After a 1-4-2 start to the 2023 season, Utah Valley Head Coach Kyle Beckerman knew he had to make some changes. The Wolverines faced a daunting slate to open the season, featuring multiple games on the road against ranked opponents. The schedule lightened up a little after returning home to face Pacific, but the same mistakes were being made. UVU continued to turn the ball over and give up goals in transition. Resulting in a 2-2 draw for the Wolverines.
Heading into Saturday night’s match against Mercer, Beckerman identified an opportunity to make some changes to combat those turnovers and transition goals. Those changes seemed to work defensively, as the Wolverines held Mercer to zero first half shots and finished the game with a 0-0 draw at home.
“I thought we were a lot more solid defensively. I thought we had to stop leaking goals and chances. So we changed up the formation, some personnel,” Beckerman said. “It wasn’t the perfect game, it was the first time going into that formation. There’s some good moments offensively. But the biggest thing was about getting more solid defensively.”
The change was specifically made to combat transition goals. UVU has struggled all season long turning the ball over at the worst of times, often leading to a cheap goal for the opposition. The idea behind the line change doesn’t necessarily eliminate bad turnovers, but does well to put the defense in a better position when they do occur.
“I just felt in our previous formation, the 4-4-2 diamond, when we did turn the ball over we didn’t pick up the second ball, We were just a bit exposed and this just gives us a bit more width. It covers the middle of the field a bit more in those situations, but then offensively you can be on the ball, you can push those outside the wing backs all the way up, and now they’re acting like wingers,” Beckerman explained. “So it gives us a little bit of both, it can give you some easy possession to keep and give you passing lanes to play through, but then ultimately it’s giving us cover when in those transition moments we can have a bunch of guys around the ball. It shortens the close down when they do switch the ball and ultimately just gives us more cover in the back.”
The Wolverines saw an immediate improvement in the defensive third after the change, giving up just three shots to Mercer, two of which were on target. Beckerman’s side were able to generate opportunities in the attacking third. The Wolverines had the first shot in the eighth minute when Jack Borden’s effort was blocked in the penalty area. Floris van Nijnanten put the first shot on frame in the 48th minute off of a free kick near the corner flag, but his flick was dealt with easily by the Bears’ keeper. Michele Signorelli had a good look at goal in the 56th minute, but his volley went wide left by a few feet. Alejandro Silva nearly outdid himself with a long free kick from about 40 yards out, but his shot was just wide.
Each chance had its opportunity, but the opportunity quickly faded and UVU failed to capitalize time and time again.
Despite the struggles on the offensive, Utah Valley has a ‘new hope’ as they look toward a clean slate in conference play. The Wolverines head on the road to Seattle Thursday evening with a revamped defensive effort they hope will propel them to a 1-0 start in conference play.
UVU takes on Seattle Thursday Sept. 28th. Kickoff is set for 5pm MT and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+.