Panthers show signs of improvement on offense

Dillan Schorfheide, Sports Editor

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Shots were plentiful for the men’s soccer team Tuesday, coming from all directions and multiple avenues.

The Panthers had an offensive explosion, taking 15 total shots with nine of them (60 percent) on goal.

 


Karina Delgado | The Daily Eastern News
Arthur Bannwart looks for an open teammate to pass to out of the defensive third. Eastern defeated St. Xavier 2-0 in the team’s home opener Tuesday at Lakeside Field.

 

Eastern relies on big passes and crosses for most of its offensive chances, and Tuesday, it did the same but worked in a couple shots from different ways.

Overall, the Panthers’ offensive performance showed the range of attacking methods the offense has and should utilize as the season goes on.

A lot of opportunities came off headers from crosses, some of which were headed right at the goalkeeper; others, a couple of which would have led to a goal, were called off due to an Eastern foul or offsides.

Using the sides of the field to get to the corners and attempt crosses will not always work going forward, however, and that is where the middle of the field comes in to play.

Keeping possession in the middle of the attacking third, at times in the past, has escaped Eastern, but in Tuesday’s 2-0 victory over Saint Xavier, the Panthers kept possession in the middle of the attacking third a bit more than they have before.

With possession in this area, shots from it should come as well, and a couple did Tuesday, but more in the future would make the offense even more lethal.

Perhaps the most notable difference, which helped lead to the 15 shots in the game, was the speed and numbers the Panthers threw at the Cougars’ defense.

Head coach Kiki Lara said, at the beginning of the season, that the Panthers were invested in sending more players beyond the ball.

In Eastern’s first two matches, the forward(s) had little help from the midfield when the forwards retrieved long passes from the defense, creating a cyclic pass, turnover, repeat system.

The middle of the field was, at times, not utilized to what it could be, and possession from the defense to the midfield to the forwards did not create a strong chain that could be relied on.

But Eastern imposed its will on the Cougars, out speeding them often and controlling the ball everywhere on the field, especially in the midfield.

With this possession, it allowed Eastern to get as many crosses as it wanted, and shots off crosses accounted for 10 of Eastern’s 15 shots.

These “crosses” include throw-in plays and corner kicks, as all three use a sort-of same approach (a long pass of sorts).

In fact, both goals (Nate Francke’s in the first half and Cameron Behm’s in the second) came to be off an Eastern throw-in.

Francke sat at the far side of the goal as Behm threw the ball in from the far side of the field, and Shady Omar flicked the ball, with his head, to the backside of the net where Francke had an easy tap-in.

Behm’s goal was similar: He was at the backside of the net, but this time, Christian Sosnowski threw the ball in to Jonas Castelhano, who retrieved the ball, dribbled to the baseline of the field and made a cross.

In the swarm of bodies, it looked like Eastern attempted a shot, but the ball, nonetheless, deflected off a defender and went right to Behm, who put it away.

Eastern used its full power of crosses in Tuesday’s win and made strides with possession in the attacking third and sending more players forward.

With that said, Eastern could still benefit from using the middle of the attacking third to create shots within and around the 18-yard box.

The Panthers did fire off some shots from 20-plus yards out, but, if anything, Eastern could further expand its arsenal by using its possession to break through the defense with good passing and space-finding to get shots closer to the goal, rather than relying on set pieces and crosses to get in to the box.

 

Dillan Schorfheide can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]