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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Ameera Abdullah is searching for her offense.

Just one year after scoring 11 goals and recording 24 points (a tally of goals and assists), the preseason All-Southeastern Conference midfielder has yet to record a single point this season.

Abdullah's lack of production is one of the reasons the UF soccer team (7-4-2, 3-2 SEC) has struggled offensively to this point.

"It's been a little frustrating," Abdullah said. "But the important thing is that we're going out there and being aggressive. We've outshot almost every team we've played this season."

Lack of aggression definitely hasn't been the problem for Abdullah. Despite having yet to score a goal, the junior is third on the team with 22 shots thus far. That's even more noteworthy considering Abdullah suffered a left peroneal tendon strain against South Florida and missed four games.

The Colorado native got off to a good start in the first two matches of the season despite not finding the back of the net.

"It's kind of hard for me right now coming off an injury and trying to get back into it," she said. "I got off to a really good, aggressive start, and I'm kind of set back right now. I'm trying to get back into the flow. Hopefully, this weekend I can get my first goal and get on a roll."

Abdullah's biggest hurdle as she attempts to return to full strength is regaining the explosiveness she lost following her injury. Abdullah hasn't been able to beat defenders with her athleticism as she could in the past, which could be a reason for all of her missed shots up to this point.

"Obviously I've lost a little bit," Abdullah said, "but I think with all the practice and all the strength and conditioning it's going to get better. … I think I'm close to getting it back."

In the meantime, the Gators are enjoying Abdullah's current contributions - the kinds that don't appear in the box score. Abdullah's defensive role is key for a team that has allowed just 9 goals in 13 matches. And though Abdullah has yet to record an assist, her timely passing has been crucial.

"She's playing well for us now," UF coach Becky Burleigh said. "She's coming back from her injury and playing well. I expect her to break through soon, but it's not just about scoring. She does a lot more for us than that."

Abdullah expects to score her first goal in the near future. With Alabama coming to town Sunday, she'll face a team against which she scored one of her 11 goals in 2006, so her confidence is high entering the weekend.

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But is it high enough to guarantee a goal?

"No guarantees," Abdullah said. "You never know what can happen in the game of soccer, but I'm pretty confident. I'll leave it at that."

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