Men’s soccer started their season off on Thursday at Cox Stadium with a new team, new coaches and a disappointing 1-0 loss to Hope International University. The Gators put up a determined fight defensively, holding off Hope International Royals for the majority of the game. The Royals took advantage of an opening in the Gator defense in the 18th minute, scoring the one and only goal of the game in a play that would prove detrimental to the Gators.
“We created a lot of chances, we had a lot of goal scoring opportunities, we just didn’t have the final touch on frame,” said Ayala-Hil.
Newly appointed head coach Javier Ayala-Hil attributed the loss to the red card called on Gators defender Nolan Parker in the 60th minute along with the lack of strong execution.
One crucial opportunity came with only nine minutes left in the second half when the Gators came scathingly close to scoring their first goal with a strong shot from forward Ashley Watson, which ended up positioning itself too far right and missing the goal.
Despite their loss, the Gators looked steady and confident, relentless in holding possession of the ball, a strategy Ayala-Hil says he has been working on with the team in practice.
“The biggest thing for us is what we’ve been working on in training and that’s trying to control the game with a possession oriented style game, which is difficult to do,” said Ayala-Hil. “It’s been looking great in training, but now when you implement it in a real game its more difficult to do, so I know that’s going to take some time”
Ayala-Hil said he and his team are patient and will continue to practice this strategy and try to execute it within games going forward. He said the emotions of the first game as a new team with a new coaching staff got the best of the Gators today and hopes these emotions settle with the opening season game under their belt.
“Now we’ve just got to look forward to Saturday’s game.” said Ayala-Hil.“We’ve got plenty of games left in the rest of the season, so I think there is a lot of growth to be had as a team.”
The Gators will look to move forward with a win on Saturday against William Jessup University at Cox Stadium.