The Arizona soccer team will host TCU on Saturday, its last chance to sharpen up before it dives into its grueling Pac-12 schedule.
“Where the importance is is we got to get better,” said UA coach Tony Amato. “It’s another opportunity to get better and take a step forward as a team. Our goal is to make sure we’re maximizing our potential and focusing on our strengths and our players’ strengths and developing their elite qualities.”
Something Arizona could have done a better job of last week when it split road games against Santa Clara (0-4 L) and San Jose State (1-0 W).
Amato thought the Wildcats had an uninspiring week of training leading up to those matches. The effort could have been better on the players’ part and the game plan could have better on the coaches’ part, he said.
“If we rated ourselves on an academic scale, we’d probably give ourselves 2.5 overall from the coaches and the players,” he said. “And we got to make sure that we’re all shooting for the 4.0.”
Overall, Amato’s takeaways from the road trip were mixed.
“I think if you look at just basic soccer stats, and saw some of the comparison, we did some things in attack that were really good, we did some things in creating some turnovers to pick off some balls that were really good,” he said, referring to the Santa Clara game. “But there were some areas defensively that we hadn’t put on the team’s radar. And as a result, it didn’t play out very well.”
Jada Talley, UA’s leading assister, thought Arizona played better against Santa Clara than the score would indicate. The Wildcats were only outshot 9-8 and their press was extremely disruptive at times, creating 44 turnovers.
“Tony showed us film of us getting in the attack in the way we play—that high press type of play— and it got us a lot of chances,” Talley said. “We didn’t really finish them. And I know my passing wasn’t what I know it can be, and I feel like that played a big part in some of our attacks. We definitely had chances, they had chances too, and the difference was they put those away.”
TCU is just as good, if not better, than Santa Clara. A tournament team the past two years, the Horned Frogs enter Saturday’s match 6-2 and only recently fell out of the Top 25 after their five-game winning streak was snapped by Washington last weekend.
Saturday’s match could be big for Arizona’s RPI come Selection Monday should the Wildcats (5-1) find themselves on the bubble.
Amato said he has a “clear picture” of what his team needs to do to get a favorable result, the details of which he was unwilling to divulge publicly.
“Last week I don’t think we did a good job as a staff of getting the team ready and that showed in some of the stuff,” he said. “And this week we can do a lot better.”
Talley said Thursday that the Wildcats had a “really good practice” Wednesday, as they look to get their attack back in sync. Arizona scored 15 goals in its first four games, before being held to one goal in two games in the Bay Area.
“I just see it as another game for us to get ready,” Talley said. “We’ve been playing really good teams, even San Jose (State) was a challenge for us. We only beat them 1-0. I just think every game that we play here in this atmosphere, Saturday night, Friday night, like the 6 p.m. games are just a really good test for us and every game is going to be hard...and I just feel like we’re getting into that rhythm more and more as we keep playing.”
TCU players to watch: Gracie Brian and Messiah Bright
The Horned Frogs have outscored their opponents 20-6 this season. More than half of their goals have been netted by freshman Gracie Brian and sophomore Messiah Bright.
Recently named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week, Brian entered the week fifth among freshmen with 15 points (6 goals, 3 assists) and tied for first with three game-winning goals.
Bright has five goals and four assists, picking up where she left off last season when she was the Big 12 Co-Freshman of the Year.
“They’re athletic, they’re high soccer IQ players, and they’re able to create a lot of problems going forward,” Amato said.
The last time Arizona faced TCU...
The Wildcats scored two goals in the final 17 minutes to come back to beat the Horned Frogs 2-1 in the first round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
Senior defender Samantha Falasco, then a sophomore, headed in the game-tying goal in the 73rd minute.
A few minutes later, Cali Crisler delivered this strike from distance for the game-winner:
If you play this clip from our match against TCU at 11:59:38 pm on Dec. 31, Cali Crisler will score the game winning goal at exactly midnight. Start your new year off right! #ExperienceIt pic.twitter.com/aPQ8mnzFYu— Arizona Soccer (@ArizonaSoccer) December 28, 2017
“That strike seemed unbelievable when it left her foot,” Amato said that night.
“I just took the opportunity and knew we had nothing to lose at that point and we needed a goal to win it,” Crisler added.
Help find a cure for cystic fibrosis
As Amato coaches up the Wildcats against TCU, his wife Samantha will be serving as the chair for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s annual gala at the JW Marriott Starr Pass to raise awareness and funding to find a cure for cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening genetic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system.
Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea will be honored at the event. While it is too late to buy tickets online, a limited number of tickets will be available at the door. The event begins at 6:30 p.m.
Interviews from Thursday’s practice
Tony Amato recaps Arizona Soccer’s Bay Area road trip and previews Saturday’s non-conference finale against a good TCU teamPosted by AZ Desert Swarm on Friday, September 20, 2019
Former track star Madison Goerlinger talks about Arizona Soccer’s upcoming match vs. TCU, her speed, donating her hair to Locks of Love, and morePosted by AZ Desert Swarm on Friday, September 20, 2019