HONOLULU – The Sun Devil soccer team endured some on-the-job training in its season opener against Texas on Friday night. However, rather than wait until another game to apply what they learned, the Sun Devils took their lumps, got up and gave it right back. In the end they came away with a result they were satisfied with.
Junior defender McKenzie Berryhill scored two goals in the second half to help the Sun Devils come away with a 2-2 tie against Texas on Friday night at the Outrigger Resorts Shootout hosted by the University of Hawaii.
For the Sun Devils (0-0-1), Friday’s result was an impressive one on a number of fronts. First, the Sun Devils came back to tie the game after falling behind 2-0 at the half. Of equal importance, the Sun Devils, who had five players making the first start of their career, including four freshmen, accomplished the feat against a Texas team that had 20 returning players from last season. And finally, ASU found a way to come up with a positive result despite missing the talents of Cali Farquharson – the team’s leader in goals each of the last two seasons – for all but the first 16 minutes of the game. Whether or not Farquharson would play was a game-time decision after the junior forward was injured in practice earlier in the week (her status is currently day to day).
“I told their coach after the game was over, you guys won the first half, we won the second half and we tied in the overtime and that’s what it looked like,” said ASU head coach Kevin Boyd. “They absolutely outplayed us in the first half. We made a number of errors and then we responded really well in the second half where I thought we dominated. They had one great chance that they put off our crossbar in the second half. Other than that, everything else was us. I felt it was just a matter of time until we got a goal. We got it and then we went and found another one and that was great.”
The Sun Devils had a number of battles they were figuring their way through in the first half. In addition to finding a way to generate offense without Farquharson on the field – she started but left after only 16 minutes because of the injury limiting her effectiveness – they were also being stymied by a veteran Texas team, which clearly showed it had plenty of experience playing with one another.
“Cali is not only about a goal-a-game player, but she is also unstoppable in one-on-one battles and she is tremendously technical which means when she gets the ball she holds it and then beats the first player and that is something that disrupts defenses,” explained Boyd. “We didn’t really have that in the first half. We struggled to get the ball to our front line and when we did we kept turning it over and so not having her out there made a big difference.”
The experience factor showed early on as the Longhorns (0-0-1) rang up seven shots over the first 45 minutes while the Sun Devils struggled to create dangerous scoring opportunities. Texas exerted pressure on ASU throughout the first half, but the Longhorns failed to capitalize on a couple early scoring opportunities. It was one of the five fouls ASU committed in the first half that would contribute to the first goal of the game. With a free kick 45 yards from the goal, Texas brought goalkeeper Abby Smith out of the net to take the kick. Smith, who scored in a similar situation one year earlier, would tally her second career goal after her free kick tucked just under the far left post to give Texas a 1-0 lead in the 25th minute.
Boyd acknowledged the Sun Devils were aware of Smith’s propensity to take free kicks, but simply did not defend it properly. Boyd: “We were prepared for it. She was not supposed to score on a 45-yard set piece, but we were prepared for it. We knew that it was coming at us.”
ASU would not be able to limit the damage to a single goal. The Longhorns scored again with 82 seconds left in the half after they took advantage of a passing miscue by the Sun Devils in a dangerous area of the field. The beneficiary was Olivia Brook, who would end up scoring to put Texas up 2-0.
“That was us trying to over possess in a bad space,” said Boyd. “We passed about eight balls going backwards. Each pass was really slow to the next person under pressure and so forth until ultimately we passed the ball directly to their forward, who attacked us, passed it by someone and another person tucked it home. That was our mistake and it was a learning moment for us.”
The lessons were learned and then quickly applied as the Sun Devils came out as an entirely different team in the second half. The inability to consistently connect successive passes was no longer an issue. In addition, ASU found a way to break Texas’ offensive rhythm. The result was Texas playing on its heels for much of the second half. But ‘outplaying’ a team only counts for so much. The ultimate measuring stick is the scoreboard and by game’s end the Sun Devils made sure all their hard work would show up in a tangible way.
ASU would break through in the 62nd minute when Berryhill scored on a header that came as a result of a perfectly-placed ball served up by teammate Lucy Lara.
The Sun Devils would continue to press the Longhorns as time and again they were buzzing around the Texas net. It seemed just a matter of time before something came of all the activity and finally it did as freshman Aly Moon was fouled in the box, giving the Sun Devils a penalty kick. Berryhill would step up and knock it home and just like that the game was tied at 2-2 with 5:31 left in regulation.
It was a team effort that enabled the Sun Devils to make the comeback. Berryhill and Lara both proved to be the spark plugs, and others would follow suit as ASU outshot Texas 5-1 in the second half and forced Texas into committing 11 fouls, eight more than it had in the first half.
Freshman goalkeeper Lexi Bounds made her debut at the start of the second half and responded by not allowing any goals over the last 65 minutes of the game.
“I thought McKenzie was very good and I thought Lucy changed the game when she went in. I thought they both played really well,” said Boyd. “I thought we got really good play out of a number of other players, too. I thought Aly Moon did outstanding, Lexi Bounds went in goal and did well in the second half, (freshman defender) Madison Stark played very well outside. I thought (redshirt sophomore defender) Alyssa Martinez played very well outside and (senior midfielder) Brianna Gonzalez had a good game in the middle for us. They are the ones who stood out to me.”
In the end, Boyd was pleased with the result, particularly given that it came against a team which he said has potential to do really well this season.
“Texas is good and it was obvious,” said Boyd. “They were organized, they played at a faster speed than us, they had more battle in the one-on-one – all things that we had to learn, adjust and change as we were playing and so I thought they were good and I think they are going to have a good season.”
The Sun Devils close out action at the Outrigger Resorts Shootout on Sunday (5 p.m. HST, 8 p.m. in Arizona) when they face the host school Hawaii.