4 Things on UMN/UST: Wins to Ties & Ties to Losses, Keeper Play, Scoring Extremes, Winning in Different Ways, Training & Recovery Time
The Gophers and Toms have now played the bulk of their non-conference slate and we’re starting to see more and more of who these squads are in 2023. Before I head out on the road to cover their games in person (St Thomas at Drake Thursday, Minnesota at Creighton Friday), let’s go over a few trends to note for Minnesota’s Division I women’s soccer programs following their first ever regular season matchup.
Wins to Ties, Ties to Losses
As much as I praised the Gophers hard fought tie on the road against a top SEC foe in #22 Georgia, Minnesota saw it as a game they really could have won. When I chatted with freshman standout Kate Childers before her video interview after their 5-0 win over St Thomas, the first thing she (and Head Coach Erin Chastain) mentioned about the Georgia game was that they have to aim for more.
And though a tie against a top team will certainly be valuable for Minnesota in building a post season resume, the result does fit into a trend we've mentioned before: letting wins turn into ties and letting possible ties (or wins) turn into losses. When you look back at your season, it's not about rewriting the entire thing into a fairy tail. It's about those small moments that, either due to bad luck or lack of focus or whatever, turned a hard fought tie or win into a loss (St Thomas vs UNI in their opener, Minnesota at UW Milwaukee) or a really hard fought possible win into a tie (MN at Georgia).
As we approach conference play and the games get even tougher, the margins between those results may only tighten, and the impact of them may only grow.
If you weren't able to watch the Gophers play at Georgia or St Thomas play at the Gophers, I'd strongly encourage you to at least scroll through their live tweet feeds linked above. Because even with wildly different score lines, they both contained some really fantastic individual goalkeeping moments from Megan Plaschko (against Georgia) and Olivia Rowe (against the Gophers).
You might be reading this and thinking: "Matt, the Toms lost 5-0. How in the hell are you going to specifically praise their goalkeeping?!" But if you watch the whole game, you know that Rowe's confidence and quickness off the line and her tactical punch game kept St Thomas in that game far more than they would have been otherwise (reminder that the game was 1-0 until the 75th minute, basically).
And while the entire Gophers defensive unit played out of their minds in order to keep Georgia scoreless, Plaschko in particular was just spectacular. As it turns out, really good keeper play is a total blast to watch.
The fall of 2023 is apparently the era of scoring extremes. We're either living through scoreless and one goal games or we're fully opening up the floodgates with 4, 5, 7 goals pouring in!
But if you only look at the scoresheet after the fact, it can be easy to forget just how differently the run of play and the flow of the game can be from one match to the next. Teams that sit with an incredibly tight defensive shape and build up a nation-leading shutout streak might get a little too confident and throw numbers forward, allowing a ton of goals after not giving up any (Indiana against MN last year). A playing surface, field size, and defensive shape might mean a team can completely slog things down at home much better than on the road (many examples).
But one thing continues to hold true, getting that first goal is still unbelievably valuable for these squads. Not only does it help give you confidence in your individual abilities and team game plan, it forces the other team to take at least a bit more risk getting forward -- opening up even more space for you on the counter and in the attack.
Training & Recovery Time
As I very regularly remind our readers, viewers, listeners, etc: the college soccer season is an absolute grind. You're usually playing two games a weekend. Sometimes you only have a single day off in between those games. Sometimes you're traveling on the off days and the recovery and rest value is minimized. Sometimes you're traveling for *both* games. In short: it can suck.
This particular stretch of the combined calendar for the Gophers and Toms is uniquely "restful". Over the next three weekends, the two programs play a combined 7 matches during a stretch that could typically have as many as 12. I might not have noticed this trend so specifically if not for the formatting of my own internal google sheet (forgive the screen grab image below) and the oceans of white space that jumps out.
What I'll be tracking is: do the teams seem to tighten up some areas for improvement (corner kick execution for Minnesota for example) due to the extra training time and do the teams seem to have just a bit more pep in their step due to a little extra recovery time between matches?
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This week, I'll be on the road covering St Thomas at Drake and Minnesota at Creighton. This kind of trip is only possible because of the support of our Patrons (patreon.com/equaltimesoccer) and our partners Pentz Homes (pentzhomes.com) and Modist Brewing (https://modistbrewing.com/).
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