Back to basics

Last season opponents scored on the men's soccer team at an alarming rate: 32 goals in 18 games, to be exact. So the coaching staff placed a premium on defense this year and has stressed its importance ever since the first day of practice.

Trimming the goals against average is an admirable aspiration, but with all the attention paid to keeping the ball out of Marquette's net, the offense was neglected.

"Our main goal is to stop goals," said senior midfielder Blair Kohlmeyer. "But we were so defensively minded, we forgot offense."

Before Sunday's match against Louisville, the anemic offense had scored only four goals while the much-improved defense had allowed just five goals in seven games.

In an effort to remedy the scoring drought, the coaches used much of Saturday's practice to reiterate the basic offensive game plan: play the ball forward, play the ball back and then play it wide.

Against the Cardinals, the plan could not have been executed much better.

Less than five minutes into the match Kohlmeyer received a pass from freshman center midfielder Dan Addis and used his instep to one-time a shot on goal.

Moments later he rifled another shot on net and if not for a pair of diving saves by Steven DeGeorge, the Cardinals' senior goalkeeper, Marquette would have led 2-0.

The importance of getting Kohlmeyer involved in the attack early can not be underestimated. He played as well as he has all year and scored his first goal of the season, which proved to be the game winner, in the 2-1 win over Louisville.

It was not just Kohlmeyer. Everyone benefited from sticking to the basic plan of playing it forward, dropping it off and then playing it wide.

"This team is more mature," said head coach Steve Adlard. "They realize it works. It works at every level. It's common-sense football."

In this basic type of build-up, the play starts with the forwards. It is their job to possess the ball and then play it back to the central midfielder.

When Addis or fellow center midfielder Bryan Dahlquist receive the ball it is their responsibility to survey the field and recognize what the defense is giving them. They also must decide the tempo at which to play.

The primary option is to get the ball out wide, either to Kohlmeyer on the right or junior Pat Knoelke on the left, but the flow of the game dictates where the ball should go.

"They have to read the play and do what makes sense," Adlard said. "This is not like basketball where you run a set play."

The extra pass allows the forward time to get back into the play and make a run, according to Adlard. This is not possible if the forward plays the ball directly to one of the outside midfielders because the play will be too far down the field for the forward to catch up and have an impact.

If and when the ball goes wide, it is the forwards' job to "look for gaps between the defenders," said Duncan Silvert-Noftle, a freshman forward. "We have to be ready in the service area."

Saturday, the Marquette forwards will also have to be ready for Jeff Curtin. The Georgetown senior was named Big East Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and has recorded two assists for the 25th ranked Hoyas.

This article was published in The Marquette Tribune on September 29, 2005.