Gophers’ offense-oriented practices hope to render wins

Minnesota’s soccer team has focused on quick decisions and speed in preparation for this weekend’s games.

by Adam Fink

Minnesota’s soccer team could have been devastated after losing two games last weekend.

The Gophers could have started pointing fingers, criticizing the coaching staff or placing blame elsewhere.

Instead, Minnesota (4-4-1, 1-3 Big Ten) shook off the losses to Michigan and Michigan State by Sunday night and realized the area that needed immediate improvement.

After notching zero shots in a 1-0 loss to Michigan on Sunday, the Gophers spent the majority of this week working on offense.

Heading into tonight’s game against Northwestern at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium, the Gophers feel the offense will become a strength – not a liability – in time to make a run in the conference.

“I have never been inspired as much over two losses as I was after last weekend,” coach Barbara Wickstrand said. “I feel like

we’ve had a complete turnaround (since Sunday). We will be ready to go.”

This week, the Gophers worked on winning 50-50 battles, making quicker decisions near the opponents’ goal and utilizing the forwards’ speed.

Too many times this season, the team made an extra pass on offense and allowed the defense to catch up, Wickstrand said.

The fourth-year coach said the Gophers most often lose the ball in the offensive third of the field.

This limited the amount – and quality – of shots the Gophers tallied.

Another aspect of playing Minnesota feels they’ve improved is moving the ball. The Gophers have used their speed to get up and down the field quickly, creating a more aggressive offense.

In addition, Wickstrand feels the team is reading each other better and getting into the correct positions.

“There is a change in the dynamic of the team,” said Amanda Edwards, who will start at her recruited position of forward for the first time tonight. “I don’t think (last weekend) was a wake-up call, but there is definitely a change around here.”

Minnesota players hope the offensive-oriented practices will help put goals on the scoreboard and wins into the standings.

With only one win in the conference, this weekend will determine if the Gophers are a legitimate contender.

“It is a must-win weekend,” goaltender Karli Kopietz said. “We need to realize we have all the tools to play.”

While only two games separate Minnesota from first place, the Gophers are currently tied for second-to-last place in the conference.

And with only six Big Ten games remaining, making a run into the top seven teams (and a spot in the Big Ten tournament) must start soon.

“I have faith the team is going to still reach the goals they set,” Wickstrand said. “I want the team to see the big picture, but still take one game at a time.”