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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Florida looks for first win versus No. 19 UCF

Following a loss and a draw in their first two matches, the Gators take on Knights

Florida's Izzy Kadzban dribbles the ball on a run during the Gators' COVID Cup scrimmage on Thursday, August 20, 2020 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. Photo courtesy of the UAA.
Florida's Izzy Kadzban dribbles the ball on a run during the Gators' COVID Cup scrimmage on Thursday, August 20, 2020 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. Photo courtesy of the UAA.

The road doesn’t get any easier for Florida Thursday after a hard-fought draw versus Texas

The Gators now have to take on No. 19 UCF Thursday night at Donald R. Dizney Stadium while still searching for their first victory of the season.  

Head coach Tony Amato said he expects steady improvement from his squad as the team coalesces around a winning mentality and tactical focus. 

“We started with mentality and attitude,” Amato said on Wednesday. “All the other stuff: passing, dribbling, shooting, your formation, none of that matters if you don’t have that.”

Florida (0-1-1) faces an uphill battle against its in-state foe. In the Knights’ last fixture, they slashed through the same Longhorns squad who held the Gators to a 1-1 draw on Aug. 22, scoring four goals without conceding.

“They were able to spread Texas out and dictate the game with the ball,” Amato said. “They were running at the goal. We gotta make sure some of that stuff doesn’t happen to limit their chances.”

Amato emphasized the importance of possession against UCF and noted his team’s improvement at retaining the ball as Sunday’s match wore on.

As to where he expects improvement, he said he placed extra focus on set pieces, midfield structure and defensive integrity.

The Knights should face more difficulty than they did versus Texas when attempting to exploit structural flaws along Florida’s backline. Thus far, the Gators have shown an ability to coordinate and defend successfully as a unit.

However, the remarkable play of sophomore goalkeeper Alexa Goldberg bailed out the Gator defense too many times for comfort. Her 20 saves in two matches kept Florida competitive in both contests, but the team certainly hopes Goldberg’s heroics won’t be necessary moving forward.

Regardless, the team remains resolutely locked in on winning.  

“My definite style that I’ve gone with for eighteen years of being a head coach is winning style,” Amato said.

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Florida kicks off against UCF on Thursday night at 7 p.m. at the Diz. The game can be streamed via ESPN+.

Contact Ryan Zehnder at rzehnder@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @ryan_zehnder.

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