North Texas Daily

Close games become the norm for Mean Green Soccer

Close games become the norm for Mean Green Soccer

September 30
20:05 2014

Scott Sidway / Staff Writer

During the 2013 season, nine of the Mean Green soccer team’s 22 games ended with a goal differential of one or less.

Through only 11 games this season, North Texas has already completed seven games with a one goal differential.

Three of this year’s one goal games have resulted in losses for North Texas, and two of them have come in double overtime after squandering away 1-0 leads in the final minute of regulation. Sophomore forward Rachel Holden said that a close game is tough even if they are in the lead.

“There obviously is pressure,” Holden said. “When we’re down and you’re just struggling to get that goal, you’re working hard trying to pressure them to making a mistake and make a goal. But when we’re up, we just have to play defense the whole time until the whistle blows.”

The offense as a whole has struggled this season with providing the defense with a more comfortable lead. The Mean Green has only held a lead of two or more goals in four games this season, which according to head coach John Hedlund, is a result of their opponents’ defensive game plans.

“A lot of teams that we’re playing right now are extremely defensive minded,” Hedlund said. “They’re starting out with five backs and two defensive mids. Every time you look up, they’ve got seven back there and they’re looking to counter.”

Regardless of teams game planning against the Mean Green offense, junior goalkeeper Jackie Kerestine said that both the offense and defense equally share the blame in keeping games uncomfortably close.

“You can’t play defense the whole 90 minutes. It’s going to break one of these times,” Kerestine said. “Just by having the ball up top gives the defenders a break. Even with the forwards getting the goal, it gives the defense even more ‘Okay, I can do this now.’ It gives them more confidence.”

Despite the lack of goals, the offense has gotten shots on goal and created scoring opportunities. Hedlund said that luck has not been on his team’s side so far this season.

“They’ve been unlucky,” Hedlund said of his offense. “They’ve hit the post and cross bar several times. They’ve got to do a better job of making their penalty kicks. But we feel if we can get a couple of goals each game, or more, that’s going to be plenty for our defense.”

If not for the two last minute collapses against the University of Oklahoma and Gonzaga University, the Mean Green would be 6-1 in one goal games this year as opposed to 4-3. Even though the offense has failed to provide that multi-goal cushion, Hedlund said his defense also needs to keep its composure for the full game.

“Defensively late in games, we have to be more disciplined,” Hedlund said. “We have to cover for each other. We have to play the safe ball out.”

Since losing three out of their last four nonconference games by one goal, the Mean Green have improved their resilience. North Texas’ first conference game against Lousiana Tech was a 1-0 win, and they took it a step further in their next game by dominating Southern Mississippi University 4-0.

The Mean Green’s resilience will continue to be tested, considering that their next five games will be on the road against conference opponents. Hedlund said that the large number of close games came at the right time of his team’s schedule.

“You learn through your nonconference play, and you try to make sure you correct all those issues and you don’t make those mistakes when it comes to conference,” Hedlund said.

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