Freedom 2 Courage 2

In what is showing signs of becoming a disturbing trend this one was a tale of two halves. The Freedom played a half of beautiful, one touch, very professional looking soccer, and then they played one half of confused soccer, that saw players unaware of who was covering who, players holding on to the ball way too long and unable to connect on their passes, panic clears from the back, midfield or wherever they happened to be standing, and costly miscues on the backline. I don't know what goes on at half time or whose job it is to pull the team together out on the field but whatever's going on needs to change. The Freedom were clearly the superior team - but when it counted, the Courage was certainly the more poised, confident, and hungry team. That is probably my biggest problem in this one - Freedom's urgency in front of goal. There is no killer mentality - I've read several posts flaming Skylar, and yup, she made some huge mistakes. But frankly, I think blaming her for the tie misses the point. The Freedom should have been up 5-0 at the half - not "could have", "SHOULD have." And that's conservative - the only misses I'm counting are the three instances where Freedom players beat the defense, had 2 or more touches (which indicates the shooter had time not just to shoot, but to control, aim and shoot) and where Nordby had committed while the Freedom player still had control of the ball - there is no excuse for not scoring or taking some lackadaisical shot that you know before it leaves your foot won't go in - this is what drove me nuts in some Nat Team games last year, and it's troublesome to see it with the Freedom as well. They can't assume because they're "better" on paper that they're going to have 20 chances a game, especially since they're obviously a 45 minute team at this point (fitness is definitely an issue with both of the starting front runners). Every single break away counts and every single time you're 1 v. 1 with the keeper you should put a shot on goal and more often than not, in those circumstances, that shot on goal should be in the goal. We're talking Mia Hamm, Bai Jie and Pretinha, here - not the college kids - these women are professionals and have been for quite some time and that they seem to want to be 3 yards from goal before they shoot on a breakaway is ridiculous. They can't continue to wait for the perfect moment to shoot because it will never come - pick a good moment and trust the skills - with all 3 of them, if they're open, if they have control of the ball, if that far post is completely uncovered, it will go in more often than not . . . but before it can go in, they've got to SHOOT!!!! The Courage should have been buried by the 38th minute - the Freedom dominated that first half in every way a game can be dominated but they just don't attack with the urgency that they must if as a team they want to be as good as the individual talent they've assembled.

Well - that's my Freedom rant for the day. I thought by and large the individual performances were solid. The teamwide problems continue to be finishing, coming out ready to play in the second half, responding to opponents' second half goals and adjusting to subs in the second half - hmmm, there seems to be a trend there. Whatever the halftime speech is, and whatever is being done to calm the inexperienced D down after goals are scored needs to be changed - it's not working.

As for the Courage - they were awfully sloppy with the ball in the first half - it was rare for them to string together more than 2 passes. There was little combination play anywhere. While they clearly don't have the talent a lot of other teams do (that Nicole Roberts injury still looms large - she was the speed to complement all that size), that they still are so careless with the ball seems to be their biggest problem - and that has nothing to do with talent, that's concentration and keeping your head in the game. I guess that's kind of the irony in their play in the first half, they were being defeated by something over which they have complete control rather than by the lack of speed/talent problems. But then we get to what I like so much about this Carolina team. The heart they showed in the second half - I don't know what's been going on in their other games, but in this one they really pulled it together and tightened up in the second half. They were the antithesis of the Freedom - they looked more poised and confident and were playing more as a team as the game progressed, and the Freedom just became a field of tremendously talented (and tired) individuals.

All that said, it was a fun one (although my head still hurts from yelling SHOOT so much - why does the #1 goal scorer on the planet wait so long to pull the trigger on breakaways - why o' why???) - these games are getting better and better and more and more entertaining as the season progresses. We're only 5 games in - lots of soccer and improved play by everyone to come.

Formation (luckily nothing to confuse my tiny little pea brain like Boston did last week :-) )

DC, back-front, right-left: GK - Siri; D - Little, Stoecker, Barr; M back - Grubb, Cromwell; M up - Bai Jie, Hamm, French; F - Pretinha, Milburn. Gerardo in for Milburn - she played up top for a bit then switched with Mia, Roseli in for Pretinha.

Carolina, back-front, right-left: GK - Nordby; D - Burt, Overbeck, Wen; M - Yankowski, Roberts, Riise (they were more stacked than next to each other), Burtini; Fotopolous, Hansen (graphic on TV had her in the midfield, but she looked up top to me - maybe put her slightly withdrawn from Top and Florance), Florance. Beth Sheppard in for Burtini; Hendershot in for Florance; Stone in for Fotop.

