Defense is a necessary staple for any team with hopes of success, but in the end, goals win games.
The Dons were given a dose of this reality over the past weekend, as they played well but finished their two-game trip to the Beaver State with a pair of double overtime ties against the University of Portland Pilots and the University of Oregon Ducks.
On Sunday, the Dons found themselves in an evenly matched battle that resulted in a 0-0 tie against Portland at Hillsboro Stadium in Portland, Oregon.
Although USF was presented with multiple chances to score off of corner kicks in both halves, they were unable to capitalize, continuing an unsettling trend of scoring troubles. San Francisco has scored just two goals in their last four games, and if their defense had collapsed at any moment during that time span, their situation would likely be much worse.
Stopping their opponents has become a focal point of USF’s game plan, as they have employed suffocating defense rather than letting their offensive struggles affect their play on the other side of the ball. Portland took 11 shots on Sunday compared to seven for USF, which was led by junior forward Mackenzie Krieser’s 3 shot attempts, but Dons sophomore goalkeeper Madalyn Schiffel recorded six crucial saves that kept the Pilots from getting on the board.
The Dons, who now stand at 5-2-2, have held five teams scoreless so far this season, which leads the WCC and is a testament to Schiffel’s excellence in goal as well as the solid overall team defense.
On Friday, freshman forward Lexie Krueger scored a goal for the Dons, her third of the season, but USF surrendered a late goal to the University of Oregon Ducks and came away with a 1-1 tie at Pape Field in Eugene, Oregon.
USF was in position to pull off an impressive win on the road after Krueger, making her first start of the season, got the ball past Oregon goalie Abby Steele to put the Dons up 1-0. However, despite keeping the Ducks at bay for much of the second half, the Dons fell short in the 77th minute, when Oregon’s Reilley Moore capitalized on a corner kick and sent a well-placed shot into the upper right corner of the goal.
After Oregon’s equalizer, both teams clamped down defensively and refused to let their opponent score for the remainder of regulation, as well as the two ensuing overtime periods. The Dons searched desperately for a chance to score the game-winning goal, but unfortunately were only able to manage one shot during the two overtimes. The Ducks didn’t fare much better, taking just a two shots in that same time span.
The Dons’ trademark defensive mindset was on full display early on, as USF forced Oregon into an offensive struggle in a scoreless first half. The Ducks nearly went ahead 1-0 in the 24th minute, but Schiffel made a difficult save, one of four on the evening, to preserve the tie.
For both teams, it was a night where scoring opportunities were scarce. Both USF and Oregon had only five shots on goal and 10 shots total throughout the match.
The Dons’ will next take the field on Thursday, Sept. 26 at Long Beach State University, as they look to wrap up their lengthy five-game road trip with a victory before returning home to face University of California, Berkeley on Monday, Sept. 30.