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Soccer Preview and Game Thread: Kentucky

The Commodores are in the Bluegrass state against an undefeated opponent.

Vanderbilt needs to take some attacking magic on the road today.

The Vanderbilt Commodores hosted Texas A&M last Thursday and dropped 6 goals on the Aggies while pitching a shutout. The scoring did not start until the 26th minute. Alex Wagner broke down the left wing and fired a cross along the ground towards a streaking Rachel Deresky. A defender’s sliding intervention kept the ball away from Deresky but also impeded the goalkeeper long enough for Ella Eggleston to pounce and score as the trailing runner.

The left side would continue to be profitable. Only 4 minutes later, Addie Porter got to the end line and cut the ball back just beyond the top of the 6-yards box for Deresky who put a one-time, left-footed finish into the net. The final goal of the third half started the same as the first except with a lot more traffic and a ball flighted chest height by Wagner. It was headed by a defender but fell to Abi Brighton, who had plenty of space to rip a right-footed shot into the far side netting.

The scoring in the second half started much quicker than the first half. Only 2 and a half minutes into the second 45, Brighton put a ball over the top for Porter to chase. She would outrun the defender marking her, take a touch around the goalkeeper caught flat-footed 30 yards from goal, and roll the ball home.

The right side of the field got to see some action finally when Jada Konte laid a ball to Deresky just outside the top of the box. Pressure did not come quickly enough, and Deresky shifted the ball to her left foot and curled a gorgeous shot into the far side netting.

The final goal came via a corner kick. Brighton put the ball about 9 yards out and dead center on the goal. Caroline Betts and Hannah McLaughlin both rose tall above their defenders. It was hard to see who got a touch, but the official scoring indicates that it must have glanced off Betts as she was given an assist then was finally directed on goal by McLaughlin.

Vanderbilt took every advantage in attack on Thursday, even without being especially dominant.

As you can see, it was not the most dominant possession performance of the season. Having 16 total shots is not even especially abnormal for the Dores. The attackers just had a clinical evening. Of the 8 shots on target, 6 found the back of the net. None of them were down to poor goalkeeping, but the defensive pressure did give the Commodores some extra time and space at times. Deresky’s pair and Brighton’s finish were all situations where defenders either lost their mark or were too casual about closing down.

This is a case of your best players making an impact.

The attacking trio of Deresky, Porter, and Eggleston all having 3+ shots and 2 SOG each is a good sign. They can all cause problems with their movement and athleticism. The runs and positioning were very problematic for Texas A&M and have been at times throughout the season. The goal scoring all started just after Eggleston had replaced Tina Bruni in the 24th minute.

Wagner is only credited with one assist, but her work down the left side from LB created the numbers advantage that left the Aggies 1-for-1 in the box. Then, it just takes one little lapse for a golden scoring opportunity to pop up.

Defensively, only 2 shots came from within the 18-yard box. For comparison, Vanderbilt had 8 attempts within 18 yards. The volume within the box is probably the biggest indicator of how incisive Vanderbilt was Thursday. Remember, A&M had only allowed 9 goals all season going into that match. In fact, they were only letting teams put 3.25 shots on goal.

Today, Coach Darren Ambrose is taking the squad on the road to Lexington to take on the #18 Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky is 7-0-5 (1-0-4). Yes, they are undefeated but have drawn 4 of their first 5 conference contests. Oddly, the one win is against #19 Alabama. The ties were at home against #13 South Carolina then on the road at Florida and Tennessee. Their nonconference slate was similarly soft when compared to Vanderbilt.

As expected by a team with the Wildcats’ record, they play low-scoring affairs. In 12 matches, Kentucky has scored 20 times while only allowing 6 goals. For comparison, Vanderbilt has scored 27 while allowing 11.

The most dangerous Wildcat is Jordyn Rhodes. She recently became the most prolific Kentucky women’s soccer player of all time when she scored her 45th career goal. She has 9 goals and 2 assists on the season. The only other players with multiple goals are Ulfa Ulfarsdottir (3) and Maya Lacognato (2). There are 6 other goal scorers, but it is the Rhodes show in Lexington. Maya Antoine and Hannah McLaughlin have to manage her at all times.

The attack will need to break down a defense that has only allowed 76 shots all season with only 31 of them directed on target. Marz Josephson has played every minute in goal and only allowed 6 of those 31 SOG to get by her.

Kickoff is approaching rapidly at 2 PM from Lexington. The match will be televised on the SEC Network and also available to stream through WatchESPN. Vanderbilt needs a win if they have any desire to be a top 2 seed in the SEC Tournament since division standings only rely on divisional matches. The Dores are 0-2-0 thanks to losses to South Carolina and Georgia. A win in Lexington gets them back into the thick of things.