Formation Fine-Tuning Hopes To Give Team Spark

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The Ohio University women’s soccer team practices like a unit eager to be morphed into a high caliber team. The scrimmages are filled with constant communication between players with an exception for when head coach Aaron Rodgers halts play to contribute advice. Following Rodgers’ inserts, a seamless cross from an outside defender soars through the air and is tapped easily into the side of the net.

Ohio plays with four defenders, four midfielders and two forwards but not in the typical 4-4-2 style. Since Ohio’s tie with Cleveland State on Sept. 20, the Bobcats have been pinching their outside midfielders into the center.

This transition has allowed Ohio to move the ball more fluidly from the defense to the offense.

“I think that’s the style we wanted to play,” said head coach Aaron Rodgers. “We need to get more midfielders involved in the game and for us to do that we’ve got to get more players around the ball.”

This change opens up channels for the outside defenders to move down the sideline. With the center more crowded with all the midfielders, the outside opens up for a counterattack.

“We try to incorporate our outside backs a lot, I think our outside backs start our play,” said freshman forward Alexis Milesky.

This shift adjusts the way all the players have to think, but especially the defense. With the channels opening up on the sidelines for the outside defenders, the center defenders are left with the responsibility of covering for their teammates if they do not recover in time on a change of possession.

“We have to have a lot of talk, have a lot of communication to make sure that we are sliding over when one of our outside backs is moving up so we don’t get caught in transition and get countered,” said sophomore defender Leah Sandercock.

Sandercock is listed on the roster as a defender and midfielder, but she is forced to be a lot more defensive-minded when the outside defenders are getting involved in the offense. This is the first year Sandercock has seen any action for the Bobcats and she has been crucial to the organization thus far.

“Leah came in for Grace Campbell who had a couple of injuries and we’ve been working all week to understand the roles and responsibilities,” said Rodgers. “She’s done a good job at holding our shape.”

This style change comes as no surprise under a first-year head coach. As the team gets more comfortable with the different style, its play is likely to improve when following standard logic.

“I think that we need to continue to understand our roles and responsibilities to increase our speed of play and be able to attack and take the chances we are creating,” said Rodgers. “This will help us score some goals and get some good results.”

The Bobcats are 2-2-2 since the transition. The results have not been what they hoped for immediately, but the switch came at a relatively good time. Ohio still has six conference games left to get comfortable working together in this new way before the Mid-American Conference Tournament.