Freedom Players:

Mullinix - as usual, she was way too busy. I thought she looked solid though. I don't expect PKs to get saved and Stoecker's flick (or near flick - not 100% sure she actually put her head on it - it was distracting nonetheless) set her up to get nailed for the first goal. I thought Siri was especially strong on corners - despite her yelling (which was quite audible on the broadcast) DC looks very confused defending corners . . . which is odd since they give up so many and get plenty of practice :-) . . . but she smothered everything or punched the ball out strong. She's taking more and more command back there which is good to see. What concerned me in this one was Siri's kicking game. She muffed more than she hit well - and we're not talking slight muffs, we're talking line drive kind of muffs. Late in the game her kicking came back - but considering the wear and tear hip issues she was having before the season, I think I get a little paranoid when I see her muff that many. Overall though - another strong game - I remain quite pleased with the DC keeper.

Little - she's getting flamed all over the place and I think she's had enough so I'm not going to add to it. It was a mistake - she's young, she's going to make them. Before the season's up, I bet she makes some more, as will Lindsey, as will Emmy, as will every single player in the WUSA - hopefully, the next mistake isn't quite so costly. Fact of the matter is, though, it shouldn't have mattered. You've got to tag the whole team with the poor second half performance and the lack of finishing in the first half - Skylar's not responsible for all that. I continue to think she's a player with a lot of promise and I continue to believe that going with a 3-back when the 3 backs are this inexperienced might not be the best choice for DC. Take a look at the goals against stats in the league - the three teams playing the 3 back have had the most goals scored against them (DC, CRays and Carolina) - and two of those teams are on the bottom of the standings (CRays and Carolina). As for her game - well, it wasn't the best game she's had this season although she did have a very solid first half - her service wasn't as good as last week, she didn't get involved in the attack at all, and a lot of the attack that Carolina mounted in the second half was from the left (DC right). That said, it certainly wasn't as bad as folks seem to want it to have been. The handball was a mistake, she's 5 games into her professional career - expecting her to be Joy Fawcett is unfair. From what I've seen she's no better and no worse than most of the other young, inexperienced defenders in the league. The difference is that most of the other back lines in the league have at least one experienced defender and/or one extra defender (a 4 back) to help neutralize the mistakes the young/inexperienced players are inevitably going to make. I think the fact that DC doesn't have such a veteran in the back is the far bigger problem than the job Skylar is doing individually - again, she's 5 games into her career, she's going to make mistakes and expectations that she's not just aren't based in reality.

Stoecker - Individually, minus the misclear on the first goal, I was as impressed with her in this one as I've been. She is a tremendous header on the back line, she was all over the field and very quick with the double team. In addition, there was one run in which she showed a lot of speed - I love it when "slower" players turn their jets on and run down attackers and she ably stopped a breakaway racing down the right (Carolina right, DC left) flank, chasing the attacker from behind and eventually winding up in front of her to get possession of the ball. Good stuff. She wasn't moving forward as confidently as she was in the first one probably due to the fact a lot of the nice switching going on against Boston wasn't going on here. As for organization - first half, great, second half, not so great. Again, the adjustment to subs, the reaction to a goal being scored and the response to a team that came out much improved in the second half was lacking. And that's where experience, or more accurately, a lack thereof, is a problem for DC on defense. I expect it to improve as the season wears on just as I expect everything to improve, but we have a bit of an unhealthy trend beginning here and it would be good to nip it in the bud - the second half breakdown trend must end!! 90 minutes, good tight organization for 90 minutes - that's the goal for the game against all those Power speedsters - a highly organized D will be essential in that one or Siri's going to have Tiffeny Milbrett and Tammy Pearman in her face all game long. Overall though - I thought Stoecker had a great game. Oh - I almost forgot - second goal, nice job on the corner - she just slid in there and tried to boot it in, Nordby and Wen couldn't clear it, bounced to Cromwell and score!!! A good use of numbers up on the corner and she very aggressively tried to put the ball in.

Barr - I can't wait to see her against the NY speedsters because I think she might be just as fast. She had a couple of great offensive runs as is becoming customary for her. She also played a very solid game and really pretty much shut most everything down out wide left (DC left) in the defensive third. She has a monster throw in, as well - these Santa Clara players and their throw ins are pretty deadly - that's a nice weapon I assume DC will think about using a bit more effectively in the not too distant future. Basically, a rock solid performance, not much more to say than that.

