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WSOC: VCU Rams Bludgeon Dayton 4-0
WSOC: VCU Rams Bludgeon Dayton 4-0
Published by Chris R
09-28-2018
Exclamation WSOC: VCU Rams Bludgeon Dayton 4-0

DAYTON (OH) -- A first half goal proved to be the game winner but the VCU Rams tacked on three more scores after halftime to bludgeon the Dayton Flyers 4-0 on Thursday evening at Baujan Field. In one of the most lopsided home defeats in A10 history, UD struggled in every phase of the match and falls below .500 at 4-5-2 (0-2-1) for the first time this year. The Rams improve to 8-2-0 and remained unblemished in the A10 (3-0-0).

Looking for a better showing than the last home match against Xavier -- an uninspired 2-0 defeat with many lowlights -- the Flyers had a few things working to their advantage: the Pride of Dayton Marching Band was in the stands, the rain had moved out, and it presented a chance to atone for missed opportunities over the weekend in a 0-0 tie at Duquesne.

Few things would end up going right however and the opening minutes of the match were a foreshadow of things to come. VCU controlled possession and tempo in the early moments and utilized accurate passing in tight spaces to move the ball forward offensively. The UD back line countered with some timely tackles and clears, but the Rams were often on the receiving end of those clearaways and ready to counter once again.

Dayton struggled mightily in the central third. Without ball-winning and possession-holding capability near the center circle, there was no conduit from the back line to the Flyer strikers poaching up top. Almost all of UD's resulting service materialized from the back line and were destined to forwards over-matched athletically and out-marked with a numbers disadvantage. It was a recipe for failure but few alternatives existed as playing through the midfield was nearly impossible.

The midfield struggles indirectly led to VCU's first score of the game in the 13th minute on a poor 50/50 challenge near midfield. Without any resistance, VCU countered quickly and slotted a through-ball to a striker running on goal -- beating Nadia Pestell and GK Kaelyn Johns near-post for the 1-0 Ram lead. Defenders were out of position in large part due to the timidness of the midfield challenge, unable to recover and patch the mistake.

UD's best scoring chances came on set pieces in the box -- either from free kicks or corner kicks. On two occasions UD had the ball within 5yds of the goal line bouncing around the mixer but -- like the Duquesne match -- couldn't win the physical challenges and punch the ball into the back of the net. On other high balls in the box, the Flyers were once again unable to win those and direct something on frame -- a recurring problem since the beginning of the year.

Nonetheless, UD managed to keep the Rams off the scoreboard over the remaining 30 minutes of the 1st half and give themselves a chance after the halftime break. First half stats favored VCU in shots 5-3 while UD won the battle of corner kicks 3-1.

The second half unfolded like the first 45 minutes however as the Flyers remained highly disorganized. At times, the run of play felt like 10 field players attempting to play their own individual match. Nobody was on the same page; when players made short runs the ball was sent long and vice versa. When players made a wall pass, there was no resulting movement off the ball. Players off the ball also failed to drag defenders away and into clear space to make room for teammates to push forward. Overall it was a team lacking any cohesion and VCU eventually took advantage.

The Rams were especially effective along the left side, causing fits to UD's outside backs by turning the corner and placing dangerous crosses into the Flyer goal box. Those crosses paid dividends too with resulting goals in the 53rd and 57th minutes to make the score 3-0 and put the game out of reach.

VCU would eventually add a fourth goal in the 83rd minute on a similar play to finish the scoring and make it a 4-0 final. In between the third and fourth goals however, Dayton generated very little in the way of offense as quality goal-scoring chances were few and far between. Too many players were either hesitant or lacked confidence to attack Ram defenders one vs one with dribble penetration, while passing in the offensive half of the field was atrocious at worst, and inept at best. Unable to find feet and string a few passes together, it was a match where the Flyers essentially chased the ball down the field hoping for a Ram defensive miscue. That never happened.

VCU would ultimately out-shoot UD 12-9 and 6-2 on frame and that was the difference in the match; the Rams put away 4 of 6 chances while the Flyers generated just two shots on target.

UD's weaknesses were exposed by VCU and remain at the forefront of Dayton's struggles to remain competitive with teams the Flyers once dominated. To that end, UD lacks dynamic foot skills at nearly every position to break down the first mark and open up space to play the ball forward to teammates. At the same time, a severe lack of speed at all positions but left fullback render those same field positions without a reliable tool to lean on when something isn't working. Players either need technical ability to hide athletic deficiencies or speed and physicality to mask suspect foot skills -- and the Flyers have none to spare in either category.

Dayton has hit the skids offensively with five shutouts in the last seven matches. Some of that is youth and inexperience, while at other times its just sheer God-given ability. What's becoming more apparent as the season progresses is that Head Coach Eric Golz needs answers and its looking less likely that those answers exist on the current roster. Dayton gave a solid effort in the hustle department on Thursday evening -- not great but not hateful. But hustle is simply not enough to hide the gaping weaknesses exposed at 8 or 9 positions of the field every night. Coaching can overcome certain things but there's a point where it still comes down to the Jimmys and the Joes -- or in this case the Janes and the Jills. We believe the staff recognizes this and has no illusions on this year's ceiling; working diligently to make the best of it but sensible enough to understand that the current condition cannot go on forever. Until then, expect every match to be an uphill climb. There are no Alexis Kiehl's on the roster capable of hiding the mistakes of others anymore.

Dayton returns to action on Sunday for a 1pm contest against St. Jsoeph's at Baujan Field.
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