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Arizona soccer stunned by Albany in regular-season opener

Photo via @ArizonaSoccer

The Arizona soccer team had an equalizer waved off in the 90th minute, as they were stunned by Albany 1-0 in their regular-season opener on Friday.

It was a fitting ending for the Wildcats, who squandered scoring chance after scoring chance throughout the match. They outshot the Great Danes 17-5, took 12 corner kicks, and even rang a pair of shots off the post.

Albany’s opportunities were limited, but Claire Stackel smoked a shot inside the far post on a counter in the 71st minute to lift her team to an impressive road victory.

“We were making really good combinations, but that final pass is what we need to work on,” said UA forward Jill Aguilera, who had two shots on goal. “It was disappointing to see how many chances we had compared to the chances they had, but they had one really good opportunity and they capitalized on it. That’s a credit to them.”

UA midfielder Amanda Porter was the one who scored the would-be equalizer, tapping in a shot from short distance after Albany goalkeeper Andrea Leitner came off her line to break up a threat from UA’s Emily Knous.

The Mulcahy Stadium crowd roared as the ball trickled into the back of the net, but the linesman on the near side quickly deemed Porter to be offsides.

Arizona head coach Tony Amato wasn’t sure if the call was correct — “I’ll have to watch the video,” he said — but wasn’t willing to blame the officiating for the loss.

“It gets a little tricky when the keeper comes out of the goal because you still need two players behind, so I hope the linesman is right, but we didn’t play well enough and you have to create your own luck and … if it’s close and you’re playing well, maybe you get the luck. We didn’t have that tonight,” he said.

Aguilera said the call was “frustrating” but agreed with Amato’s assessment.

“Like Tony said in the huddle, we shouldn’t be asking for the offsides call to be called back, we should have put (the game) away in the beginning,” she said.

It’s the first time Arizona has lost their home opener since 2012. Amato was disappointed in his team’s performance, saying there were no positives to take away from it, but he knows the Wildcats are capable of bouncing back from such a discouraging loss.

They did it last year when they lost a similar heartbreaker to Florida Gulf Coast and followed it up with three straight wins, putting them right back in the NCAA Tournament picture. Arizona’s next game is Thursday at UC Irvine, who they drew last season.

“If you win a big game, that doesn’t define you. And if you lose one, it doesn’t define you,” Amato said. “You’ve got to do it over the course of 19, 20, 21 games … and I think that will be the memo: one game can’t define us. We’ve got to get better.”

It will help that Arizona will get some key players back soon. They were without three starters Friday, as defenders Morgan McGarry and Samantha Falasco and forward Hannah Clifford sat out with “small, minor knocks,” Amato said.

Then three other starters — Porter, Sabrina Enciso, and Jada Talley — had ice packs on their legs as they walked to the locker room after the game. Enciso, an important defender who usually plays the full 90, was limited to 40 minutes after tweaking her knee.

The Wildcats had to dig deep into their bench to combat the injuries, but they wouldn’t use that as an excuse for their shortcomings.

“You’d like to use that as an excuse, but everyone on our team is good,” said UA goalkeeper Lainey Burdett, who had two saves. “There’s not one person on our team that’s bad, so we have to hold each other accountable for it, and we needed to step up but we weren’t able to do that.

“Albany did really well. They flew all the way across the country and had energy and were buzzing. Every team is good and they can punish us when we’re not playing our game.”

Postgame videos

Posted by Ryan Kelapire on Friday, August 17, 2018