Following the worst season in program history, Florida soccer needed to get off to a good start in 2023 or risk the demons of 2022 to take hold immediately.
And while the Gators’ 2-0 win over ECU last night won’t turn any heads nationally, it is one step forward for a program looking to regain prominence.
Florida Soccer: Only way is up
If you haven’t checked in with Florida soccer the last couple of years, long-time coach Becky Burleigh retired, Tony Amato got fired after just one season due to a toxic culture, and Samantha Bohon only won two games last season at the helm en route to a 2-14-1 season.
Last night’s opponent was one of those 14 losses last season, and Florida took the ultra-conservative approach in the first half. The Gators built out of the back and usually opted to go wide rather than work the middle with the CDMs. But once wide, there wasn’t much of a plan to work the ball back in beyond a couple of half-hearted crosses.
Florida was never in danger of being scored on in the first half and only gave up one shot, which wasn’t on goal, but only took four shots of their own, with just one last attempt being on target.
Florida and ECU went into halftime scoreless.
As the second half started, Florida didn’t change their approach too much and still opted to work wide rather than the middle. But in the 49th minute, left-back Lauren McCloskey made a great run down the flank, and the Gators pushed higher to put numbers in the box.
Maddy Pirrello was on the receiving end of McCloskey’s cross and the Gators took a 1-0 lead.
For the rest of the game, Florida did continue to push numbers forward but was never truly threatening. Lena Bailey had the best chance on a half breakaway but was stopped.
Likewise, ECU started to knock on the door and had a couple of threatening looks, but never formally registered a shot on goal for Alexa Goldberg to save.
Florida finally put the game away when Megan Hinnenkamp got in behind ECU’s backline with eight minutes to play and drew a PK. Oakley Rasmussen stepped up to bury it and secure the 2-0 win.
While there are certain things to critique with Florida’s tactical approach, the reality is for a team that won two games last year that, any win right now is a success. Combined with ECU beat Florida last year and we can’t imagine there will be a ton for Coach Bohon to complain about.