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Soccer Preview and Game Thread: Purdue

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Black and Gold battle on tap from West End.

Syndication: Tallahassee
Raegan Kelley was back to her playmaking ways, even if no one converted the golden opportunities she created.
Joe Rondone/Democrat,

Vanderbilt is coming off a 1-0 OT thriller Thursday night where Abi Brighton scored from 20 yards out in the 97th minute. Today, the Commodores host fellow black and gold squad Purdue at 1 PM CT with the match again streamed through SECN+ (free) and ESPN+ (subscription). The Dores are moving up from a mid-pack OVC opponent to a mid-pack B1G opponent. After needing overtime to beat the OVC squad, the immediate reaction may be concern if you did not watch the match or keep up with my mostly solo discussion of the match in the game thread. I pulled the statistical graphic below from Vanderbilt’s box score.

Vanderbilt vs Tennessee Tech statistics, with Vanderbilt on the right and Tech on the left.

The Commodores controlled this game from start to finish. A 21-3 shots advantage translating to an 11-2 shots on goal balance while having 63% of the possession is a stranglehold. Vanderbilt spent 20% of the match in possession with the ball in the attacking quarter of the field. Overall, they spent 36% (~35 minutes) of the match on the ball in Tech’s half. TTU only had the ball in Vanderbilt’s defensive half for 12.5 minutes.

The Golden Eagles had no chances that you could describe as “high danger.” Every shot was from distance. Vanderbilt’s goalkeeper Kate Devine did come out to scoop up a few through balls that may presented an opportunity, but she was easily first to the ball on all of them with help from defenders nearby.

The finishing needs to be better though. Isabelle Austin made a couple of good saves, and Peyton Cutshall did have a header cleared off the goal line by a defender. Cutshall did miss the net with two other premium opportunities. She did a fantastic job of creating chances with her movement, so it was not all negative as she led the Commodores with 6 shots but only 2 on target. Unless that inaccuracy becomes a trend for her, the chances created should inspire confidence. Raegan Kelley, Madison Elwell, Abi Brighton, and Rachel Deresky all shot 3 times with Kimya Raietparvar, Amber Nguyen, and Ava Hetzel each shooting once each. Deresky directed all 3 attempts on goal while Cutshall and Elwell were the only other ones with more than one on-frame attempt at 2 each.

A couple of things stood out about the player usage from the match. Amber Nguyen did not start but she played 57 minutes and in 3 or 4 positions. She and Raegan Kelley seemed to be alternating time at striker when Nguyen first entered in the first half with the other playing at the attacking mid spot. She also played beside Abi Brighton in overtime as a holding mid, and I think she spent a few minutes at right wing, which is more where she was expected to play based on previous deployments. Kimya Raietparvar may also have a real battle on her hand to keep Quinn Cornog or Nguyen out of her spot on the field. Rachel Deresky may be staking a strong claim to the right wing spot, too, as she played 46 minutes to starter Sophia Gorski’s 39. Gorski did have the assist on Brighton’s goal, but Deresky put in a handful of very nice crosses.

Raegan Kelley spending some time at striker was different but worked really well with her and Nguyen overlapping for each other along with her excellent passing finding the wings in space. If I recall properly, she fed 2 balls into get teammates 1v1 with the keeper while playing at striker along with a 3rd while at attacking mid. Her playmaking was definitely on display.

In injury news, Madiya Harriott was unavailable Thursday night while Kevin Ingram confirmed our worst fears. Myra Konte will not be available this season. She was drafted by the North Carolina Courage of the NWSL. Konte could apply for a medical redshirt if she is working on finishing a graduate degree, but I would fully expect her to go pro.

Turning our focus to today’s opponent, Purdue was 4-5-2 in a B1G-only regular season then lost to Northwestern in the first round of the B1G Tournament to Northwestern. The Boilermakers return all 9 goals scored last season and 9 of their 10 credited assists. I am unsure about the scorekeeping convention that is giving teams more assists than goals since soccer does not normally credit a secondary assist, but it may also be just scorekeeping error like former Vanderbilt forward Haley Hopkins being credited with a goal and an assist when she clearly scored two goals in her debut for Virginia. Only having 9 goals in 12 matches is not where you want to be. Sarah Griffith scored 5 of them, so you can look at them having a central piece to build around or being a one trick pony. When you consider that Nicole Kevdzija scored 3 more, it does look a bit more concerning.

My guess is that Purdue plays a more conservative style (like TTU who used a 4-2-3-1) where play almost has to run through a single player up top. As such, she ends up on the end of most chances created. They created 12.8 shots per game but only 5.2 SOG per game. That number also suggests the shots may be coming from distance based upon 40.5% of their attempts being on target.

Defensively, Purdue allowed 10 goals last season. In fact, 8 of their 12 matches involved a single or no goals. Opponents were only able to generate 7.9 shots per game. In net, Marisa Bova played every single minute and saved 35 of the 45 shots on goal.

Purdue’s opening match of the 2021 season was a home match against another SEC opponent, Kentucky. The result was a 1-1 draw. Unlike Vanderbilt, neither team was able to find the winner in extra time. The Boilermakers outshot the Wildcats 18 (7) to 14 (7). Again, the low on-goal percentage suggests they go for volume, not quality. Kate Devine will have to be vigilant for shots at any time. Allowing 14 shots with 7 on target means the defense may not be as stout, or the style of play may be more aggressive.

Vanderbilt needs to cap their opening weekend with another win. Assuming they can keep creating chances, they need to show an ability to finish them or make changes to find who can/will convert. The Commodores also need to make a stamp as the #18 team in the country. They looked good in the first match. They need to look even better, even if it is mostly just one aspect, in this second match against better competition.

As a note, I will be at the match and not going play-by-play or likely even sub-by-sub. I will try to add thoughts and feelings during stoppages and halftime, especially for important passages of play. My Twitter may be the better place for instant reactions, though I will try to embed or copy and paste all of those thoughts here as I have time.