By Anders Aarhus aka @SportsViking our CoMO correspondent:
“Florida has traditionally been the most dominant team in the SEC.”
Those were the words of Mizzou Associate Head Coach Brian Dooley at practice Wednesday. It’s a truth that Dooley knows well from 14 years as the head coach of Florida Atlantic and one that Mizzou found out the hard way last year. Florida beat the Tigers 2-1 in the regular season and then dominated the rematch in the SEC tournament semi-final with a 3-0 victory.
This year is no different. Despite replacing three starters, including their leading scorer, from last year’s team that won both the SEC regular season and tournament titles, Florida is right back at the top of the conference standings. Savannah Jordan is big reason for that – the freshman forward leads the SEC with 11 goals in 10 games.
This is the challenge facing the Missouri Tigers (5-5-0, 1-1-0) when they play the No. 7 Gators (8-1-1, 2-0-0) Sunday at 1 p. m. in a national televised matchup.
Dooley said Florida’s vertical movement is what gives teams problems. That comes from sophomore Havana Solaun sitting underneath Jordan, creating a nightmare combo for opposing teams to deal with.
“Our center backs and our holding midfielders are going to be critical,” said Dooley. “It’s about keeping [Solaun] in your vision and not letting her slip behind you.”
Dooley said the Tigers will try to forcing Florida to play horizontally rather than vertically, taking Solaun out of the game and cutting off service to Jordan. The midfield, which has been a strength for Mizzou so far, will be expected to provide the usual pressure and force turnovers in dangerous areas.
The Tigers will also receive a boost from playing in front of their home crowd.
“It’s a home game, it’s a big game,” said Dooley. “I think we’re going to have a pretty good crowd, we’re going to have a lot of people supporting us. That’s going to be an advantage right there.”
Head Coach Brian Blitz said there’s no extra pressure after a loss against Georgia Friday night and said his team is eager to bounce back.
“We just said, ‘what an awesome opportunity,’ sometimes you have to wait a week [after a loss].”
It’s still early in the season, but losing two home games in three days is not something top SEC teams do. The game against Florida won’t decide Mizzou’s season, but it could very well define it.