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WSOC: #25 Butler Tops Dayton 1-0
WSOC: #25 Butler Tops Dayton 1-0
C.M. Rieman
Published by Chris R
WSOC: #25 Butler Tops Dayton 1-0

DAYTON (OH) -- Butler came into Thursday night's match sporting a #25 national ranking and more or less lived up to billing. Controlling the run of play from start to finish, the Bulldogs cashed in late in the first half on a free kick that resulted in a Flyer own goal. The lone score proved the difference as Dayton dropped the 1-0 decision and falls to 3-2-0. The Bulldogs remain undefeated at 4-0-0.

It didn't take fans very long to digest the talent gap on display as Butler controlled possession from the opening kickoff and never loosened their grip on sustained one- and two-touch passing over the course of 90 minutes. Gifted with better foot skills and quicker decision-making, the Bulldogs had no trouble knocking the ball around for extended periods, building up from the back line and funneling service to mids and forwards posting up in UD's defensive half. The Flyers were chasing the ball early and often, and took a while to adjust to Butler's physicality and speed of play.

The Flyers chose to keep numbers behind the ball at all times, allowing the BU back line to walk possession to midfield without any defensive resistance. In Butler's favor were volumes of sustained ball control that felt like -- at times -- they were playing 13 vs 11. As much as they controlled the run of play (and they did), the Flyers countered with a numbers advantage inside their own defensive half. Mucking things up and clogging passing lanes, Dayton did just enough to limit Butler's scoring chances throughout much of the first half.

Conversely, just one Flyer attacking player remained poached up top for some counter-punching. Without any numbers to link combination passes together and always outnumbered by Butler's own defensive unit, UD had virtually no offense to speak of -- choosing instead to bunker on the other side of the ball and keep the score down.

For the most part the strategy worked. While the Bulldogs had several great chances to pull the trigger near the UD goal box, they were almost too patient at times and either let those chances evaporate or allowed Flyer defenders to close down open spaces and tap balls away at the last second. Dayton did a great job of never hanging their heads in spite of the possession difference.

While UD was overmatched in first 45 minutes, they hung tough and were doing precisely what they needed to do in order to pull off the upset. Unfortunately, a defensive gaff in the 43rd minute surrendered a dangerous free kick just outside the left side of the goal box -- resulting from the Flyers being out of position, unable to close the gap, and being forced to foul.

Butler served a driving ball to the near post that deflected off a Flyer defender for an own-goal and the first score of the evening. Up 1-0 just before halftime, Butler suddenly had all kinds of momentum.

First half shots favored Butler 10-1 while UD attempted the two lone corker kicks.

The second half was a mixed bag of Butler ball control and Dayton capitalizing on a few free kicks to put dangerous balls in the Bulldog goal box that might have generated an equalizer.

The Bulldogs never relinquished possession of the ball and still knocked it around the park with casual confidence and little in the way of Flyer ball pressure. Dayton remained compact defensively however and with 10 players behind the ball at all times, always had an extra defender or two to keep Butler's legitimate scoring chances to a bare minimum. Once again however, buildup of the Flyer offense was more or less non-existent and Dayton's best scoring chances came on set pieces and corner kicks.

The Flyers continued to do a great job of staying organized on defense throughout the last 25 minutes of the second half, giving the offense a fleeting chance to tie the match on a breakaway or Butler defensive error. Neither ultimately happened however as UD had little to no ability to control possession out of the back line and find central midfielders that could distribute to the forwards. Most of Dayton's offense came from long balls sent from the backs to the forwards, once again out of necessity when few options were in the midfield from teammates checking into open space to take distribution and swing the ball weak-side. When they did get touches, maintaining possession was a problem.

Dayton never found the back of the net, though the Flyers did out-shoot the Bulldogs 7-4 over the final 45 minutes. In reality, UD never generated any meaningful scoring chances during the run of play as Butler's style of play and clean execution proved too fast for Dayton to counter with real effectiveness. Despite the lack of offense however, the defense stood up to the challenge and did everything realistically expected of them in light of the level of competition they were facing.

Beth Kamphaus was rock-solid in the central defense, while Nadia Pestell played undersized all night but more or less marked her striker out of the match. Jordan Pauley and Grace Rickett chipped in and likewise did just enough to prevent Butler from lighting up the scoreboard.

It was a match pitting two teams in different phases of their programs. Butler is reaching new heights and at their zenith compared to recent years, while the Flyers are in rebuilding mode and were in some ways staring at an opponent that resembled their own program just three or four seasons ago. The talent difference was pronounced. Butler's trapping skills, vision, speed of play, long-ball service, and physicality were a notch above, but that was entirely expected and fans should have seen it coming. To grade Dayton's performance based on Butler's skill set would be wholly unfair. Head Coach Eric Golz' team is not at Butler's level yet. But the Flyers battled for 90 minutes and made an NCAA at-large team work for the victory -- much like the Louisville result a week and a half ago. Dayton made one fatal mistake and it cost them a result.

But that alone is a great sign and a testament to the grit this team has shown over the first three weeks of the season. The Flyers remain a major work in progress, but they are no longer rolling over and no longer hemorrhaging goals on the defensive side of the ball.

If those trends continue, there are a bunch of Ws remaining on the schedule. UD hosts Akron next Friday at 7pm at Baujan Field.

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

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