Limited to five home games and headed on the road to their toughest MAC opponents this season, UB Women's Soccer faces critical tests every time they play at UB Stadium. Now 0-1-0 in conference play after tonight's 1-0 loss to Ohio, the Bulls have their work cut out for them over their final 10 games.
UB tonight was not too different from the UB we've seen all year: generally sound defense, a lack of chemistry in the midfield, and an inability to finish chances in the final third. Stephanie Rowland's first half goal for the Bobcats held up for sixty minutes in the Ohio win.
I had trouble with the stream early, so I saw neither Rowland's goal nor the offside call nine minutes earlier that negated a Buffalo goal, but I hardly need to point out the advantage of scoring first. The defensive struggle through the final hour comes as little surprise to those who remember Buffalo needed a late, late, overtime goal from Kate Roberts last year to beat the Bobcats 1-0.
That said, it shouldn't be that easy for opposing teams to shut the Bulls down. UB finished with 12 shots and generally had the better of the second half, but only by a slim margin, and no shot that I saw was particularly dangerous. The best chances came on free kicks, but even those were generally long and either couldn't connect or easily found their way into Ohio goalie Taylor Smith's arms without much concern.
Again, I missed most of the first half hour, but for most of the game Buffalo weren't nearly precise enough to build through the middle of the pitch and not aggressive enough to outrun the Bobcats on the outside and attempt crosses. Too often it felt that the default option was a long boot downfield and a prayer that it'll find Buffalo feet. I am by no means an expert, but to my eyes the book on the Bulls is clear: play fast and physical on the ball in the midfield and on defense to keep them from building possession, and when they do manage to string some passes together, wait for them to make a mistake.
UB did earn four corner kicks on the game, but two came in the final seven minutes. In a physical game (19 combined fouls), it was good to see some threatening chances on free kicks, but it would be better to see Buffalo earn free kicks closer to the net.
I will say very nice things about the defense, which limited Ohio to just four shots on goal. In general, despite Bobcats finding plenty of room to run unchallenged in the midfield, Ohio never had a grade-A chance to extend their lead.
Buffalo stays at home for a 5:00 game against Kent State on Sunday.