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Soccer Preview and Game Thread: Alabama

The second road match of SEC play is against another Top 10 opponent.

After the home victory, Vanderbilt will be back on the road tonight

Ole Miss finished their trio of matches in Tennessee with a third loss as they fell 2-0 to Vanderbilt Thursday evening. The Commodores are now 6-1-3 (1-1-0) on the season. They had a dominant but unfruitful first half with 8 shots, including 3 on target. Vanderbilt also had 5 corner kicks in the first 45. Ole Miss had neither a shot nor took a corner. In the second half, Ole Miss presented a bit more on the attack, but it was forced by the Commodores.

Abi Brighton would force a turnover, drive to the top of the Rebel box, cut back on a defender, then fire a left footed shot low and into the net. It was her first goal on the season. The goal came 5 minutes after the break and was followed by another chance from an Addie Porter cross that went unfinished.

Ole Miss would then find that attacking energy that finally forced Kate Devine into a diving, but comfortable, save. Their efforts would be punished by Rachel Deresky when Tina Bruni was able to get to the end line and fire a drop-angle cross on the ground towards the PK spot. Deresky fired it home to double the lead in the 67th minute.

Conference games where a team can play to their identity are always impressive.

The Commodores were on the ball in the attacking half for a cumulative 32 minutes. They also doubled Ole Miss in that category, as the Rebels would only have attacking possession for 18 of the 90 minutes. The possession advantage played out in shots (17 to 4), shots on target (7 to 2), corners (10 to 2), and the final score (2-0).

It was a controlled, complete victory to get back on track in SEC play. There were not many moments where the visitors really threatened, especially after the lead had grown to 2. The Dores also avoided the pitfall of relaxing with the multi-goal lead. They stayed committed to their tactics and patterns, which is a sign of a mature team.

Some less likely Commodores made important contributions in the Ole Miss win.

Obviously, Brighton getting a goal is a good sign. She can do so much going forward to go with her solid work keeping possession and locking down defensively. Deresky is on a tear. Maddie Baker looked to be more like herself in the second match back from injury. Sophia Gorski made a lot of her short minutes, getting off those 3 shots in 14 minutes.

Like a broken record, I still do not quite understand the decision to play Tina Bruni more than Caroline Betts, but Bruni did have an assist. Granted, it came by beating a defender with a cutback that looked like the slow motion part of a tutorial video. It worked though.

Vanderbilt goes back on the road this evening in just a few moments with kickoff slated for 6 PM CT from Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide were ranked #9 in the country this week, but they suffered a shocking 5-0 loss at Arkansas. The Tide are 6-1-4 (0-1-1) though and have only allowed 10 goals all season. Yes, the Razorbacks matched their goals allowed total for the season in one match. The other SEC result was a 1-1 draw against #23 Georgia.

Alabama is a team built on solid defending and an elite goal scorer. They have only scored 17 times in 11 contests. Gianna Paul has 7 of them. She left the game against Arkansas with an ankle issue, and her status for tonight is unknown as of yet. The next most prolific scorers are Felicia Knox and Isabel Smith, who both have 2 goals on the season. Knox also leads the team in assists at 3 with no other Alabama playing having setup more than 1 goal.

Interestingly, Alabama has also evenly split starts, including the first two conference games, in goal between Coralie Lallier and Dylan Pixton. Lallier has started one extra match (6 total) while allowing 1.33 goals per game and saving 19 of the 27 shots on target faced. Pixton has allowed 0.40 goals per game and saved 11 of the 13 shots on target faced.

Alabama will come out very motivated to get their first conference win and avenge the beatdown at the hands of Arkansas. They are also riding a home unbeaten stretch that dates back to September 12th, 2021. In that span, the Tide have won 22 of the 25 matches. Facing them without Paul would help, but getting a point in this match would be important. As against South Carolina, I hope they approach it with a desire to get forward and score goals. Alabama is not particularly concerned about allowing other teams to possess the ball for long stretches. Just make sure the runs are intelligent and balanced to avoid getting caught on the counter.

Tonight’s clash will be streaming only. SEC Network+ has the coverage as per usual. Kickoff is coming up in less than 10 minutes.