The LSU women's soccer team beat Louisiana Tech 1-0 on Friday night. In a game where the Tigers dominated time of possession, but struggled to bury goals into the back of the net while playing sloppy soccer at times. While LSU was clearly the better team overall, and Tech created almost no sustained pressure during the game, the LSU defense looked shaky at times, giving up several breakout rushes as the Tech forwards would split defenders or get wide and find space heading towards the goal. Often, they would get a decent looking shot, but it would sail over the goal.
The bright spot was freshman forward Summer Clark, who is fast and strong on the ball. When she has the ball, it is hard to get it from her, and she generates a lot of scoring chances. She scored the lone goal of the game, on a quick transition play in which she got a half step on the defender and streaked to the goal. She had many other chances that could have resulted in goals. At one point, she used her speed to run down a ball in the corner that looked like it was going out for a goal kick, and generated a scoring chance out of it. Not many players could have run that ball down. I have written before about LSU's 2012 team having trouble scoring and lacking a dynamic scorer. It appears that the addition of Summer Clark may have solved that problem. She is a serious talent.
If I have one complaint about her game after two matches, it is that I would like to see her work harder without the ball to get open and find angles for the other players to get her the ball. Once she has the ball, she is a force, but sometimes she appears to be conserving energy when she does not have the ball on her foot.
Summer Clark's compatriots at forward are Jodi Calloway, a converted defender who lacks the top end speed of Summer Clark but who is a dazzling ball handler (footler?), and Emma Fletcher who is another freshman. When Calloway has the ball, you see a lot of back heel kicks and agile moves around defenders, sometimes coupled with a sweet pass to one of her fellow forwards.Fletcher had a nice goal in the exhibition against Nicholls, and my notes say she had a shot on goal in this one.
Calloway has been a central defender in prior years, and while she looks very comfortable at forward, I wonder if she could be better used shoring up what has looked like a shaky defense. If you remember, last year the defense was statistically very good. In watching the team this year, I get nervous when the ball gets into our defensive third of the field.
Speaking of defense, freshman defender Megan Lee was hurt towards the beginning of the last game, and I saw her before the game with a boot and walking with crutches. Just a guess, but I'd say she's going to be out for a long time. She had been playing left back. It's a little hard to say that the loss of a freshman has had a serious effect on unit cohesion, but something appears to be wrong with that unit, and a team with better strikers than Nicholls State or La. Tech might really make us pay.
The sloppiness was not limited to the defense. As the game wore on and LSU had the lead, the defense seemed to get progressively more porous, and the offense continued to try to press for goals. Some people appreciate this aggressive strategy, but Louisiana Tech was doing little to challenge LSU away from the scoring area. Instead of working the perimeter and playing for ball control to kill clock, the LSU offense continued to try to dribble or pass right into the teeth of the Bulldog defense, leading to many turnovers and dangerous transition plays.
I don't mean to sound like a downer on the team. The game was terrific fun again, and at a very reasonable ticket price (free!), it's a great place to take your family on Friday night.The team itself, for all of my criticism, controlled the ball most of the night and won the game. There are aspects of the game they need to work on, but there is a lot of strength there. This is clearly a team capable of playing well above the level of the competition they've played. The question is what will happen when conference play starts.
The next game is against UL-Monroe on Tuesday. I will probably skip that one, but I will go to their match against TCU on Friday.