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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Florida begins Burleigh’s farewell tour with 5-1 drumming

After Florida’s Friday match against FAU was canceled,  the Gators beat the Cougars 5-1 Saturday afternoon.
After Florida’s Friday match against FAU was canceled, the Gators beat the Cougars 5-1 Saturday afternoon.

Scoring a second goal just before halftime is how you kill a game. 

A team down one goal at the half has all the hope in the world. But if the opposition doubles its lead, it’s all gone. That’s exactly what Florida did on Saturday.

The Gators’ performance and the weather took the same path. Start briskly but warm up into a sunny performance that puts a smile on everyone's face. 

After a hectic week which saw Florida’s Friday match against FAU canceled due to a lack of available players for the Owls, Saturday’s match against the Cougars was quickly put together.

Set pieces, set pieces, set pieces

The game’s first goal came in just the 11’ minute as Captain Parker Roberts headed the ball home from a corner serviced by midfield partner Laney Steed. 

Florida’s second goal of the half came through the penalty spot in the 42’ minute as Maddy Rhodes stepped up and slotted it home past GK Meredith Holton.

The first half wasn’t Florida’s best performance. Despite controlling the majority of possession, the team only produced 5 shots compared to its opponent’s 3. The Gators were doing well playing out of the back to midfield but the positive progression stalled further forward. 

The continued importance of set pieces was vital in the first half for Florida as that was how they had confidence heading into the locker room.

Tactical changes for the Gators

Throughout Becky Burleigh’s tenure, UF has consistently played in roughly a 4-2-3-1 formation. In the first leg of her retirement tour, the blue and orange started in a 4-4-2. This change was possibly due to missing multiple key starters, including Forward Deanne Rose, who’s currently away on national duty with Canada, and left back Carina Baltrip-Reyes and utility piece Cassidy Lindley. 

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Florida's lineup Saturday.
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Only five starters were upperclassmen. The game was many players’ first real opportunity to showcase their abilities. 

What goes up must come down

Sir Issac Newton’s famous quote continues to prove correct. Although Florida was up 2-0 at the half, it should have created more chances in open play.

Beginning the second half, Steed moved from her central position to left midfield. In the first half, she was the Gators’ most dangerous player. 

To break down the opposition’s defense, Florida created overloads on the wings and tried to play more crosses into the box. While the third goal didn’t come from out wide, the link-up play between Madison Alexander and Beata Olsson opened the floodgates in the 64’ minute. 

Throughout the game, both strikers' movements were very fluid, but that didn’t translate to shots on goal at first but changed over the course of the match. Olssson, who had her collegiate debut Saturday, showed an intrinsic ability to run in between the lines and tried to facilitate play on the field but had some poor touches in the first half. 

The second half was a coming out party for the U-19 Swedish international after her first goal. On a chance when Florida had bodies up the pitch, Charleston strung together a promising counter attack and put a dent in the lead, making it 3-1 in the 67’ minute.

Less than three minutes after, Florida’s Delaney Tauzel responded with their fourth. The final nail in the coffin was Olsson’s second goal in the 89’ minute, where she put Ava Kuyken’s through ball in the back of the net. 

The Gators next match, which will double as the team’s senior day, will be Feb. 27 against South Florida back at Donald R. Disney Stadium.

Contact Myles Herbert at and follow him on Twitter @myles_herbert

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