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The Eagles focus on offensive improvement in trip to the Dayton Dutch Lions

Columbus improved against FC Pride, but there’s still work to do.

Ralph Schudel - Massive Report

The goal going into last week’s match against FC Pride for the Columbus Eagles was to improve the team’s defense while also scoring goals. They accomplished both. Forward Madison Costner stopped the Eagles’ two-match goalless streak and Columbus gave up the fewest goals in a Women’s Premier Soccer League match in 2021.

Unfortunately, the end result was the Eagles’ third loss of the season, a 2-1 defeat. Fortunately, there isn’t a lot of time to dwell on past results. On Sunday, Columbus heads west to take on the Dayton Dutch Lions in a game in which interim head coach Mark Wise and the Eagles are ready to turn improvement into their first win of the season.

A big reason for the team’s improved defensive result was Michaela Powers moving to her natural center back role. Playing alongside fellow Eagles veteran Monique Reventlow helped the team’s shape, but giving up two goals means there’s still room for improvement.

“FC Pride plays a counter-attack style and we got caught a couple of times pressed too high and we did not find a way to slow down the counter attack,” said Wise. “However, I believe we will continue to make progress in the back.”

Against Dayton, Columbus may have a chance at the team’s first clean sheet of the year.

The Dutch Lions have played just one less match than the Eagles in 2021. So far, Dayton has a road draw against FC Pride and last week suffered a 3-0 defeat to the Cincinnati Sirens. Columbus won’t take any team for granted as the last-place team in the Midwestern Conference, but the Dutch Lions sit right above the Eagles of teams that have played in the conference.

To get a result though, Columbus will have to also score. Costner’s goal was impressive, from outside of the penalty area, but it could have been one of many if passes into the 18-yard box found an Eagle on the end. It wasn’t all Costner. For Wise, that goes down to the Columbus’ shape.

“Sometimes we get too flat across the top and any ball that bounces the wrong way starts the counter,” said Wise. “We will work on a better shape to the attack.”

Part of that improved shape was the play of Alicia Donley. The new Eagle in 2021 played her first match against FC Pride and contributed to the increase in chances. That responsibility has to go deeper for Columbus this weekend, as Donley won’t be available for the Dayton matchup.

That’s why Wise and the Eagles focused on crossing and finishing at this week’s practice. While a defensive focus prior to their FC Pride loss paid dividends on the field, Columbus hopes for the same after working to get on the same page offensively.

The Eagles won’t have a few pieces available this weekend, but there will be new names making their debut. One potential player to look out for is Deijah Swihart who had a strong indoor season in Columbus’ 2021 Great Lakes Division title-winning PASL campaign. Swihart’s name was listed on the beginning-of-the-season roster for the Eagles, but she hasn’t been available to play yet.

If there are new Eagles outside of Swihart, supporters will learn about them this weekend. Road matches are more difficult to field the best team, especially on Sunday afternoons when players likely have to focus on work and other responsibilities. Since this trip is slightly shorter than their past trip to Indianapolis, and a future trip to St. Louis, there may be less loss of roster strength.

Columbus takes on Dayton at 4:30 p.m. ET. The match will be available on Eleven Sports, formerly known as MyCujooTV. Next weekend, the Eagles play an away match Saturday in Cincinnati and a home match against Lady Victory FC. The last time Lady Victory and the Eagles competed, Columbus was on the wrong end of a 6-0 defeat.