Gophers Stumble Against State, Now Head to Face the Huskers

by on 23 October 2017

The Gophers couldn’t pull out a win on Senior Night last Friday, but with a win at Nebraska on Wednesday they could open the Big Ten Tournament on home soil.

That one hurt. Before all the fans at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium had fully settled in, Minnesota was already down two goals to Ohio State. The first, a wonder strike made possible by the heavy wind. The second, a quick finish on a Buckeye corner kick. Both were mistakes that head coach Stefanie Golan had warned the team about.

“We talked about that kid being able to strike from distance and not giving her the time and space to do so,” said Golan. “The second one, off the corner, another set piece goal. We talked about that being what they play for. So, it’s two small details. So certainly we’re disappointed but really happy with the way we responded in the second half. This is the best Ohio State team I’ve faced since I’ve been here.”

Now, with tournament time just around the corner, Minnesota needs to take care of business in Nebraska to clinch a home game to open the Big Ten Tournament. Several models have shown the Gophers as a bubble team or last team in for the national tournament. But a deep run in the conference tournament would make things feel a whole lot more solid.

The only problem? The team can’t rely on home field advantage to carry them the whole way. For the first time, the Big Ten is hosting the semifinals and finals at a “neutral location” (that happens to be pretty damn close to a couple of teams in Indiana, but who’s noticing.)

It basically comes down to this: win at Nebraska and the Gophers could finish as high as second in the Big Ten and they’d be guaranteed to host an opening round game. Lose, and they could fall as far as sixth and be forced to open on the road – making the loss to Ohio State the last impression on home fans this season.

I’ll try to pull together a quick analysis after Wednesday’s game to get everyone ready for post season play. Watch Twitter for updates.

Minnesota 1, Ohio State 2

Oct. 20, 2017 – St Paul

With a high pressing system built on quick passing and movement in the final third, the Gophers are really built more to get ahead and stay ahead. By the time an opponent is ahead, they can mostly just park the bus and keep their players packed into their own box – taking away the space needed for the Gophers to combine for decent chances. But that didn’t stop Minnesota from fighting like hell after falling behind 2-0.

They did well to pressure through the remainder of the first, but they just didn’t seem to be defending with quite the same vigor they usually have. Maybe it was the fact that Ohio State had the wind (each game with a down-field wind has been significantly impacted by it), but you could also hear the coaching staff pushing the midfielders to step a bit quicker to defend.

With the wind at their back, Minnesota had a little more swagger. The balls in the air they kept playing into the wind in the first half now had a better path forward. The only problem was the half dozen or so Buckeyes that seemed to have set up camp in the Ohio State box – clogging the free-flowing movement the Gophers offense is built upon.

Thankfully, all that pressure lead to a handball by an Ohio State defender. And if you didn’t know this before: Julianna Gernes. Does. Not. Mess. Around.

Unfortunately, Gernes would stand alone on the score sheet. Minnesota actually created a couple of great chances. One, a wide-open breakaway that April Bockin wasn’t able to finish in the first half. The other, a gorgeous long ball from Emily Heslin that Sydney Squires couldn’t quite get enough mustard on.

Next up

7 p.m., Oct. 25: at Nebraska (Big Ten Plus)

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