Grubb - solid game as usual. She defended Fotop very well on set pieces. She defended Hege and Mikka very tough as well - hearing the words "Grubb pushed Riise off the ball" was music to my ears - that's why she's out there. Hege still managed to have a very nice game but Grubb and Cromwell (who I think had primary responsibility for Hege - I think Grubb had Mikka) made her work for it and ultimately, the Courage's most dangerous chances in the second half tended to be long balls from defenders and individual play rather than any sort of offensive build up through the central mid. The Courage had little combination play and were connecting with each other infrequently and Grubb's (and Cromwell's) defense was at least partially responsible for that. My only concern is that she's still hardly getting involved in the offense at all. Since offensive chances weren't really the issue today, finishing those chances was, it wasn't that big a deal, but I expect to see her pushing forward more in the future once everything gets more organized. Great game - defending through the central midfield has been very strong in the last couple of games.

Cromwell - I've gone on about the goal already, so I'll just add that it was a very opportunistic and professional strike from Amanda. Numbers up on set pieces just waiting for a mishandle are key and she was right there and played it perfectly. And this is why I'll take the strong Mullinix punches on corners - I'd rather force the opposition to have to make a long distance rebound strike than have a player 3-5 yards from goal be able to tap one in. And it was also a great run by her that set up that corner to start with. I'd like to see much more of that from her. Solidifying that D would give her more opportunities for plays like that. What it comes down to for me is that either Grubb or Cromwell needs to join the backline both to bolster and calm the defense and so that the other one can get more involved offensively - I don't care which does what, just from what we're seeing all over the league, the 3 back simply isn't working. As for her defense - see Grubb comments above. I thought she had a great game - she seemed to have primary responsibility for Hege and just like with Lil last week, she did a great job. Overall, great game - I have no real complaints.

Bai Jie - I continue to love the newest little Freedomite. Her motor never stops - she runs down everything, has tremendous speed and plays a very active right flank. Her chemistry with Mia continues to improve and some of the prettiest one touch plays of the day were between those two players. Finishing is the only issue I had. On that one breakaway in like the 25-30th minute she just dribbled too far forward. She took too many steps - should have been one step and a shot to the far post which was wide open (as it was all day long). It seems that Freedom players just wanted to find the perfect 100% moment to shoot on breakaways and of course that moment never came so they kept running into Nordby - it's almost like the fear of blowing the breakaway opportunity is preventing them from pulling the trigger and going far post when they should. Both Mia and Bai Jie were making me absolutely nuts with this (Milburn too, but she doesn't make me as nuts with it as the Olympians and WWCers). They keep trying to dribble the ball all the way in and that's just not going to work. As for the goal she created - that was just a great read - saw French, lobbed the perfect ball to her so all she had to do was one touch it to Pretinha and goal. Beautifully orchestrated. So overall, it was a great game, especially considering she's only been with the team for a couple of weeks. She's fast becoming one of my favorite Freedom players and has already become a great weapon wide right.

Mia - so here was the scene in my living room in the second minute on Mia's break away. She cleared the D a few feet outside the box, so I screamed SHOOT, and she took a step, SHOOT, another step, SHOOT, step, SHOOT, IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY SHOOT, step, Nordby smothers the ball. What was she waiting for? OK - first step, maybe she was waiting for Nordby to commit, second step, maybe still waiting although she shouldn't have been - third step, shouldn't have been a step - should have been a blast right into the upper left corner - far post was empty as could be, while Nordby hadn't slid yet, she was committed to it and she's Mia Hamm, for goodness sake - she had control, time and space and could certainly have chipped that ball over Nordby into the upper corner. She was making me nuts with this with the Nats last year - how close in does she want to be before she shoots these days. OK - we'll call that my second rant of the day :-) All that said, Mia was rock solid. She switched and spread the field beautifully in the first half - she is developing great chemistry with all the key players. Passing and combination play in the first half was a good as its been all season. My only complaint (other than the shooting thing) is that she's not looking for goal herself enough. And in the second half she was staying back too much on D - I prefer it when Mia only rarely falls back to the Freedom half of the field and in the second half she spent a great deal of time back there - until she moved up top. Overall solid game. One of the many many reasons I look forward to Anne's arrival is so at the end of my Mia section I can write "spectacular Mia Hamm performance" instead of solid game. She needs someone to at the very least split the distribution responsibilities with her so she can be freed up to take on defenders a bit more and do what Mia Hamm does best - score goals. Few players in the world are better with the ball at their feet than Mia Hamm and while we have seen flashes, we have yet to see Mia free to be Mia for more than a few minutes at a time. Everything changes when Anne gets here - I keep remembering that preseason game in March in which I froze my derriere off watching the big Finnish girl have a brilliant game, take shot after shot (wind bent blasts and headers into the side netting), connect on pass after pass and basically play all over the field and make all her teammates better. It only gets better from here.

