For those of us in the stands, whether a soccer team has three defenders or four doesn’t seem like it would make a huge difference. But for the 11 players on the field, it changes everything.
As the Cedar Park girls’ soccer team prepares to compete in the regional semifinals, the Lady Timberwolves’ three-back defensive unit will be put to the test more than any other time this season when they face off with high-flying Kingwood Park.
“I’ve played defense pretty much my whole life, so going to a three back was scary at first,” senior defender Erika Longford said. “They did it for the first half of the season and did really well. We’ve adapted to it really well. I expect to play like we have all season.”
Longford missed the first half of this season recovering from a torn ACL.
Cedar Park defense had the best defensive record in District 19-5A, allowing eight goals in 16 games and finishing the regular season with nine shutouts and allowing more than one goal just twice in that span.
Kingwood Park’s three playoff wins came with margins of 8-0, 6-0 and 4-1. During the Lady Panthers’ undefeated district season, they averaged 4.4 goals per game and gave up just two in 13 games.
“I guess it’s intimidating to a point, but we’ve already played teams equivalent Kingwood Park and done well so I think we can do it,” senior midfielder Ellie Carr said. “Being in playoffs, we know we can do it and we’ve been (motivated). We’ve been practicing super hard and I want that to play out.”
Tactically, the formation is daunting to learn, but Allen did her best to explain it to a layman.
With a four-back formation, one player would step to the ball and the other would provide backup in case they mess up or get past them. In a three-back unit, it’s really important for the outside backs to get back and defend and provide cover.
Constant communication is key.
“We’ve been working on it for the last two years and we’ve gotten better at communicating with each other,” Alex Allen said. “I think that’s why our team has had success so far is because of how we work together. If someone is out of place, the whole formation can get messed up.”
The formation puts even more pressure on the midfield. The normal responsibility of the outside backs to get forward partially shifts to the outside midfielders.
Defender Anna Briseno said the midfield group has done a good job having one holding player that helps the defense out and another that attacks more.
“They’re like peanut butter and jelly,” she said. “I think we all really work well together and that’s why we work well with three in the back. Other teams would stress, but I like how composed and determined we are.”
Cedar Park and Kingwood Park kick off at 1 p.m. at Turner Stadium in Humble Friday. The winner of that game will face either Tomball or Port Niches-Grove Saturday at 11 a.m. for a trip to the state tournament.
As far as the Lady Timberwolves’ expectations?
“I wanna win,” Allen said. “That’s about it.”