As most of you probably know by now, my job around here is to cover the women’s soccer team on a regular basis. Now I grew up playing a little bit of soccer (emphasis on the little part) but I stopped around high school so one of the things I wanted to do this year to add to my coverage was to try and set up a meeting with Tribe head coach John Daly once a week just so I could go over things I saw during games and get clarification on things I missed.
I don’t want it to sound like I’m a complete Phillistine when it comes to the game of soccer. I know offsides and I know how one plays the long ball. I recognize when players are good in space and I recognize when they do not see the extra pass. It’s the little things though which I’m still learning, like how a defense rotates in a 4-3-3 in order to cover ground in the midfield or how long you are supposed to follow the player you are marking on defense.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at this week’s Q&A session with Coach Daly and please, if you have any ideas for questions or any specific questions that you would like answered, feel free to leave them in the comment box. I’m always more than happy to help.
When I talked to you after the game versus the University of Utah, you talked about at half time the fact that you wanted to tighten up your midfield. Besides just the fact that you wanted them physically to be closer together, what did you mean by that?
I think we’ve got to get more pressure on opponents. We split the field into thirds; the defending third, middle third and attacking third, and once they get advanced into your middle third we need to start getting pressure on the ball. We were a bit slack in that respect.
Staying with the things you improved on in the second half, you said you guys got better keeping with the athletic runs on the outside. Is there anything besides determination which helps you do that?
It’s more communication because when players play in straight lines just running up and down the field, it’s easy to defend against them. When they start running across, you have to decide how far is this player (an outside defender) going to go before she passes her off to that player (the inside defender). What was happening is that we were running and they were getting in here [Daly is now drawing a diagram with the area behind the backline between the outside and inside defender circled] and getting balls in there which you can’t have happen. The side defender has to either stay with her or pass her but between them communicate so that when the ball gets in here our player is there to get it and not their player.
Where is the ball being played from in that situation?
It could be being played from anywhere. Usually it’s on this side [the opposite side of the man] setting up a diagonal run to a diagonal ball.
Who has the call on that, the center defender or the back defender?
It’s just between them. Sometimes you say “I’ve got the right position” or “I’m leaving this area, it’s not creating a problem. I’m just going to go with her.” Now if there’s a midfield player who’s going to be coming up in here [moving back to the backline] now I’ve got to be aware that I have to be staying because it could be a decoy [the player going on a diagonal run] and the ball goes in there and we’re in trouble. So basically it’s just a communication thing. You don’t let a player run past you unless you hear from behind that someone has her.
Talk a little bit about the University of California-Santa Barbara. Historically where have they ranked?
They have always been a good soccer playing team. They possess the ball well and they knock it around. They’ve played some tough teams so far so they will be tough. They will be good competition for us.
With the wins you have had this week do you think they will help you out come tournament time?
Oh yeah any time you beat ranked teams it helps because these are very early days. I see BYU is a ranked position. I think Utah might struggle a bit to stay with them, they are not as strong as BYU. But it is still very, very early days.
Has there been something junior goalie Grace Barnard has been doing differently that led her to have such a good week?
Maybe it’s just something as simple as confidence and just getting a couple of games under her belt because she had been here for two years and had only been in for a few minutes in games. The first game she was probably a bit nervy, the second game a little bit more confident and then this weekend she really shown.
What is something looking back at the game tape where you thought, that is something we need to work on going into next week?
Our defending overall in both games was a mix. There were sometimes where it was good but there were too many instances where it wasn’t and we could have easily been punished. So we’ve got work to do. We’re not the finished article by any means. We still have work to do, we’ve got growing to do, coming together and blending as a team.
What has been the thing you have been the most impressed or surprised by through the first four games of the season?
I think the players’ willingness to listen and try different things. We’re playing a slightly different formation compared to what we’ve played in the past and they are handling it quite well, so that has been a big plus.
Have you made a decision on junior back Kaitlin O’Connor?
She will be under consideration for selection [Wed] night.