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WSOC: Flyers With Character-Building 2-0 Win over Geo. Mason
WSOC: Flyers With Character-Building 2-0 Win over Geo. Mason
Christopher Rieman
Published by Chris R
09-24-2017
Smile WSOC: Flyers With Character-Building 2-0 Win over Geo. Mason

The Dayton Flyers played a man down for much of the game and at times held on with fingernails, but their toughness paid off with a pair of late 2nd half goals to up-end George Mason 2-0 on a hot but beautiful late September afternoon at Baujan Field. UD notched their fourth shutout in a row while stopping the Patriots' four-game winning streak in the process. UD improves to 6-4-1 (1-0-1) while GMU falls to 4-7-0 (1-1-0).

The early moments of the 1st half were a bit lethargic for the Flyers, perhaps due to the choking heat for an early fall match. GMU seemed to handle it better and were quicker/more physical to the ball in most areas of the field. After anticipating loose balls for step-ups and winning other 50/50 challenges near the center circle, the Patriots found time to play the ball into space for quality possession moving forward.

UD countered GMU's early momentum with some stubbornness in the defensive third, but unable to find teammates in the midfield and striker positions to turn and burn, the clear-aways often resulted in giving possession back to the opposition.

Dayton's biggest 1st half hurdle was an inability to distribute effectively from the central third. Micayla Livingston and Alexis Kiehl roamed up top looking for weighted through-balls behind a defender's weak shoulder, but most of the service was ultimately high-ball blasts and chips into space GMU had no trouble defending. Livingston had more touches than Kiehl, working the right flank as her defensive mark had a habit of playing too narrow. Kiehl however was largely absent from the offense, unable to be targeted at all.

Despite GMU having the better go of things in the first 20 minutes, the Flyers hung in there and had some decent half-chances on offense. A couple scrums in the box nearly led to a 1st half Flyer goal, but even GMU had trouble finishing in the goal mouth on the other end of the field.

The match changed significantly in the 31st minute when Flyer defender Quincy Kellett was booked for a straight red card and forced to take the walk of shame. Down a field player for the remaining hour of the match, the Flyers were in a major pinch -- not just the loss of a player but the added burden of making up the difference in the brutal heat. It wasn't a recipe for success.

Fortunately, Dayton re-gathered themselves and managed to fight their way to intermission with the match still scoreless. While the midfield and offense struggled, UD's defense was still compact, helped in part by Nadia Pestell, Beth Kamphaus, and Nicollete Griesinger hanging tough near the Flyer goal box.

First half shots favored GMU 6-4 as well as corner kicks (3-1).

The 2nd half would prove interesting -- if nothing else from a strategy standpoint -- for Head Coach Eric Golz' squad. To defend another half to a scoreless draw and possibly 20 additional minutes of overtime might be too much to ask in the oppressive heat. That's a lot of chasing when down a field player, especially as the match wears on and players get increasingly fatigued. Perhaps UD's best solution was to find a goal despite the numbers, hang tough on defense, and forego the additional 20 minutes altogether.

For much of the 2nd half it didn't appear the Flyers could hang on and make that possible. The Patriots continued to stretch the field and force Dayton to play wide near the touch lines to defend their attacking forwards. Distribution led to crosses in the UD goal box that necessitated some big-time clearances and scrum-outs to keep GMU off the scoreboard. In other moments, GMU dialed up shots from long distance. Fortunately, Kaelyn Johns was big-time in front of the net and tipped a couple balls off the crossbar to keep Dayton's chances alive -- a Mason goal would almost certainly tie or win the match given the man-advantage they enjoyed.

Kiehl almost put Dayton ahead halfway through the 2nd half on a dribble-drive across the box, cut-back, and shot to the near post. The shot sailed just wide however to let GMU off the hook. Both sides were also unable to capitalize on corner kick opportunities and set pieces in the field of play. As tough as UD was hanging in there however, they were slowly losing a step and giving up larger chunks of real estate as the last 20 minutes of regulation approached. The Patriots eventually hit the crossbar again, a ricochet UD subsequently cleared away.

The Flyers finally capitalized on one of their few quality scoring chances of the afternoon in the 78th minute when Sara Robertson re-directed a loose ball back into the net from inside the GMU goal box to put UD up 1-0 with 13 minutes remaining. Suddenly, Dayton no longer felt pinned on the ropes and gained a heap of confidence that a result was realistically in their sights.

The last 10 minutes were hard-fought as GMU continued to push forward and find gaps in the Flyer defensive third. The gaps were there too, but the gaps closed just in time to turn the Patriots away at the last second. Johns was active in her goal mouth, securing high balls and adding a punch-out to command the front of the box. She tallied six saves after halftime and kept the Flyers in the lead.

GMU suffered a self-inflicted wound in the 88th minute when a terrible throw-in in their own defensive third was easy pickins' for Kiehl. After intercepting the toss, she shook a defender, went unimpeded into the goal mouth, and finished past the GMU goalkeeper to make the score 2-0 and end all doubt.

GMU out-shot UD 19-9 overall, including 13-5 in the 2nd half alone. Corner kicks were three a piece after halftime. From a run-of-play standpoint, the Patriots generated more possession, better scoring chances, and more space to play the ball without being rushed. Being up a field player helps tremendously however. The Flyers were left in a tough spot after Kellett's red card and the hot temperatures made things even more difficult to overcome with sheer fitness. At times UD looked ready to concede a goal, but they never completely rolled over and neither did they feel sorry for themselves. If nothing else, they seemed determined to play for at least tie and salvage something from the match, but a couple opportunistic finishes on offense made outright victory possible.

Several players were bright spots but the collective team effort to stick together and find a path forward was the storyline of the game. It wasn't great soccer at times. Midfield distribution was almost entirely inept even before Kellett's red card. Field vision remains a serious work-in-progress. Nevertheless, UD earned the result they wanted and also collected another clean sheet in the process. Dayton is showing some backbone as the teething process continues this year. Nothing will be easy moving forward as this was and still is a team that needs to win ugly. They are starting to embrace that identity a little bit more every match and if they continue to keep the score down, such soccer will continue to give the Flyers a fighting chance.

Match photos on Twitter and Instagram @UDPride
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