Missouri’s forwards have speed — and they know how to use it. In the 51st minute of Sunday’s game against the Cal women’s soccer team, Tigers’ forward Taiwo Adeshigbin received a ball with Bears’ defender Nina Pederson draped over her.
A quick move and an explosive first step, and she was gone.
A well-placed ball that Cal keeper Emily Kruger couldn’t control put the Tigers on the board, 1-1. More than that, it opened up a period of offensive explosion which blindsided the Cal defense.
The Bears (2-2) would ultimately fall, 3-2, at Edwards Stadium, in large part thanks to the quick strike capability of the Missouri’s three forwards and sudden lapses of concentration on the Bears’ part.
Coming off a game last week against Santa Clara where the Cal defense was rarely challenged, the back four had their hands full against a blazing front three for Missouri (3-0).
“We may have been a little bit disorganized, but it was more to do with the fact that we had not seen a three-front like that,” Cal coach Neil McGuire said.
Missouri’s three-forward strategy did not initially prove problematic to the Cal defense. For the majority of the first half, the Bears contained the Tiger attack by dropping midfielders for immediate double teams.
Cal freshman forward Ifeoma Onumonu was the first to light up the scoreboard in the 9th minute. Despite the early goal, the two teams were evenly matched, equaling each other in shots going into halftime.
Following the start of the second half, Missouri demonstrated their explosiveness with two goals in a span of eight minutes.
After the first Tigers’ goal, Cal found itself scrambling under the sudden onslaught. Shot after shot from the Tigers just missed the target, and the Bears seemed jumpy and unsure of themselves.
“For 20 minutes in the second half, they got on top of us a bit and we lost concentration,” senior Betsy Hassett. “They caught us off guard.”
Shortly after the onset of the second half, the Tigers’ Adeshigbin found the ball in front of the net. Rather than shoot, she passed wide. However, Cal couldn’t clear the ball. A Tiger centered it again and tapped it to another player, Haley Krentz. Krentz powered it past Kruger into the net. The shot took the score up to 2-1 to Missouri.
Just like that, Cal found itself down one.
The Bears then began pushing their midfielders forward. Suddenly the game evolved into Cal’s missed opportunities followed by Missouri’s counterattacks. The game went up and down the pitch, with both teams matching each other in shots and corners.
After receiving a cross from junior Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick on a delayed run, Hassett found the back of the net in the 74th minute to tie the game, 2-2.
Yet the Missouri forwards responded in an instant. The strikers earned a corner kick in the 76th minute, capitalizing with a header over the outstretched hand of Kruger.
The final whistle indicated a second one-goal home loss to a strong squad.
“It’s good to get a loss early in the season so we can get straight back up,” Hassett said.
However, the quick knockouts of the Tigers may not be easy to forget.