Soccer's detractors will look at the score of Friday night's match against TCU and derisively laugh, content in their predetermined conclusion that soccer is a boring sport for boring people. Those who were at the game were highly entertained by a game that had numerous momentum swings, shots ringing off the post, an overtime TCU goal waved off by the referee, and a last minute LSU flurry in front of the TCU goal that came close to resulting in a game-winning goal more than once.
LSU looked pretty weak in the first half. The shaky defense on the back line continued to show itself, with turnovers, poor clearings, and unmarked TCU strikers. The Horned Frogs were quicker to loose balls and more aggressive on the attack. TCU was the better team, and it looked like LSU would be fortunate to not suffer a lopsided loss. Still, despite its sloppy play, the LSU defense held, and TCU did not have many actual really good chances to score in the second half. They had a lot of possession but that possession rarely culminated in any high percentage scoring chances. Things still did not look good, and LSU was fortunate to go into the half without giving up a goal.
Offensively, LSU was limited to trying to make fortuitous runs, and nearly got a goal on a great individual run with the ball by freshman Summer Clark. She is a special talent but in this game she got caught trying to get too cute with the ball, trying flashy stutter steps when aggressively pounding towards the goal would have been smarter. This tendency hurt her on this run, as she got the ball into the scoring area and tried to beat a defender with a stutter step, which slowed her enough to allow another defender to close on her, closing off what could have been a great scoring chance. The physical skill is there in abundance, but she is a freshman just starting the college game.
Other than runs like that, LSU was limited to a near-brilliant shot from about 30 yards out that caught the goalkeeper playing too far forward and nearly found the top corner of the net. The TCU goalkeeper was able to just nudge the ball over the net after a desperate run back to the goal mouth to catch up to the shot. I believe it was Alex Ramsey who took the shot, but I am not sure.
The second half was a completely different story. LSU came out dominating the possession and had numerous scoring opportunities. Freshman midfielder/forward Emma Fletcher had an opportunity for a quick one-time shot on goal on a turnover, and nearly buried the ball in the bottom left corner of the goal, missing just wide. Commenter nassautiger has said that Fletcher is the best player up front, and I think that was certainly true in this game, especially in the second half. She dominated possession, had a great setup pass to Clark that resulted in a scoring chance, and earned a valuable corner kick late in the game.
LSU had really good chances in the second half, including several scrambles in front of the TCU goal.
Even the defense tightened up in the second half, generally closing off runs and helping the offense maintain possession. In particular, freshman Rebecca Pongetti looked really steady in central defense.
TCU started to turn things around towards the end of regulation, and dominated possession in the last few minutes, with LSU needing a brilliant save by goalkeeper Megan Kinneman to preserve the tie score. In the first 10-minute overtime, the game was played more or less even, but LSU midfielder Fernanda Pina had the best scoring opportunity of the period on a long shot that nearly found the net.
In the second overtime, TCU actually put the ball in the net in a scramble after a corner kick, but the goal came only after a TCU player ran into LSU goalkeeper Megan Kinneman as she was making a play to corral the ball. The foul was called immediately, and I didn't see any argument from the TCU players. You can't blame them for playing aggressively and trying to get the ball in a scoring position, but the foul was pretty unmistakable and led directly to the goal.
After that scoring chance by TCU, LSU dominated play for the rest of the period, including a long scrum in front of the TCU goal in which Fernanda Pina and Summer Clark fought hard to put the ball into the back of the net, taking several shots and gathering multiple rebounds. They got as close as ringing it off to the left post, but could not get the score. The game ended shortly after.
It was an exciting game, and despite the scoreless tie, I thought the Tigers played their best soccer of the season in the second half. Those of you who get COX (not us), will get to watch the team play highly ranked BYU on Monday night. Or, you know, you could go to the game, which is still free. If they play the way they played in the second half, they have a chance. If they play the way they played in the first half, I bet they get blown out. Let's hope the gains they made in this game are permanent.
In other news: I missed the game against UL-Monroe on Tuesday and didn't get to catch it on GeauxZone, but LSU won their midweek game 6-0. They are 2-0-1 on the season.