French - Having Mia in the middle certainly gets the ball wide more - in the first half the one touch passing out wide left and right was beautiful - that's something else they need to work on doing for a full 90. So French is getting a lot more touches on the ball - it's just a matter of time before her connecting on passes back in becomes routine. And that first goal is a perfect example of what a weapon she can be if she gets the ball out wide and has numbers up with her - that was simply the best most professional looking goal I have seen from this team. Bai puts the ball up to French, French beautifully one touches the ball to a charging Pretinha who placed it perfectly into the goal. The read that all three players had on the ball was perfect, the technical skill of all three players was beautiful and it all resulted in a great goal. Now that we have good hard proof of Frenchie's technical and tactical skill offensively, that ball needs to find her out wide a bit more often - good things will happen . . . Overall, very nice game from French, but I still think she needs more touches - with Bai Jie wide right and French wide left and with Mia (or hopefully Anne, with Mia yet another option up top), DC will be able to spread opposing defenses very thin. Oh - and one note on her defense - how did Staci Burt keep on having all that room running through the right side of the midfield (Freedom left) - French had to have some responsibility for Burt through the midfield but Burt was constantly unmarked and became one of the most dangerous players on the field the entire second half. One of the many defensive assignments that seemed to be getting missed in the second half - it wasn't just the backline getting confused/letting down - it was everyone.

Milburn - very active - not as good as last week, but I don't expect that kind of performance from her every week. She had some great chances but wasn't able to finish. She and Pretinha still seem to be working very well together. She definitely needs to work on fitness. Putting Gerardo up top to give DC size on the frontline is a very bad idea that I don't want to see anymore so Milburn's just going to have to get to where she can go a full 90 . . . or Anne needs to come here and be a target player out of the midfield so we can just switch Mia up top. Anne's arrival is imminent - that's such good news and I'm so excited about that it's not even funny. So many options - she's such a versatile player and such a commanding presence out there that just putting her on the field could do more for organization both offensively and defensively than anything else. But I digress - basically, I don't have much on Milburn in this one - nice pass to Bai Jie to get the first goal started. Overall, a solid but unremarkable game - some great chances, but she muffed some finishes like just about everyone else did.

Pretinha - I thought this was the most complete game we've seen from her to date. Her passing was sharper and more frequent than it has been and her defense up top was great. I guess pretty simply, this was the most hustle we've seen from her. She looked great. And she's as deadly a finisher as I've seen in the league. She's very poised in the box and has a quick first touch and an impeccable knack for placing these close range shots where the goalkeeper isn't. My only complaint is the same one as with Milburn - she looked gassed - need to work on that fitness. I guess because the work rate was significantly higher than it has been she ran out of gas a bit early - and I suppose I'll take that. Great game from the WUSA's leading goal scorer!!!! Woohoo!!!! (sorry, thought a shameless plug was appropriate there)

Gerardo - well, this is one I don't get - I don't have any idea why she's the first player off the Freedom bench. She must be a great practice player because she has yet to bring it to a game that I've noticed. I just think putting her in up top was not terribly effective. I don't recall her making much more of an impression once she and Mia switched though, so I might just be completely missing her and what she's bringing. In my opinion Baumgart has outplayed her in every game and it's kind of a head scratcher why Gerardo keeps getting the call while Justi sits on the bench.

Roseli - I got nothin'. Wasn't in long enough to do much - wasn't much organized or combined attack happening with the Freedom at that point and she wasn't able to get anything on her own, so that was it.

Courage Players:

Nordby - She got lucky so many DC players wanted to walk the ball into the goal rather than shooting from about 8-10 yards out, that's for sure because that offsides trap wasn't working as much as it was and she was constantly being set up to get nailed by her defense. The number of times DC players popped through the Carolina D with the ball was astounding but they kept holding on to the ball too long - and with a world class keeper back there, all those extra touches and extra steps gave her enough time to stop the goals from coming in. I thought she played a solid game, although it does appear that they're having some communication problems on set pieces - either that or Nordby is simply not taking control of her box . . . maybe no one wants to yell at Wen Lirong, I don't know, but Wen shielding Nordby from the play on the corner kick was as much responsible for the second goal as anything DC did. Wen was right on top of Nordby, thus Nordby couldn't go down and smother Stoecker's shot, and neither player was able to get a foot on it to clear it out. Just a little rebound which Cromwell so ably netted. They need to work on that - like I said re DC defenders sitting on Siri, the Carolina defenders have got to give Bente space to do her job on set pieces. Something to work on. Overall, though, while it wasn't pretty, it's pretty amazing the Freedom didn't have many many more goals than they did, so Nordby had to be doing something right. I think if Carolina stubbornly sticks with the 3-back the way it appears DC is going to, Nordby is going to continue to get nailed the same way Siri is, so she's not going to look like she does in the nets for Norway. Carolina certainly got the Freedom called for offsides a lot, but Freedom players slipped through with the ball just as often . . . could be a long season for Bente.

