Back Home, Ranked: Soccer plays first 2022 match as ranked team against North Alabama

Will Miller, Staff Reporter

After a week’s worth of games in Utah, the Alabama soccer team is back at home to take on in-state foe, The University North Alabama, and the Crimson Tide has a number next to their name. 

The Crimson Tide (5-1-1) is now ranked No. 18 nationally, owing their position to five straight matches without a loss. Two of the team’s last three wins were against top-25 opponents.  

Alabama has just this one match left before facing its first conference opponent. North Alabama (3-1-3) played a future Crimson Tide opponent, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, on Thursday. The Lions took their first loss of the campaign in that contest. 

North Alabama has won just once in its last five outings. The Lions drew in three straight matches prior to facing The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in their most recent win. 

Alabama’s lone draw took place in the second game of the road trip against the University of Utah Utes. 

In Tuesday’s win over Utah Valley University, the Crimson Tide scored four goals via four different players. This included the fifth goal of the year from forward Riley Mattingly Parker, who for two consecutive weeks has been named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week. Midfielder Reyna Reyes has scored two goals in two games.  

McKinley Crone has been a force in the net, backing up a defensive unit which has impressed throughout the season. With its experience, tenacity and quickness, this group was a catalyst for the biggest win of the season, a 3-2 victory over then-No. 6 Brigham Young University. 

North Alabama has played thrice on the road in 2022, going 1-1-1. The Lions have scored four road goals this season. Mattingly Parker alone is up to 75% of that number. As a whole, the Crimson Tide has 12 road goals. 

The effects of Alabama returning all its 2021 starters are now on full display. The hardest part of the non-conference schedule is now over. The Crimson Tide’s showdown with the Lions will be the first of three home games in a row. 

Outside of the matchup with Arkansas-Pine Bluff, North Alabama has had real trouble scoring. In the previous four matches excluding Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the Lions have two goals. Facing a defense like Alabama’s just isn’t an easy task for a team mired in a stretch such as this. If the same Alabama defense that has shown up for much of this season emerges on Sunday, it will be continuously difficult for North Alabama to create and sustain offense. 

The Crimson Tide needs to keep doing what it’s doing when it comes to attacking and scoring the ball. Against Utah Valley, the team extended its lead and even got one back after the Wolverines scored, keeping the match out of reach. 

The Lions need to get a win, and it would be a big one but No. 18 Alabama has defended its home turf so far in 2022 and will look to do it again against a team from within the state. 

The match will kick off on Sunday, Sept. 11 at 5 p.m. CT on SEC Network+.

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]