In their only out of conference game of the fall season, the Deacs face a UAB team that is firmly on the slide Saturday night at 7:30. The Demon Deacons enter this contest with a 2-0-0 record while the Blazers will come to Winston-Salem sporting a 1-3-0 record and a 3 game losing streak, as well as a 2 game scoreless run. In their last match, Bobby Muuss’ Deacons dispatched of NC State 4-1 after 3 second half goals, while Jeff Kinney’s UAB lost by a score of 2-0 against No. 3 Clemson.
Wake holds a 2-1 advantage in the all time series between the two teams, but the most recent game between them was in 1996, when the Deacs won 2-0 in Winston-Salem. The Blazers this season are looking to improve upon their 3-12-2 mark from last season, including an 0-7-1 record on the road. The Blazers did get their lone win this season away from BBVA Field, however, as they picked up a 3-2 win in Conway, Arkansas against Central Arkansas. However, their road record this season is the same as their overall record, 1-3-0 The Deacs are coming into this game having won their lone home game this season, as well as posting a 12-2-2 mark at home last season in their 16-5-2 campaign that included a College Cup appearance. Ultimately, this is a matchup between one of the country’s best teams and a team that is rebuilding.
Leading up to this game, UAB second year coach Jeff Kinney stressed the need for “90 minutes of intelligent work” to have success against Wake. Intelligent work is really the best way to describe their strategy against Clemson, which will likely be a similar one to what they employ against the Deacs. This is a very formationally fluid team, typically going forward in a 4-3-3 with a holding midfielder in front of the two center backs. Coming back, one of the forwards joins the midfield and forms a very fluid midfield diamond. They can play both directly with long balls over the top in behind to counter and also can build out of the back to create depending on how the other team looks to play. In the first ten minutes against Clemson they doggedly pressured the Tiger backline before dropping off after they were unable to make anything of it. They pressure teams in response to triggers, stepping up or over when the ball goes to the sidelines or the opposition breaks through the forward line’s press. The problem with playing the way that UAB does is that they leave themselves very exposed to switches in play and crosses, as the fullbacks are often tasked with defending one-on-one, and they struggle even when at a numerical advantage. Wake is also a team that is very adept at playing out from their defense and looks to isolate their wing players to create chances. If Wake can draw in the press and find their wide players on the break this could be a very ugly 90 minutes for the Blazers. However, if UAB manages to land a sucker punch in the first 15 minutes like they tried to against Clemson, the Deacs could have a very difficult time trying to break them down.
Ones to Watch Out For
#14 DJ Benton (Fullback/Midfielder, Junior): In watching the available film of this UAB team, there is one player who is clearly head and shoulders above the rest. DJ Benton is the prototype for what the modern fullback can be, although he has been largely unable to showcase this with this team’s struggles. He is a stellar athlete, a tough tackler, a committed defender, as well as a quick player who knows how to find some space on the flanks to put in a cross. However, his availability may be in question for this game, as he did come off with an injury in the Blazers’ game against Clemson.
#10 Blake White (Attacking Mid/Forward, Junior): Although he has been largely unable to show it this season, Blake White has a tremendous goal scoring touch and an ability to create for himself and his teammates. He delivered the corner kick that resulted in the Blazers’ most recent goal and has been their top scorer in both of the previous two seasons. He is a gifted athlete and has a solid ability to pass the ball, but his greatest trait is finding himself in spots to put the ball in the net. And he is often able to do just that.
#22 Calvin Harris (Winger/Forward, Sophomore): This game will be all about the flanks for Wake Forest. If Wake’s wingers are able to become isolated as often as I expect them to, it will be a huge day on the attack for the Deacs, and Calvin Harris will play a large part. Harris has come back looking like an even better version of himself, improving his finishing and cutting down on some of his wasteful habits that he exhibited last season. Harris is the perfect blend of a great soccer brain, athleticism, dribbling ability, and clinical finishing and he could wreak havoc on the Blazers as he did Louisville and NC State.
#21 Machop Chol (Winger/Forward, Senior): For much the same reason that I believe that Harris will have a big game against UAB, I believe Chol will as well. Chol is one of the best wide players in the NCAA chiefly because of his dribbling ability. He always seems to find a way to move beyond defenders either with his changes of speed, body feints, step overs, or just physical dominance. He scored in both the Louisville and NC State games, and, should the Deacs have a good night, he may score in this one as well.