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Soccer Preview and Game Thread: Missouri

Vanderbilt has a good opportunity to turn one win into a streak when Missouri visits.

Syndication: Tallahassee
Sparkplug Raegan Kelley scored twice to get Vanderbilt’s first SEC win of the season.
Joe Rondone/Democrat

The Commodores are coming off their first SEC win after overcoming Alabama 3-0. Vanderbilt had not scored a goal in their first conference matchups then exploded thanks to some magic from Raegan Kelley along with a tenacious effort by the attacking midfielder. Peyton Cutshall also tallied by rising highest on a corner kick then heading the ball home. The statistics were fairly even and, surprisingly, favored Alabama.

Vanderbilt (right) trailed in every meaningful category except goals.

My reaction to seeing the box score was to double check which team was on each side of the graphic. The individual statistics corroborate the team locations. The possession split is believable, but the territory map blows me away. Alabama had the ball within 30 yards of Vanderbilt’s goal for 16.6% of the game? In Vanderbilt’s half for almost a third (32.2%) of the match? The Crimson Tide never felt that threatening. I guess this is your regularly scheduled disclaimer for the “eye test,” even from someone with a fair bit of experience in the sport.

The most important statistic on the day is still the scoreboard. On it, Vanderbilt held a 3-0 advantage. The first goal came from an Amber Nguyen corner kick in the 15th minute. Peyton Cutshall outjumped her marker and floated a header beyond the diving Alabama goalkeeper. The fan reaction was delayed by the ball hitting the bottom support bar, which those in attendance thought was a defender’s foot, then deflecting into the side netting. Raegan Kelley left no such doubts by sliding home a Maddie Elwell worm burner cross in the 51st minute then scoring an insane volley less than 2 minutes later.

Tonight, Vanderbilt hosts a struggling Missouri Tigers squad. The visitors are 4-6-0 (0-3-0) on the season. They have had 3 losses of 3 goals or more. The Yankee Tigers opened their season with home losses to Illinois (0-4) and Nebraska (0-5). The third was a shootout in Provo, Utah, where BYU won 7-4.

Defending has been Missourah’s problem this season. They have allowed 25 goals in the 10 matches played. It has been a little better in conference play with 6 goals conceded in 3 matches with the game against Tennessee requiring double overtime. Allowing 150 shots with 70 of them being on target is a good way to allow a lot of goals. However, the goalkeepers are sharing a lot of the blame judging by the coaching decisions.

Isabella Alessio started the first three contests and allowed 9 goals on 15 shots on goal. Sophia Worth started the next 6 matches with much better performances. She was scored on 12 times from 34 SOGs. McKenna Sheehan had been Alessio’s replacement against Nebraska (1 goal against from 3 SOGs) and Indiana State (0 goals against from 1 SOG) then was subbed on for Worth at Alabama (1 goal against from 2 SOGs) before getting the chance to start against Tennessee (2 goals against from 7 SOGs). Without any injury information, this rotation makes very little sense. If Sheehan was the backup for games 1 and 2, why was she not the next choice to start? These three also share the duties in 2020 with Alessio starting 12 matches, Sheehan starting 2 and appearing in 2 more, and Worth making one relief appearance. This position seems very shaky.

On the other end of the field, Milena Fischer is the attack with 5 goals and 5 assists. Only Skye Kingsley (3) and Julissa Cisneros (2) also have multiple goals score. Cisneros is second with 4 assists, too. Macy Trujillo has 2 assists to go with a single goal. The Tigers have 4 other players with just a single goal while 3 have 1 assist. Blythe Beldner and Cassidy Nurenberger make both lists.

The obvious plan is to shut down Fischer and let Elwell, Kelley, Cutshall, and the rest of the attack pick apart the defense and goalkeeping. Maya Antoine needs to avoid having her one or two breakdowns that seem to happen almost every game now. On a more positive note, Quinn Cornog had likely her best game in black and gold against Alabama. She looked calm and confident while showcasing simple but very effective skills. Taking control of the spot beside Brighton in midfield would be a big boost for the team.

Tonight’s match will kickoff from the Vanderbilt Soccer/Lacrosse Complex at 7 PM CT. The action will be streamed on SEC Network+/ESPN+. The match has been designated as the Kick Out Cancer! game. Vanderbilt will wear pink uniforms, are encouraging all fans to wear pink, and will be giving out pink rally towels to the first 100 fans through the gates.