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Alabama Soccer: Back-Loaded SEC Schedule Awaits the Crimson Tide

10 matches down and nine to go, the Crimson Tide's record sits at 5-5 with statistics of both the good and the bad to show for it.

Alabama soccer plays Missouri tonight in its first home match of the season to an SEC opponent, and the Tigers coming to town couldn't happen at a better time for a squad that's consistently inconsistent. 

Just not at home, where the Crimson Tide seems to find refuge for its road-induced struggles.

Its 5-5 record and 0-1 mark in-conference tells one story, the one of results that is, sure, but the Crimson Tide's unblemished three-to-zero win-loss ratio at home is, well, one positive which is particularly significant given tonight's occasion. 

Situated similarly at 4-4 overall and also winless in its conference schedule, Missouri presents a momentum-building match, one not unnoticed to seventh-year Alabama coach Wes Hart. 

"We got to bring effort and attitude, and do the things we've been doing plus more," he said of the Tigers matchup. "It's not one simple thing. It's hard running in the box, it's unselfish runs, it's a little creativity, and it's 10, 12 different things that we need to do a little more of."

The fulcrum to the Tide's season thus far, the significance of tonight's result to the eastern division Tigers is likely the difference in Terrence Cody and a feather with a weight, not Featherweight, leaning one way or another. 

If not now then when, you'd wonder, looking ahead. 

Because, as Alabama crosses the midseason threshold of livened legs typically turned tired and inexperience dropping its prefix, its toughest non-conference opponents and three of its five losses, No. 1 Florida State, No. 8 TCU and then-ranked Memphis, are now archived but introductory nonetheless.

"At Florida State, we weren't us. We came out like we were scared, like, 'Oh, they're the No. 1 team,' even though we really wanted to win that game," Alabama midfielder Kate Henderson said. "And now it's about saying, 'Let's be us.'"

The Crimson Tide did hang in against some of the best talent in the country, though, particularly when it hosted then-sixth-ranked TCU, taking the Horned Frogs to overtime before falling 2-1 in a sudden-death overtime. 

"I thought we had them on the ropes. I think they had two total shots on goal, and if we play like that in the SEC we're going to win a lot of games," Hart said following the loss.  

But most of the nine remaining opponents for Alabama, all of which are in the SEC, aren't worrisome enough to write here, there or home about. No, they're more Paul Revere on horseback, and too talented for the not-urgent-enough written word to convey accurately. 

No. 5 LSU comes to Tuscaloosa on October 1, Alabama travels to No. 16 Arkansas on October 7, and No. 11 Auburn is the Crimson Tide's season finale at home on October 28. 

"It Just Means More," there, there and there. 

Seriously, though, that's brutal. 

That's why beating Utah Valley 3-0 on Sunday night was imperative for Alabama as it looks forward, reluctantly or not, to ranked rivals coming up in the next month or so, and to the opportunity to make the postseason after missing it last year.

In 10 games, the Tide has scored 18 goals and has a goal differential of +2, meaning Alabama has conceded 16 total. Disparities begin and end there, too. LSU has scored 33 goals to its five conceded for an in-the-green margin of +28, though the Tigers are through eight matches and not 10 like Alabama. 

Arkansas, situated just outside the Top 15 nationally, is also through eight games like LSU, and the Razorbacks' goal differential is +20, thanks to 26 goals scored for an average of more than four per game. 

Then there's Auburn, with its 24 goals scored and eight conceded in eight games played.

And, "Having that grit in the box," as Crimson Tide forward Ashlynn Serepca put it, will be imperative as Alabama approaches what was originally a somewhat-down collection of conference teams. 

It also explains some of the inconsistencies from the Alabama side in front of goal, something that becomes glaring as the quality of competition improves from non-conference squads to more 'meat and potatoes.'

During preseason preparations, all 14 of the SEC soccer coaches selected Texas A&M and Arkansas as co-favorites to win the conference crown. And while the Razorbacks aren't a surprise, having met external expectations, Auburn and LSU are considering South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Tennessee rounded out the preseason projected hierarchy. 

As for what's needed from Alabama if there's a chance to beat some of these schools, anything but conservative play. 

"We don't want to just try to hang out to games. I think we need to try to kill games by continuing to attack and doing smart things," Hart said.