Florida soccer’s offensive gears were turning and it looked strong in possession throughout, but a lack of decisiveness in the final third and frequent defensive errors saw the Gators fall to the No. 19 UCF Knights on Thursday.
UCF defeated Florida 2-0 under the lights at Donald R. Dizney Stadium to tumble the Gators down to 0-2-1 to begin the season.
Florida started the match on a positive note, pressing to win possession and creating chances early and often.
Despite holding a firm advantage in possession, Florida failed to communicate across the backline when pressured and gifted UCF an early opportunity which midfielder Trescott Shamlou slotted into the net for a quick Knights lead.
Defensively, Florida struggled to play as a unit, and UCF repeatedly found space between the center backs to create chances.
With ten minutes to play in the first half, Florida was again caught out across the backline and conceded a penalty as UCF applied pressure in the box.
Midfielder Darya Rajaee converted the spot-kick, beating sophomore goalkeeper Alexa Goldberg to the bottom left corner and putting the Knights up 2-0 into halftime.
At halftime, Florida adjusted its system to play more neutrally, declining to pressure as tightly off the ball as it did in the first half. The pace of play slowed significantly as both teams found their footing deep into the match.
Redshirt sophomore midfielder Nicole Vernis turned in another strong performance and linked play on all sides of the pitch with her decisive passing and vision.
Florida enjoyed a number of key chances, but was either caught offside or closed down by Knight defenders before it could release the ball each time.
“We still have to find our rhythm,” junior midfielder Cameron Hall said. “It’s gonna improve the more we play but I think it’s definitely something we have to work on going forward.”
Junior forward Kouri Peace looked dangerous with the ball in space but struggled to convert chances against a UCF defensive unit that seemed a step ahead all night.
“At the end of the day, you have to finish,” head coach Tony Amato said. “The final ball, the final shot just wasn't there for us and we’re gonna have to work on that.”
Florida takes on Miami at 1 p.m. Sunday to close a three-match homestand.
Contact Ryan Zehnder at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryan_zehnder.