September 30, 2009 7:49:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- The timing was perfect for Todd Bramble.
Facing the prospect of playing three matches in six days, the University of Alabama women''s soccer coach wanted to substitute liberally Tuesday night against Mississippi State.
The return of junior forward Kelly King from a high ankle sprain couldn''t have come at a better time.
In her first game of the 2009 season, King proved her timing was pretty good, too.
King''s goal off a deflection with 25 seconds remaining in the first half helped Alabama to a 1-0 victory against Mississippi State at the MSU Soccer Field.
"It is always good to come into a game and have that extra energy that other people don''t have," King said. "That cross came in and I was so ready to get in and head it. It went over me and got to Amanda (Ortegon). She did a great job hustling to get the ball. It just came to me and I was like, ''Oh my gosh. I have a chance to score.'' "
King didn''t waste her opportunity, drilling the deflection into the lower right corner of the net past goalkeeper Taryn Holland.
Bramble said the goal allowed the Crimson Tide (5-3, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) to sit back and to absorb pressure and to rely on counter attacks in the second half.
And while Alabama''s defense sagged and allowed MSU (8-2, 0-2) to shoot from 20 to 30 yards out, the Crimson Tide missed four strong scoring chance to get needed insurance.
Bramble said he was proud his players kept their focus after bad weather and poor field conditions forced both of the team''s games this past weekend to be rescheduled.
Alabama''s game against Ole Miss scheduled for last Friday will be played Nov. 1.
The game against MSU was scheduled for 1 p.m. last Sunday but it was postponed due to unplayable field conditions. The Crimson Tide now will have to regroup to face LSU and Arkansas on Friday and Sunday at home.
The addition of King will give Bramble at least one more set of fresh legs.
"I put her in at the end of the first half so she could get her feet wet, and I will say she was in the right place at the right time," Bramble said. "She had been training well for the past week. I didn''t think that conditions would affect her."
Unfortunately, the conditions appeared to affect the Bulldogs, who controlled large stretches of the match only to have their momentum fizzle in their attacking third. The Bulldogs failed to utilize the width of the field to stretch the defense.
To compound matters, MSU settled for shots at goal from 20-plus yards and didn''t attempt to get in behind the defense for more dangerous opportunities.
"It is a disappointing result all of the way around because I felt like we threw the game away," MSU coach Neil Macdonald said. "If you look at the shots, (we outshot them) 21-10, and we just can''t afford to be making these mistakes."
The mistake Macdonald referred to came on the goal. A MSU defender misjudged a 50-50 ball in the air, which gave Alabama time and space to convert the deflection.
"It was disappointing, and it was our own fault," Macdonald said. "I felt throughout the first 45 minutes we were making mistakes like that, silly mistakes, when we should have been talking and organizing and getting people picked up."
On the other end, a solid contribution from substitute Ashley Hood went for naught. Hood had MSU''s best scoring chance in the first half when her well-struck shot from distance appeared to graze the crossbar as it sailed over the net.
MSU possessed the ball well and looked dangerous throughout the second half, but one play epitomized the Bulldogs'' frustrations.
With less than 31 minutes remaining in the match. MSU''s Kat Walsh collected the ball and turned toward the goal and fired a wild shot from nearly 30 yards out. Walsh didn''t square her shoulders to the goal and set up for the shot or scan the field to see if any teammates were in better scoring position.
"We were taking shots at wrong angles or from 20 yards out when the field is muddy and just making poor decisions," Walsh said. "We should have been more composed and thought about pass, pass, pass. Even I was dribbling into players when I should have been passing off. It was just the rush and the panic of things and trying to win.
"I think we just panicked. We tried to rush through the game. We didn''t stay composed. We had it. We had this team. I think we just let the field conditions get to us, and I feel like we felt like we couldn''t push through it."
Walsh said the Bulldogs knew what to expect from the field after playing at home Friday night in a 5-1 loss to Auburn. The turf still was a little soft, slick, and uneven Tuesday night, and Walsh said it affected the Bulldogs'' concentration.
"It frustrated me. I wish it didn''t," Walsh said, "but that is just how it was today and how the game was played."
Macdonald said his players need to be more relaxed in the final third to capitalize on their buildup. He said the Bulldogs also will have to mix their attacks and utilize the width of the field to create better scoring chances.
"If we had believed in ourselves a little bit more throughout the course of 90 minutes we would have gotten a result tonight, and we didn''t," Macdonald said.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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