Stephanie McCaffrey is the perfect No. 9.
She wears the number on her back as the embodiment of all traits traditionally coveted in a player with the No. 9 jersey. She is quick, physical, and tall. She can hold the ball for lengthy periods of time, and on top of that, she has a bag of tricks under her sleeve that are good enough to fool any defender.
She put all of this on display when the Boston College women’s soccer team lost 2-0 to No. 5 Florida State on Sunday afternoon on the Newton Campus soccer field.
There is one piece missing for McCaffrey to truly help BC, however—a No. 10. Well, Allyson Swaby does wear the No. 10, but she plays on defense and is not the typical attacking playmaker that normally sports that number.
McCaffrey needs someone who can feed her passes for the runs that she makes. She needs someone who she can pass to and combine with in the attacking portion of the field.
The Eagles set up their formation with four defenders, five midfielders and one striker. That one striker is McCaffrey, who plays above a typical flat-line, four-person midfield.
Beneath those four midfielders, who already sit somewhat deep, is Jillian Lutz, who plays in between the defense and midfield.
While FSU possesses the ball, McCaffrey roams about 30 yards above the other 10 players, who sit in a compact, defensive shape.
When BC sprung its counterattack against the Seminoles, the ball ended up at McCaffrey’s feet, and she had to showcase her lone brilliance, as she did not have a nearby teammate to work off.
In the first half, this worked splendidly for McCaffrey. Despite the fact that FSU had a majority of possession and outshot BC by five, McCaffrey did all she could as the sole point of attack for the Eagles.
Of BC’s four shots in the first half, McCaffrey set up two and took one herself. The ball found her feet a number of times, and she managed to maneuver around defenders patiently until she could either find space for herself or pass it off to a teammate racing down the wing.
One of these passes led to the Eagles’ best chance of the game. McCaffrey received the ball, held onto it and found some space for herself. She then passed it off to Lauren Bernard who was racing down the left wing. Bernard took a hard shot with her left foot and crashed the shot off of the crossbar.
These sorts of plays were nonexistent in the second half, as FSU played tighter defense on McCaffrey, giving her very little space to work with. The Eagles recorded no shots for the entire second half.
“[Playing against McCaffrey] causes you to adjust your game a little bit, and certainly they were very aware of her,” head coach Alison Foley said.
Foley added that she spoke with McCaffrey, and told her that this might be a game where she does not get on the score sheet, but is forced to pull together the attack and let other players shine. Foley was complimentary of her ability to do this.
Toward the end of the game, the left wing and right wing started playing in a higher attacking position, but neither was able to complement McCaffrey to the extent needed to win the game.
Star striker McKenzie Meehan has been out injured for this entire season, so she may be the missing link. But, this does raise the question of whether or not this team can compete with top teams without Meehan’s presence.
McCaffrey’s brilliance is enough to compete with most teams, but against the No. 5 team in the country, she needed a No. 10.
Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor