There were moments, in the words of Jake Plant, of very polished soccer at Lakeside Field on Sunday, but that does not mean he thought everything worked for the Panthers all afternoon.
He underscored the unevenness, yet none of the concerns, however, pertained to the defensive side of the ball.
“At moments they looked dangerous and at other moments I thought our back line and goalkeeper dealt with it really well,” Plant said. “I think like you say, it was just a set piece goal. Those things can go in whether you are having a good day or a bad day.”
At a record of 0-4, the Panthers cannot exactly say they have had very many good days as of late, though that could all change this weekend when they host Chicago State, a team they hammered 2-0 on goals from Lexi Ketterhagen and Haylee Renick in 2018.
The Chicago State and Eastern women’s soccer teams, each grappling with insufficient scoring chances, are at the same crossroads they were at when they played a season ago.
Something has to give. Neither Eastern nor Chicago State can claim a single victory after four and six losses respectively, just as both teams entered last season’s match without a win to show for in non-conference competition.
While Eastern reversed course and went on to secure five more wins, Chicago State would only score a mere seven goals in its remaining 12 matches.
The Panthers could be poised to dash the inconsistent offensive rhythm illustrated by their non-conference play, given the sincere absence of success for a Chicago State team that has not won a match in over two years.
After a free kick decided what was one of the tighter matches on the season, Plant’s postgame appraisal of the Fort Wayne match stressed two complications in the Panthers’ fourth consecutive loss: an incapacity to carry over a prolific effort in the first half to the second and a dearth of scoring chances for the offensive unit.
Plant suggested the team would address these concerns in earnest at practice this week, mindful of the positive takeaways from a match in which Eastern could not erode a durable defensive front.
In anticipation of each match, Plant has not been wary of mixing up the strategy or placing players at positions outside of where they typically play.
With five defensive-minded players on the field to start the Fort Wayne match, Eastern, in contrast to the more conventional 4-3-4 lineup, shifted to what was essentially a five in the back approach. To compliment the five defenders in the back, Eva Munoz filled a slot as a starting midfielder for the first time this season and Annette Gomez Gonzalez made her first career start, a unit that protected the goalkeeper for the entire first half and, aside from a set piece late in the second half, for the game as a whole.
“There was stuff that we need to fix, but we also have to make sure we know what we are good at and build from that,” Plant said.
“We’ll keep that at the forefront of practice all week.”
Tom O’Connor can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]