain control and play out of the back and when to simply clear first-time. Very few players have the ability to bring a ball down amidst pressure, control it, and then distribute to maintain possession. Most have to make the decision to immediately clear it away from pressure.
Occasionally, the UT defense struggles to make this tactical decision early, allowing an opposing team that plays high pressure to strip the ball and counter attack.
Despite the first eight minutes or so against Missouri, the defense gave two solid performances this weekend. The encouraging revelation from these close Big 12 matches revolves around the understanding that Texas controls the game. The defense tends to beat itself when goals are scored, and the offense fails to convert when not pushing numbers forward. By minimizing mistakes in the back, Texas will force teams to come up with some spectacular attacks to create chances. Unfortunately, until the UT offense starts putting across a lot of shots and quality opportunities in front of goal, the defense canıt afford even a couple mistakes against these good Big
THE COMING WEEK
The Longhorns continue to trek down the home stretch of conference play as the team departs this weekend for its final away games. The Horns face the Oklahoma State Cowgirls in Stillwater on Friday, Oct. 26 before tackling the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman on Sunday, Oct. 28. Both environments have given Texas some trouble in the past as the team failed to win at either location in 2005 and again in 2006 at home. These road games will provide a significant test for this 2007 Texas squad in proving their mettle as they approach the post-season. Coming off the most successful season in Texas soccer history in 2006 demands a lot from a squad continually touted as better than ever. The team will need to regroup in finding ways to inject some new life into their approach. This weekendıs overtime victory over Missouri gave the Horns a taste of the excitement that comes with scoring and winning close games against tough competition. The team could win the regular Big 12 conference season if A&M goes on to lose their final two games, Missouri earns a tie or loss in their final three matches, and Texas beats all three of their remaining opponents. While this may be unlikely, the team wants to earn at least the number two seed going into the Big 12 tournament in order to give them a better chance of earning a repeat title and automatic birth into the NCAA tournament.
STAMPS OF APPROVAL
STAMP'S PLAY OF THE WEEK: Junior defender Kasey Moore headed in a Stephanie Logterman free kick to take away the 3-2 overtime victory from the Missouri Tigers.
STAMP'S PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Moore had a hand in all three of UTıs goals against Missouri, tallying an assist on the first goal, and scoring the equalizer and game-winner. Moore led Texas in goals (2), shots (11), and shots on goal (6) over the two matches, while anchoring the defense that earned Texas their fourth shutout of the season.