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Late-game woes seem to be a thing of the past

BY JORDAN HANSEN | SEPTEMBER 16, 2014 5:00 AM

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On Sept. 1, in a game against Butler, the Iowa soccer team gave up 2 late goals.

The Hawkeyes still won the game, but just barely. Four days later against Iowa State, they again allowed 2 late goals — but this time, the Hawkeye offense could not bail them out, and Iowa dropped its first game of the season.

While it was a small sample size, it seemed as if the Hawkeyes had some real issues regarding whether they could close out games.

Fast-forward to Sept. 11 against Illinois and Sunday against Northwestern. Both games saw Iowa score first and hang on to a lead for the remainder of the game.

For the Hawks and especially head coach Dave DiIanni, the idea of scoring first is critical to being able to finish the game in the second half.

“I think the key for us is that we have to score first, and we didn’t play with the urgency we thought we needed to against Northwestern,” DiIanni said. “To get that first goal and still not play your best made us feel good about ourselves and gave us a little more fight in the second.”

This was especially true against Northwestern, which plays a very direct style of offense, putting more pressure on Iowa’s defense to defend against waves of Wildcat offensive players.

Put simply, Iowa needs to score first in order to win games and then have its defense play solid while taking limited chances on offense.

The strategy has worked for the most part so far; the team has scored first in all eight games that they have played, going 7-1.

“[Late-game play] is something that we’ve talked about, just trying to re-engage and stay focused for that whole 90 minutes,” senior Caitlin Brown said. “Making sure that we reset after every play has also been a point of major emphasis.”

With Brown and senior captain Melanie Pickert, along with goalkeeper Hannah Clark, Iowa has a strong defensive presence that has logged quite a bit of time together — including most of last season, the Hawkeyes’ best ever.

That being said, Iowa has proven that it can be a very flexible defense when need be. The most obvious changes in defensive strategy came in the Illinois game, in which Iowa switched from its normal 4-4-2 formation to a 4-5-1 formation.

This switch allowed for more defensive help toward the end of the game and allowed Iowa to beat Illinois for the first time since 2008.

“They played it a lot last year, and I thought we did a little better job this year of possessing the ball and attacking them,” DiIanni said. “Some of it is the system, and some of it is our players’ commitment to playing as a group.”

For Iowa, that commitment to playing defensively as a group will be the deciding factor on whether they can win the close, late games.

Follow @JordyHansen on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa soccer team.


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