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WSOC: SLU Drops Dayton 3-1
WSOC: SLU Drops Dayton 3-1
C.M. Rieman
Published by Chris R
Cool WSOC: SLU Drops Dayton 3-1

DAYTON (OH) -- The Saint Louis Billikens tallied an early goal, retook the lead late in the 1st half, and added an insurance goal after intermission to up-end the Dayton Flyers 3-1 on Thursday night at Baujan Field. Generating just two shots in the match, UD was unable to solve SLU's defensive structure and subsequently falls to 5-6-2 (1-3-1) on the season. The Bills remain at the top of the A10 standings with a perfect 4-0-0 record (10-3-1 overall).

The Flyers were stepping up in class on Thursday night with a tall task ahead of them as they dealt with the A10 contenders. It didn't take long for UD to feel that pressure as the Bills moved forward and were able to capitalize on a ball inside the UD goal box to take the early 1-0 advantage just six minutes after kickoff. Dayton's defense was unable to clear a free kick away from danger as the Bills finished off the rebound to get on the scoreboard.

Despite the early deficit however, Dayton managed to recover a bit and -- to the surprise of many Flyer fans -- knock the ball around with some sustained possession for a handful of stretches as the 1st half continued. Normally content with kicking long balls forward without direction or purpose, UD took better care of the ball and tried their best to work things on the ground -- especially though the midfield. That the midfield continues to struggle to make a meaningful presence with those touches -- almost beside the point.

Most important to this much-needed change of tactics was freshman central defender Tiana Bucknor. Bucknor stepped forward and picked off several Sloo passes in the central third, but unlike conventional Flyer protocol this year, fed teammates with quality service on the ground that kept the ball away from speedy Billiken players. It was a refreshing sight and her willingness to play higher-level soccer than just intramural kick-and-run eventually rubbed off on some of her teammates as well.

Her good example indirectly led to Dayton nabbing the equalizer in the 20th minute when Keagin Collie fed a back-door ball down the right side that Micayla Livingston took baseline and crossed to the near post. Caroline Mink's near-post run was well-timed and so too her on-the-fly header as it tucked nicely into the back of the net to make the score 1-1. It was by far UD's best goal of the season, based on the best methodical buildup from back- to mid- to front-line players.

Unfortunately, it was UD's only shot of the 1st half. That said, the Flyers did enough to keep Sloo off the scoreboard for another 15 minutes doing the same things that gave them a chance to tie the match -- working the ball on the ground with legitimate purpose and thought. The Bills never looked overmatched however and with their talent and athleticism advantage those variables would eventually end up wearing down UD as the game continued.

SLU finished off a corner kick in the 35th minute at the near post that GK Kaelyn Johns was unable to punch out, putting the Billikens up 2-1 with 10 minutes remaining in the half. Johns was in position to make a play and judging by her own body language probably should have done better by deflecting the cross away from immediate danger.

The rest of the 1st half played out as UD struggled to generate much in the way of offense. While the ball possession to midfield was pretty decent, the mids lacked creativity, foot skills, and/or vision to make their touches count.

First half stats favored SLU in shots 4-1 and corner kicks 3-1.

The first 10 minutes of the 2nd half was a pretty solid effort by the Flyers, once again electing to work the ball on the ground whenever they could to play the beautiful game as it was intended. As the final 35 minutes approached however, UD was slowly but methodically running out of gas. The Billikens had a decisive speed and athleticism advantage at all but perhaps one or two positions on the field -- especially defensively against UD's young strikers. As the match continued, UD's ball possession started to suffer and eventually the run of play broke down. Small combination play was replaced by long-ball service that SLU defenders had no trouble out-legging against UD's forwards pushing into the offensive third.

The Bills were most dangerous on counters, working the left side touch line with diagonal balls to strikers running into open space. UD got caught out of position several times and had to chase -- sometimes they recovered and sometimes they allowed the Bills to place dangerous crosses in the box that required additional theatrics to tap away from danger.

As the final 15 minutes of the 2nd half approached, UD tired from the chasing. Dayton was unable to win most of the loose-ball battles that required sprints to control possession. In short, the more talented team elevated themselves over the less-talented team and started to pull away -- at least in terms of soccer ability.

The Bills countered in the 79th minute on a busted midfield play that caught the Flyer back line out of position and with a numbers disadvantage. SLU played the ball to the right side and found open space heading directly on frame. Johns held her line as the Bills pulled the trigger, but a goofy bounce ricocheted off her face and back into the mixer. The Billikens tapped the easy rebound into the net to go up 3-1 and effectively ice the game away. Dayton never seriously threatened over the final 10 minutes.

Overall, SLU outshot UD 11-2 and out-cornered the home team 6-2 as well. Dayton generated just one shot on goal all night -- Mink's header that found the back of the net. Perhaps one of SLU's goals was due to a fortunate bounce, but the final score probably reflected the overall tenor of the match.

Bucknor's insistence on serving balls to feet out of the back line was a huge step forward in terms of level of play, even if UD could only sustain it for about an hour. Johns saved a late back-pass from Bucknor that nearly led to an own-goal so no Flyer was a model of perfection. Fellow defender Nadia Pestell was once again UD's most dangerous athlete -- especially pushing forward -- but even she had difficulty shaking lose at times and finding room to go to work.

Dayton ran into a better team with better talent and speed. In most cases like that, the better team usually wins and that's what happened on Thursday night. That said, had UD passed as well in a couple other matches as they did for stretches tonight, they could have squeaked out another result or two against suspect competition. In that sense, UD took a small step forward tonight in spite of the loss. On the other hand, Head Coach Eric Golz continues to dig for short-term fixes in the midfield and offense and unfortunately those solutions are not currently at his disposal based on available personnel.

Dayton hits the road for a Sunday match at Davidson. Kickoff is 2pm.

C. M. Rieman | Publisher | 937.361.4630 | Get the latest here:

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