Column: Eastern needs forward mentality on offense


The Daily Eastern News

Dillan Schorfheide | The Daily Eastern News Arthur Bannwart posts up on defense against an attacker as the attacker tries to tip the ball around Bannwart. Eastern defeated IUPUI 1-0 Tuesday at Lakeside Field.

Dillan Schorfheide, Sports Editor

“Shoot it!”

“Go forward!”

And, a disgruntled, “Oh my gosh,” when the Eastern men’s soccer team trailed the ball backward again.

It is fair to say the Panther fans were a little aggravated when the men’s soccer team refused to take a fairly open, and fairly well set up, shot from outside the penalty box Tuesday.

Despite defeating IUPUI 1-0 Tuesday, Eastern found itself running into trouble trying to get a copious amount of scoring opportunities, mainly in the first half.

Eastern tallied just one shot in the first 45 minutes but improved in the second half to take eight shots.

Of Eastern’s nine total shots in the game, seven were on goal.

So, statistically, the Panthers had a good game shooting-wise and did have a couple high-caliber shots that forced IUPUI’s goalkeeper, Quinn McCallion, to make necessary saves.

Despite this, the Eastern fans pointed out an issue the Panthers have this season and suffered from even last year.

Most of the Panthers’ possession comes from passes among the back line, and, when the ball is up the field, passes that typically push the ball back toward their own defense, rather than at the opposing defenses.

Eastern can advance the ball along the sidelines of the field pretty well, but out of the few times the Panthers get into a position to make a play in the attacking third, most of them result in the Panthers pulling the ball back and try to find a different avenue.

Of course, when there is no clear avenue to score, just forcing the issue is not the answer, but Eastern’s typical solution of falling back and switching fields does not work very well either.

A lot of the time, when Eastern recluses back, it tries to switch fields to take a fresh stab at an attack.

But switching the field is not always effective if not done swiftly because if the passes across the field are slow, the opposing team will easily catch up and already be positioned to defend the next wave of attacks.

What Eastern does do well, though, is switch fields quickly quite often, which should catch the other team off guard and lead to a lethal scoring chance.

And yet, despite being able to move the ball quickly across the plane, Eastern typically will pull the ball back again.

Head coach Kiki Lara talked about Eastern’s offensive mindset after the team’s 3-2 victory over Belmont Sept. 24.

“The game is 90 minutes, so we just kept doing the same things that were almost working in the first half,” coach Lara said. “We stayed to the process and we stayed to our system and over the course of 90 minutes the game started to open up.”

Luckily for Eastern, opposing teams have given up eight goals to the Panthers in the second half, which is drastically more than Eastern’s one goal in first halves this season.

But, attrition will not always be able to help Eastern win a match, especially if the Panthers have to claw their way back out of a first-half deficit.

Whether or not the team does not want to take chances, or is worried about counterattacks or simply does not see an avenue to score is unclear, and the team would not admit to the first two options.

But the reality is that the Panthers could benefit from taking more chances, those chances being more crosses in to the box and shots from outside the box.

Seriously, think about it: Eastern has a couple players open on the opposite side of the field from the ball, and the Panthers switch the ball to those open players, who push the ball ahead with little resistance.

It happens a fair amount of times, and what makes this deadly is the fact that a Panther has the ball within a close-enough radius to the penalty box that a cross to the crashing attackers, from the opposite side of the field, could cause mayhem (a goal).

If not a goal, a ball bouncing around amongst bodies has led to a shot opening up before, so why could it not do so again?

Furthermore, as the Eastern fans pointed out, Eastern players look to play the ball backward before shooting from outside the box.

When getting chances close to the goal is not always possible, taking shots from outside more may be a viable option to get more chances.

While Eastern can definitely move the ball along the sidelines well, and in to the corners, getting the ball in to the middle of the field in the attacking third does not happen for Eastern.

Until they can possess the ball in the middle of the field to create chances, the Panthers would benefit from taking more shots outside the box and hitting more crosses in to the box, rather than retreating at the first sign of no clear avenue of scoring.

Sometimes taking chances is necessary to create chances, even when the path for doing so is foggy.

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