Soccer’s offense begins to finish scoring chances

by Paul Markgraff

The offensive juggernaut that was the Minnesota women’s soccer team last year is gone, but there are signs of a rebirth.
The duo that led the Big Ten in scoring a year ago has yet to produce outstanding numbers this season. The Gophers are taking more shots than their opponents more often than not, but they are failing to put the ball were it needs to be: in the goal.
They’ve had their fair share of chances, but prior to this weekend’s 4-0 win over Purdue on Sunday and a 2-0 win Friday over Indiana, they haven’t been in sync.
During Friday night’s win against the Hoosiers, the Gophers had many chances to score but failed to capitalize on many opportunities.
One of these lost chances was an open-net opportunity taken by Megan Johnson after she faked Indiana’s goalkeeper out of her shoes. Johnson had a look at an open net but couldn’t send the ball in — her shot sailed wide left.
“My problem is I think too much,” Johnson said of missing the open net.
She went on to say she handles the ball better under pressure. When she has time to control the ball and shoot, she says she concentrates too much.
“I shouldn’t concentrate,” Johnson says. “I should just do it.”
Regardless of the how the players felt about their own performances, coach Sue Montagne was content with the win — even with the blown opportunities.
“I thought we had some really good looks at the goal,” Montagne said.
Montagne attributed the lack of goal scoring to great goalkeeping by Indiana.
“I couldn’t believe some of the stuff she was saving,” Montagne said of Indiana’s goalkeeper.
But the Gophers did manage to capitalize on two scoring opportunities against Indiana, though they only needed one. Laurie Seidl scored once and so did Johnson — just minutes after she blew the shot at the open goal. Montagne said she was happy with the goals because they boosted her players’ confidence.
And that’s a confidence that the Gophers have lacked since the beginning of the season.
Now that the season is in full swing, the Gophers are finding that their energies need to be focused on matters more important than the awards they might receive at the end of a successful season.
While they might have started the year with thoughts of scoring titles, the Big Ten tournament and the NCAA championship, those don’t matter unless they win games.
After dropping two games on the road last week, the Gophers have retreated to a familiar philosophy.
“If we just concentrate on winning one game at a time, then all that other stuff will just fall into place,” Montagne said. “We need to concentrate on one game at a time and stop looking at the big picture because it’s kind of screwing us up.”
With the win against Indiana and the offensive explosion against Purdue, the new approach Montagne and her team have seems to be working.
The Gophers’ new strategy is a practical one. Looking back at last year’s achievements and looking forward to this year’s possibilities are not going to win games.
The only place they’ll find happiness is in the back of the net.

Paul Markgraff is a general assignment reporter and welcomes comments at [email protected]