October 26, 2014
Hoops Family Field at the Veteran’s Memorial Soccer Complex was the groundwork to one of Marshall men’s soccer team’s most lackluster performances of the season Saturday, allowing one goal to Florida International University (5-7-1, 1-4) and failing to account one of its own.
With that loss, the Thundering Herd (4-8-3, 2-4-1) remains fifth in the Conference USA standings.
For 90 consecutive minutes, Marshall played cat and mouse with the murine; practically on its heels the entire match. Soccer is a physically taxing sport, and maybe 450 minutes of play since Oct. 12 would lead a spectator’s acumen into understanding why Marshall never displayed its typical explosive mannerisms.
“We didn’t have a lot of energy today,” head coach Bob Gray said. “We were running on empty and we got one good look in the first half that we should’ve put away to make it one to nothing, and we wanted to hold on after that, but you know, it just didn’t happen.”
“Unfortunately, it was just a frustrating game,” midfielder Daniel Jodah said. “I think we just lacked the energy, to be honest.”
In the first half, Marshall tried to use a 4-1-2-3 offensive formation as it went left to right. This is typically a formation in which one of the two men behind the front three will lob a pass or a through ball to the other and the front three. Instead, the Herd used three players to work its offense with midfielders Jack Hopkins and Trevor Starcher gravitating toward the center of the field, waiting for Jodah to make a play from the right side or corner.
The Golden Panthers avidly anticipated Jodah being the focal point of the offensive attack, triangulating around him as soon as the ball was within a yard of his maneuverable space.
“Every time I had the ball, I looked up, and someone was in front of me,” Jodah said. “If I wanted to turn back, there was someone behind me, and if I wanted to go sideways, someone was there. It made it really tough for me to get into the game and put a stamp on the game.”
With such a limited attack scheme, it seemed as if Marshall truly wanted to conserve what vitality it had left for the future, as the Herd’s defensive four rarely came forward and almost never allowed an advancing FIU striker behind them. The Golden Panthers never conformed to the Herd’s four-man defensive wall in the first 45 minutes, and it showed: its striking for a possession was not finished within 15 yards of Herd goalkeeper Bijan Gloston.
“Well, you know, we don’t really have an offensive mindset,” Gray said. “Our mindset is to defend like banshees and try to counter.”
Marshall’s one counter opportunity was led by midfielders Nick Edginton and Jack Hopkins. FIU made an errant pass in its territory, which Hopkins intercepted. As he tried to lob it to Edginton, the pass was deflected, yet still reached its target and was headed into the top right corner. Unfortunately, the pass was made when Edginton was behind FIU’s defenders, resulting in an offside.
In the second half, FIU took advantage of Marshall’s defender-heavy formation, playing with a 3-3-4 blueprint. With the number of Golden Panther midfielders exceeding Marshall’s, the only obstacle impeding the path to a goal was Marshall’s backline.
With passing in a crosswise direction up and down the field, it was difficult for Marshall’s front six to determine which side FIU wanted to overtake. In the 55th minute, they chose the right side of the field and earned a corner kick.
The kick was lofted to the upper right corner of the box and was headed out by Edginton, but the player on the receiving end was on the opposing team. FIU would lob it back in the box with Panther forward Quentin Albrecht awaiting a goal opportunity. His belting left-footed strike was deflected by the right arm of Bijan Gloston in the lower right corner of his goal, but defender Marvin Hezel was there to tap in the rebound and put the Panthers up 1-0.
Marshall had no gradual improvement in the remaining 35 minutes, and finished the game with a shot count that was five times less than the visiting teams: four to 20.
Marshall will visit New Mexico Nov. 1, and look to eliminate its weariness with a well-earned, six-day competition hiatus.
“Truth be told, the schedule finally caught up with us,” Gray said. “We just ran out of gas today.”
Scott Bolger can be contacted at bolger@marshall. edu.