Fouls doom Missouri soccer in season opening loss

Fouls doom Missouri soccer in season opening loss
Missouri midfielder/defender Bella Alessi defends a Gamecock attacker in Columbia, S.C. on Sept. 27. Courtesy South Carolina Athletics

Missouri women’s soccer arrived in Columbia, S.C. with hopes of extending its unbeaten record in SEC season openers. Four goals from reigning SEC champion South Carolina dashed these hopes, sending Missouri home with a 4-1 loss to start the new season.

Missouri’s lone goal, an 11th minute shot off of a free kick from the top of the box by Julissa Cisneros, put the Tigers up by one point. The finish marked the sixth consecutive SEC game Cisneros has scored at least one goal.

The looming question coming into the game for Missouri was what the goalkeeping situation would look like, coming off of a season in which three different goalkeepers got starting opportunities due to widespread injuries. Sophomore goalkeeper Isabella Alessio, a transfer from South Dakota, got the start, but returning sophomore McKenna Sheehan came in to relieve her in the 70th minute.

Alessio’s first start for the Missouri Tigers came with its challenges. A 28th minute error on a clearance led to South Carolina’s first goal of the match, an own goal from Alessio. After 42 minutes and two goals, fans saw Sheehan come into net for the first time since last October. Alessio finished the match with three saves and three goals conceded. Sheehan finished with one goal conceded.

Fouls were a concern for the Tigers, particularly a 68th minute red card for Momola Adesanmi. The foul, a jersey tug ruled as a denial of a goal scoring opportunity, occurred at the very top of the box, allowing South Carolina to score a goal off a free kick from a valuable position.

Adesanmi’s sending off also resulted in a numerical disadvantage for Missouri that likely contributed to South Carolina’s final goal, which saw the Gamecocks crowding the Missouri penalty box and passing their way through a man-down defense to score a goal.

"It was great to get out on the field and play an opponent today," said Missouri head coach Bryan Blitz. "I liked our energy coming out of the gate in both halves, and I'm proud of the way our team fought against a very good South Carolina squad.”

With all 19 of Missouri’s traveling roster getting time on the pitch, the Tigers showed a level of depth that is important given the abundance of injuries last season and ramifications of COVID-19 on the SEC season thus far.

Missouri’s next game is its home opener, against Vanderbilt on October 3 at 5:00 p.m.

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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