Arizona soccer changing attitudes, tactics
Two matches without defeat in spring season, but Amato and players admit more work needed
A first-half goal from forward Jazmin Ponce gave the Arizona Wildcats a lead over New Mexico State on Saturday afternoon, but a second-half defensive error tied up the match for the visitors.
The match was the second of three home matches in the Cats' spring season. Last week's match against Norther Arizona University ended with a two-goal victory for Arizona.
Neither match was against opponents of the quality of the PAC-12 teams that the team will be facing come the fall, but the game was about something else.
"The biggest thing is that we are trying to get the team to develop and get under a system that we want to play," said Arizona head coach Tony Amato. "Do we have our attacking shape? Defensively, are we doing what we need to? Restart-wise, are we attacking and defending the way we want to?"
"It's going to be a process here," continued the still new to Arizona coach. "We've only been here since the middle of January. It's going to be step by step thing to get everybody on the same page."
Amato and the Cats retooled last year's formation. Candice Osei-Agyemang started as one forward far up front and Ponce, who played midfield as well as a target foward last year, as a second withdrawn forward. Two wide midfielders were often up front as well.
The formation enabled the Wildcats to have lots of time in front of the Lobo goal, but Amato admits that there is still some tinkering to be done.
"Ideally we want our high forward to stretch the backs. That should open up space for Jaz underneath who should be combining with Candice," Amato said. "The shape didn't always look like that. We also want our wide players to give us width."
Graduating seniors nor incoming freshman were on the roster, of course. This gave Amato a short bench, but it was a chance put every player on the field at some point.
"No decisions have been made all the way around on any position. We played everyone in the game today," he said. "We're just trying to give everyone a chance and make our decisions at the end of the semester."
"We're not where we want to be. We've got work to do," Amato said. "It's about development and growth. It's going to be a process. We're at the beginning of that process."
"When the fall comes, we are going to be in a very different place."
Not so much a new look
It would be had to call this a "new look" team. The faces are much the same as last year: Ponce, Osei-Agyemang, Shannon Heinzler and there with the familiar reflective shades, LeeAndra Smith.
Still, new coach means new attitude on the field, even if the game still has a frustration here and there.
"Definitely a new feeling on the team, but we should have punished them in the first 20 minutes," said midfielder Ana-Maria Montoya. "But we are moving the ball a lot better. We're a lot more organized and that's a positive."
If there is any grousing about the new jobs players have on the field, no one is voicing any. Quite the opposite.
"I'm really excited with the new role I have," said Osei-Agyemang. "I think I'm going to be given a lot more opportunity to play the position I'm most comfortable in which is playing a post up high forward putting pressure on the backs all the time."
"In the past couple of weeks we've been focusing on being on the same page," Osei-Agyemang said. "We are working towards that...trying to reduce the slip ups like how the goal was scored today."
"Not everyone knew what their role was last season," she added. "Now that they are clearly defined, we can act on it."
The Wildcats finish out their trio of spring home games on Sunday with a match against the University of Texas El Paso Miners. The match will be at Mulcahy Stadium, 2300 E. 15th St. at 1 p.m. Admission is free.