A light drizzle started falling at Mulcahy Stadium as the Arizona soccer team took the field for the second half trailing 1-0, but head coach Tony Amato was optimistic.
“I felt like there was no reason to panic at that point,” he said. “We’ll create some chances here, somebody will step up and get on the end of something.”
The chances were created, but that something never came. The Wildcats fell 1-0 to Florida Gulf Coast on Friday in Tucson, despite outshooting the Eagles 19-2 and generating 10 shots on goal.
"It’s pretty frustrating in the sense that we felt like, especially early on, we played well, we created chances,” Amato said. “We felt like had we gotten a goal early then that might have pushed things on that we would’ve gotten a few more, but sometimes soccer is a sport where you can feel like you can outplay the other team but still not win, and we’re definitely on that end of it tonight.”
The Wildcats dominated possession throughout, but a defensive mistake proved costly.
In the 25th minute, a through ball from FGCU goalkeeper Melissa Weck rolled past Arizona’s midfield and then its backline, setting up a breakaway for Varin Ness.
The FGCU forward then drilled a point blank shot past UA goalkeeper Lainey Burdett for the game’s lone goal.
“It’s one of those things that got away from us,” said UA midfielder Morgan McGarry.
It was FGCU’s first shot of the match and the only shot on goal they had all game, as UA’s defense was suffocating otherwise.
FGCU had one shot on goal vs. Arizona tonight. It went in. They won 1-0. pic.twitter.com/EMCIzQktXR— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) September 9, 2017
“I think we outplayed them definitely and deserved a better result, but they put away the one chance that they had and we couldn’t finish our 19, so that’s something we need to work on,” said UA forward Charlotte Brascia.
Arizona had multiple lapses on FGCU’s game-winning goal, Amato said.
“The first thing is the person who is supposed to pressure the person on the ball was late doing that and a forward went to press there where a midfielder needed to and then they (the FGCU keeper) drove a ball,” Amato said.
“Usually that’s a big ball in the air, and it was driven on the ground and it looked like one of our backs slid over and then it skipped past her and when it skipped past her, the girl ran onto it.”
But since Arizona’s offense churned out 10 shots in the first half, seven of which were on goal, Amato thought it was only a matter of time before Arizona got an equalizer.
“I thought it would be 1-1 at some point with 15-20 minutes to go,” he said. “That’s kinda what I was thinking in my head, but as the half started wearing on, it started to feel like one of those games.”
Indeed, especially in the 64th minute, when a shot from UA midfielder Kelcey Cavarra banged off the post.
Twelve minutes later, a shot from midfielder Kennedy Kieneker rose just over the top left corner of the frame.
“I was so mad,” said Cavarra, who described the loss as a “punch in the gut.”
“It sucks,” she continued. “We fought, we scrapped, we obviously created good chances and we just couldn’t finish them and that was the difference.”
Weck finished with 10 saves on the night, as the Wildcats were shut out for the second time in as many home games this season.
“As much as it sucks that we lost tonight, we’re creating chances,” Cavarra said. “We have progressed from last week where we had like maybe three or four chances and we weren’t finishing. Now we had 19 on the board and as much as it sucks to lose, that’s a step in the right way.”
The loss drops Arizona to 1-2-2 on the season, and it’s UA’s second one-goal loss. Last season, six of the Wildcats’ nine losses were decided by one goal.
“We’re getting so unlucky, but that’s what soccer is,” McGarry said. “That’s the name of the game. If you can finish, that’s great.”
The Wildcats will look for better luck Sunday when they’ll host Texas Tech at 6 p.m. MST.
The Red Raiders (5-1) beat ASU 2-1 in Tucson on Friday, even though they had a player sent off in the second half.
Arizona and Texas Tech have tied in each of the past two seasons, but the Wildcats want — and probably need — a different result this time around.
“That is a must-win,” McGarry said. “Every game is a must-win, but we need to bounce back and we need to win a game.”
- UA midfielder Gabi Stoian had a team-high six shots. Ten other Wildcats recorded shots, though none had more than two. A full box score can be found here.
- Florida Gulf Coast (6-1) is scheduled to leave Tucson on Monday following their Sunday game vs. ASU, but they might have to stay in Arizona for the foreseeable future because of Hurricane Irma. “If they have to stay and can’t get back ... they’ll stay here and train and we’ll help them as much as we can,” Amato said.
- Game-time temperatures were in the low 70s, and it rained throughout the second half. UA players said the field was a little slick, but it didn’t affect the game. “You have to focus more,” Cavarra said. “You just have to know that [the ball] might skip a little, so it’s (about) getting your body behind it.”
- UA cheerleaders made their first appearance at Mulcahy Stadium this season.
- Friday’s unofficial attendance was 729. One of those people was Mike Candrea.
- Former Arizona Diamondbacks play-by-play commentator Daron Sutton was on the call for Pac-12 Networks.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire