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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona soccer: Wildcats look to snap losing skid vs. Colorado

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Alex McIntyre
Arizona midfielder Brandi Park (19) in a moment of solitude while playing against the University of Denver Pioneers at the Sun Devil Desert Classic at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium in Tempe on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. The Wildcats won the matchup 3-0.

A four-game winning streak has turned into a two-game losing streak for the Arizona soccer team, making the upcoming match against Colorado an important one early in the Pac-12 Conference schedule.

“We have to find a way to get points in the Pac-12 and they’re hard to come by, so we don’t want any opportunity to be missed, and we know we gotta pick up some points this weekend,” said Arizona head coach Tony Amato.

The Wildcats (5-3-1 overall, 0-1 Pac-12) fell to Oklahoma 2-1 on their home field in their non-conference finale two weeks ago, and then were drubbed 4-0 by No. 9 USC a week later in their Pac-12 opener in Los Angeles.

However, Amato isn’t hitting the panic button just yet, as the road loss to the ninth-ranked Trojans wasn’t exactly a surprise.

“I think it was more about USC — they’re good,” he said. “For us, it was really going to take an outstanding performance in every aspect from how we were competing, to work rate, to finishing any chance that came our way and maybe make sure that we make a big save, make sure that they hit the post. It was going to take some of those things, but none of those things happened and that was why the result was the way it was.”

Plus there are still 10 conference games left on the docket for the Wildcats, thus a lot of soccer left to be played.

“I wouldn’t say it’s concerning,” said UA midfielder Gabi Stoian about the team’s recent losing streak. ”We do want to want to get back into it and we think we can find our wins in the next few games. We definitely have enough time and enough games to get those wins back.”

And returning to Mulcahy Stadium is a good start. The Wildcats are 12-4-1 at home since the beginning of last season, whereas they’re only 4-5-2 on the road in that same time frame.

But visiting Mulcahy Stadium Thursday is a much-improved Colorado team. 

The Buffaloes finished dead-last in the Pac-12 last year with a 7-10-2 overall record and a dire 1-8-2 conference record, but they’ve already matched their win totals from last season. 

Colorado is 7-3 this season, and has won its last five matches, including a 1-0 win over Washington State in its Pac-12 opener.

“Honestly last year was just an outlier,” Amato said of Colorado’s 2015 season. “They went to the NCAA Tournament a couple years in a row and before that went to a Sweet Sixteen. Sometimes the cycle of success with the transition from one year to the next can be different, and the dynamic’s different, and you can get a few injuries and it’s hard to win games and you get into a funk. I think that’s all that happened last year. They’re a good team with good players and that’s why you’ve seen that cycle flip itself this year.”

The Buffaloes lead the conference in shots (186), and their offense is led by Taylor Kornieck and Danica Evans.

Evans leads the Buffaloes in shots on goal (20), while Kornieck has a team-high six goals and leads the Pac-12 in shots per game (4.20).

Colorado also boasts the reigning Pac-12 goalkeeper of the week in Jalen Tompkins, who made five saves in CU’s 1-0 win over WSU last weekend.

The Phoenix native — and a former teammate of Stoian’s at Pinnacle High School — is second in the conference in saves (38). 

“They have two really good forwards and a really good attacking central [midfielder] and we know that we’re going to have to neutralize them to have any chance to win,” Amato said. “They have a good right [midfielder], so those things jump to mind. We’re going to have to put pressure on their backs and putting pressure on their backs and their keeper is really important.”

Meanwhile, the Wildcats have to pick things up offensively. They’ve scored just two goal in their last three games, and Amato says his team has to be more efficient at converting scoring chances.

“You’re going to have some games where only a few come your way and if you can be efficient with it, that’s great,” he said. ”If you have the luxury of having a ton of chances, then you don’t have to be as efficient, I guess. But we always emphasize it, and it’s hard. It’s something that as you get down the stretch here in Pac-12 games, you’re not going to have a ton of chances. So when they do come your way, you got to find a way to put them in the back of the net.”

Arizona will have a chance to do that and snap its two-game losing skid on Thursday night.

“It has been a challenge as a team,” said UA forward Paige Crouch. “We’re taking it game by game. On [Thursday] we’re just really excited to show what we have. It’s a home game so I think we’ll have a whole different type of energy that we haven’t had.”

Kickoff at Mulcahy Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.

The Wildcats are 1-2-2 against the Buffaloes since the latter joined the Pac-12 in 2011. The two teams tied 3-3 in Boulder, Colorado last season.


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