Gophers to take on top-10 Boston

by Nick Gerhardt

With the Big Ten portion of the season a week away, Minnesota looks to shore up some nagging concerns after last weekend’s Gopher Invitational.

The Gophers (3-3 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) will face Boston University (3-4 overall, 0-0 America East) at 3 p.m. Friday and Northeastern (2-2-1 overall, 0-0 Colonial Athletic Association) at noon Sunday.

The offense excelled on the pitch last weekend to score six goals in two games and give it 14 on the season. Last season the team scored 19 goals for the entire year.

With the offensive attack pressuring the opponent so much it has left opportunities for opponents on the counterattack, and the Gophers defense became exposed to that against Dayton in a 3-2 double-overtime loss last weekend. The three goals were the most Minnesota has allowed in a game all season.

“We need to work to solidify the back line, we had some problems last weekend,” senior defender Hailey McCarthy said.

With the offense adding another forward it has left the defense with three defenders instead of the four the Gophers have used in years past.

“The change was challenging at first because I’ve never played in that type of system before,” McCarthy said.

The defense has allowed seven goals but has shut opponents out only twice, and this weekend might provide Minnesota a chance to improve on their shutout total against the lackluster offenses of Boston and Northeastern.

The Terriers and the Huskies each have just three goals on the season.

The Terriers, ranked No. 8 in National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll of the Northeast region, have suffered three 1-0 losses this season. Two of the defeats have come against nationally ranked opponents in No. 1 Stanford and No. 9 Boston College.

Boston has five NCAA tournament appearances and a win against a quality opponent like them would be a step in the right direction for the Gophers.

“Boston will be very good and winning against them would be huge,” junior midfielder Kaitlin Wagner said.

The defense will face a tough task of stopping one of the nation’s top players in Boston midfielder Marisha Schumacher-Hodge, a candidate for the Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy, the most prestigious award in women’s collegiate soccer.

“She’ll create some problems for our defense,” coach Mikki Denney Wright said.

Northeastern played solid at home last year as they went 7-0 and outscored opponents 14-1, but the Huskies have already lost their first home match this season 1-0 to Harvard so home hasn’t been as sweet thus far.

The Gophers will play both games on a different surface for the first time this season. The Terriers play on FieldTurf and Northeastern plays on AstroPlay.

In order to prepare for the faster pace on turf Minnesota practiced all week at Bierman on its artificial turf.

“We’ll have to make perfect passes,” Wagner said.

Controlling the ball becomes more difficult on artificial turf because the ball rolls faster and the Gophers will have greater difficulty corralling balls in the air.

“We have to play to feet and have more passes on the ground,” coach Denney Wright said.

With the emphasis on defense at practice during the week this weekend Wright expects improvement this weekend.

“We want defensive pressure for 90 minutes and really get our back line organized,” Wright said.