Gophers Roll Over Rutgers and Maryland

by on 2 October 2017

After a few weeks of unlucky and underwhelming results, Minnesota got on a roll on its East Coast road trip.

Two thirds of the way through the season, the Gophers’ strengths haven’t changed. Defense, movement, passing, conditioning – this is what Minnesota is known for. To this point, the only thing stopping their free flowing 4-3-3 offensive formation has been a lack of finishing. Well, look out Big Ten. Because it seems like the Gophers’ only major weakness may have been addressed.

Over the last three games, the Gophers have scored 12 goals and given up three (some of which came against young bench players getting their feet wet). With only six games left in the Big Ten schedule, head coach Stefanie Golan might just have the Gophers playing their most complete soccer of the season.

Sure, some of the offensive turnaround has come thanks to stunning performances by top performers like Sydney Squires (tops in the Big Ten in goals per game), April Bockin (tops in the Big Ten in assists per game), and Julianna Gernes (just outside the top ten in goals per game). But no matter what the student announcers for the Maryland match would have you believe, the offense isn’t built on star power. Some players finish better than others, but the beauty of Golan’s system is how it can elevate individual performances without necessarily relying on them.

Five different Gophers have more than one goal. Nine different Gophers have more than one assist – including two defenders. For a team that intentionally gives underclassmen considerable playing time to solidify their development, this kind of production by so many contributors is impressive. The Gophers are so imposing across the board that the student announcer for the Rutgers game froze while giving a live pregame breakdown. Even talking about this team is difficult.

Minnesota 2, Rutgers 1

Sept. 29, 2017 – Piscataway, N.J.

This game may go down as one of Minnesota’s best wins of the season. In a rematch of last year’s conference championship game, the Gophers always looked composed and in control. But Rutgers came into the game ranked No. 16 for a reason. For the most part it kept up with Minnesota’s unique mix of strength and finesse. But Maddie Castro didn’t go all the way to the swamps of New Jersey just to play Rutgers to a draw. She came to score one-touch wonder goals into the side netting!

Even after Rutgers scored a surprise equalizer, Minnesota never faltered. It played with tremendous grit and control. At this point in the season, everyone knows the Gophers’ M.O. They’re crisp. They’re strong. And they’re not afraid to throw a shoulder and hip into you in order to take or protect the ball for the entire 90 (or 110) minutes of the game. Knowing this, many teams try to counter with their own physicality. Except because it’s a reactive strategy, it usually comes across as a little sibling trying to prove they can play against an older sibling.

Usually the Gophers respond by keeping their cool and letting their opponent get riled up. And, in this particular case, they waited for their chance and fed to ball to Squires for a nail in the coffin.

Minnesota 3, Maryland 1

Oct. 1, 2017 – College Park, Md.

Last season, Minnesota trounced Maryland 6-0. This game was a little more competitive, but not by much. The Gophers got on the board, twice, before Maryland could really get settled. From there, Minnesota was fairly content to control the pace of play and sit back a bit. Playing its second game in three days after traveling across numerous state lines may have had something to do with it.

That’s not to say the Gophers didn’t look sharp. They defended, moved, and passed well. The one goal for Maryland came on a surprising near-post chance that keeper Kailee Sharp couldn’t quite get to. Otherwise, things went as according to plan. Molly Fiedler, Gernes, Nikki Albrecht, Bockin, and Megan Koenig collectively accounted for the day’s assists and goals. Bockin, following her Big Ten Player of the Week performance, earned the post-game interview.

Next up

6 p.m., Oct. 6: vs. Indiana
1 p.m., Oct. 8: vs. Purdue

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