Not many could have predicted the struggles that would arise this 2020 season for the Gators Soccer team. Despite starting the season with a win and a tie against top-15 opponents, four-consecutive losses damaged the Gators’ hopes of making a deep postseason run.
The Gators have only had one true losing season in the 25-year history of the program entering this season. In that time, the Gators have amassed the best record in the SEC 14 times, the most in conference history.
For that reason, it can be understood that this season is not going to plan. Currently sitting with a 1-4-1 record, Becky Burleigh’s squad has been struggling more so this year than any year prior.
A fair amount of that can be attributed to the uncertainty surrounding 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic. A delayed season limited the Gators’ ability to practice and COVID-19 outbreaks on the team have broken up any kind of flow the team tries to develop.
The Gators have created chances, but a lack of consistency means they have scored just one goal in each game this season with the exception of their lone win. Head coach Becky Burleigh spoke about how her team can improve. It all starts with taking opportunities to create some consistency.
Fortunately for the Gators, their two remaining games come against two teams that are struggling themselves, Missouri and Kentucky. Perhaps these games provide Burleigh a chance to correct some of her team’s struggles before the SEC tournament.
To overcome those struggles, a glance at the Gators’ recent games shows some of the hardships. Looking back to when this losing skid started, Florida was outmatched by a No. 11 Texas A&M squad that outshot the Gators 18 to five.
The following game against Vanderbilt may have been the heartbreaker. A double-overtime loss in which the Gators outplayed the Commodores but could not find the back of the net seemed to crush the Gators’ spirits. Follow that up with a 4-2 drubbing at the hands of South Carolina and the most recent loss to Tennessee, also a 2-1 defeat, and the Gators have a tough 1-4-1 record through six games.
But, what are the Gators’ biggest struggles? One area might be set pieces. Of the six goals conceded in the last two games, five have come from defending corners. Whether that be the inability to clear or the misunderstanding between zonal-marking and man-marking defense, it is clearly an area of improvement entering the final stretch of the season.
However, the Gators have shown resiliency during their struggles. Despite trailing yet again against Tennessee this past Friday, the Gators did not go quietly. An 80th-minute goal almost led to a comeback to salvage a point from the game, but there was not enough time on the clock to build on it.
Burleigh said she is proud of the competitive nature of her team.
With two games left on the regular-season schedule, the Gators must correct their struggles quickly. The Gators have two games set for this upcoming weekend as a result of their COVID-19 issues. On Friday, the Gators take on the Kentucky Wildcats. Becky Burleigh and company then have a quick turnaround for a Sunday afternoon game against Missouri.