The Wings have been outscored in the first half of soccer games this season by an average of a single point.
That’s less than a goal in indoor soccer, but the statistic speaks to the fact that, more often than not, the Wings enter the second half with a deficit.
Coach LeBaron Hollimon attributes Wichita’s early-game difficulties to natural hesitation of young players on a team still developing chemistry.
"We have a lot of pleasers," Hollimon said. "It’s the character of our team. We’ve got a lot of guys who play not to make mistakes. They want to get it right, they want to please, so they play a little tentative coming out."
Through 16 games, the Wings have scored 89 points while allowing 104. They’ve never trailed by more than four points after the first quarter, but they couldn’t get the scoring trend in their favor even by outscoring opponents 8-0, 8-2 and 7-2 in games this season.
Five times, Wichita has been held scoreless in the first. That has happened twice in the last five games, during which the Wings have an 18-6 disadvantage. The second quarter has been even more troubling throughout the year, as Wichita has scored 12 fewer points than its opponents.
"That’s been our game all year," midfielder Kevin Ten Eyck said after last Friday’s loss to Milwaukee, when Wichita trailed 12-7 at halftime. "We go down, we fight back, we go down, we fight back. That can only take us so far before we have to step up and take accountability for ourselves and each one of our jobs that we have to do."
Milwaukee scored five goals in that quarter, representing the first time in five games that Wichita was outscored in the second quarter. They have allowed seven or more points in five second quarters.
Hollimon said the solution to the slow starts is instilling in the players that good results occur when the team is aggressive. That is proven by their successful second halves; often trailing, Wichita goes into attack mode and cuts into the opposition’s lead.
"We’ve really been hitting habits and tendencies," Hollimon said. "We’ve really been focusing on creating good habits, habits that we want to embody that will make us successful. In practice we’ve really been pushing the situations and scenarios that will create those habits."
The Wings’ offense hasn’t fluctuated much from quarter to quarter, but its goals-allowed totals have.
Wichita has scored 89 points in first halves and 91 in the second, but has allowed 23 fewer points in the second. During one three-game stretch earlier this season, the Wings scored 22 fourth-quarter points while allowing none.
Many times, teams are protecting leads against Wichita late. But the combination of Wichita’s aggressiveness and its focused defense has kept opponents from adding to those leads or rallying on Wichita in the final minutes.
"Our team defense has gotten a lot better," Hollimon said. "Because of that, we find ourselves getting forward a little bit more. We’re trying to improve day by day in different areas so that hopefully at some point we get to a point where our collective effort is really good."