(Photo: Matt Harden/WCSN)
The Arizona State Sun Devils defeated the Oregon Ducks 1-0 on senior day for their final home game of the season.
The first half was dominated by the Sun Devils on both the offensive and defensive end.
Offensively, ASU did a good job keeping possession of the ball and keeping the Oregon defense working. They outshot Oregon 11-1 and continued to keep sophomore goalkeeper Halla Hinriksdottir on her heels.
Senior forward Cali Farquharson also seemed to be at 100 percent as it was her fifth game since returning from a hamstring injury. With her on the field, the offense was flowing better and had a solid rhythm throughout the first half.
After much pressing and offensive domination, ASU took the lead in the 25th minute as redshirt senior midfielder Mackenzie Semerad was taken down in the box and ASU was awarded a penalty.
Farquharson stepped up to take it and shot it into the upper righthand corner of the net giving Hinriksdottir little chance to save it.
“I wanted to get one goal at least,” Farquharson said. “They asked me to take it and I was willing to do that.”
Defensively, the Sun Devils held it down only allowing one shot from Oregon in the first half. (Note: The shot that was taken was from about 30 yards out and rolled slowly straight to redshirt senior goalkeeper Chandler Morris.)
At the start of the game, senior defender McKenzie Berryhill started at center back, however, she would periodically switch in and out of center back and center midfield while senior defender Sara Tosti and junior defender Mckenzie Grossman looked to be the center halves. Throughout the past four games, Berryhill has been in the midfield and it has worked out just fine for the Sun Devil defense. Although she will contribute to the offense in the midfield, she also would naturally track back to defend when possession is lost and be sort of an extra defender for the back four.
When it came to the second half, in the 47th minute, redshirt junior midfielder Lucy Lara was assessed a straight red card for what the official determined to be deliberate contact with an Oregon player.
During the second half, Oregon really tried to take advantage of the extra player by putting more numbers forward and keeping the backline and Morris on their heels. However, they did not succeed largely due to the impressive defense the Sun Devils displayed. Even with the extra player, the Ducks only outshot the Sun Devils 6-3 in the second half largely due to the incredible defensive display by ASU.
With ASU a goal up and a player down, they seemed to adapt a strategy of dispossessing Oregon and then immediately clearing the ball out of their own half. From a defensive standpoint it was great, however, on the other end, ASU would usually have one or zero players forward and most of the time the ball would just go straight back to Oregon.
“When you’re down a player like that you just dump balls deep,” Head Coach Kevin Boyd said. “If you can get ahold of it great, if not, just put it out of bounds and as close to the corner flag as possible and make the game take forever.”
Within ten minutes of Lara’s absence, a hole in the midfield was evident both offensively and defensively.
In the 56th minute Morris was forced to make a double save as she blocked a cross that came from the wing and then barely got a hand on the follow up shot that came from her deflection. Before that, Morris had only really gotten to touch the ball on goal kicks and on that first shot in the first half.
“Any game I get to play it’s awesome when I get to contribute,” Morris said. “But this game was a little extra special.”
One thing that especially helped ASU from conceding was having Berryhill in the midfield. With her in front of the back four, she did a great job of shutting down the central areas and clearing out long balls, forcing Oregon to play it out wide and then cross it into the box. This came to be no problem for ASU as they would easily clear the ball out of danger and then blast into the other half.
“When you’re a man down and all they’re doing just trying to get it long over your backline your just got to clear it out.” Berryhill said. “It’s not the prettiest game but you got to get it done.”
Another tactic that helped was when goal kicks were given to ASU, instead of Morris taking the kick, sophomore defender Taylor Coon would kick the ball instead. Coon could kick the ball farther than Morris and this gave Oregon that much more work to do.
The Sun Devils are back at .500 with a 7-7-1 record. The team has three games remaining and will need to finish strong in order to bolster up its NCAA Tournament resume.
“We have three more games and they’re all on the road it’s going to be difficult,” Boyd said. “We just have to take them one at a time like we’ve been doing all along and put everything on the field.”
ASU will face Utah next on Friday October 30th at 6 p.m. PST.