Staci Burt - She definitely remains one of my favorites on this team. I thought for much of the game she played very solid defense. Like I discussed above, Carolina seems to rely on that trap - DC's most dangerous chances came when the trap didn't work. She seems to play a fairly heady game back there and responds to instruction well. She also seems to be the wheels in the back, as well. She's not what I'd call wicked fast (like Barr, for example) but she's got good speed. In the second half, she definitely stepped it up a notch and not only tightened up her D, but became an extremely dangerous offensive player. She provided the serves that led to both goals. I don't know whether they gave her the assist on the ball that glanced off of Stoecker and Mikka buried but she should get one. And she served the ball Skylar committed the handball on. It was great field vision to see those passes, and excellent execution on both plays - very accurate with both long range blasts. Providing such accurate service from the defensive wing definitely adds another dimension to the Carolina attack. Overall, great game, this is one player I'm really enjoying watch develop - every time I see her she brings something new - good stuff.

Carla Overbeck - I'll repeat myself - live by the trap, die by the trap and the whole dang team is lucky as all get out they didn't die by it in this one. That said, they work that trap very well. Caught DC offsides a lot and left DC frontrunners whining about calls most of the game. Carla was good with the double team and trapping speedier DC players out on the flank long enough for someone to come to help out. There's no question she's slowed a step or two, though - that's part of the reason the trap and playing a 3 back is such a risky venture for this team. A lot of times when DC players popped through the D, they were popping through right up the middle - this was the fourth Carolina game I've seen this year and the first half of this one was the shakiest her individual defending has looked. However, there is something to be said for veteran leadership and poise as a game wears on - that was the difference in the outcome of this game. While the first half was shaky defensively to say the least, the second half was much improved. The defense completely tightened up, Carla was moving forward in the offense and almost scored on a corner kick, and most importantly, they remained calm and executed while DC was left to chase them most of the half. Overall, a fairly solid outing with the caveat that albeit for different reasons, I think Carolina's 3 back is as bad an idea as DC's.

Wen Lirong - Like with Carla, it wasn't a stellar first half but her defense tightened up in the second half. I've talked about the Freedom second goal already and think it bears repeating again. They've got to work on communication on corners. I don't recall them giving away too too many, though (actually, I only remember two of them, although there were probably more). I thought she did a fairly good job of keeping DC players to her outside, but she didn't have a lot of help shutting off that players' passing lanes. DC was able to fire ball after ball inside - I assume Burtini and then Beth Sheppard should have been falling back to help a bit or at least marking Bai Jie a bit better through the midfield - Bai was unleashed on the defense all game long and in the battle of Chinese Nats, I think Bai came out ahead in the first half. I have to admit that I lost Wen a bit in the second half - I recall her and the entire defense looking much much better and the Carolina team as a whole playing more aggressively. Not much more than that though.

Yankowski - she didn't make much of an impression to be honest. The good balls coming from the right were from Staci Burt, not Kim Yankowski. I didn't think she helped out on D very effectively in the first half - and she was not keeping French busy on D so French was able to very actively attack. Even when Carolina's attack picked up in the half, I didn't think she played a terribly active part in it. I could have just missed her though.

Roberts - Well, chasing Mia Hamm around the field can't be easy and that's what she did most of the game. If Mia did nothing else (and she did plenty else), she took TR completely out of the game. Every time TR tried to join in the Courage attack, Mia would get her on a counter. I think Mia got the better of the matchup, was able to distribute and attack at will, and was unleashed on the D unmarked a few times when Mia just faked TR out of her shorts. Basically, I don't think Roberts had much of an impact on the game. Like the rest of the team, she played a bit better in the second half, but she is the speed on the Courage, she is one of the founding players on the Courage, she had 5 years of National Team training and the Courage unquestionably needs more from her - I continue to be underwhelmed and am wondering where the player I watched 4 years ago went.

Riise - Let's just name her player of the game for every game she's going to play for this team this year. Another great performance. While there was little combination play, that was the result of carelessness with the ball, not any failure of Hege to spread the ball around. She did her level best to get all players involved and sent balls out wide and up top, which the recipients promptly turned over. She does seem to work best and have the most chemistry with Mikka Hansen on offense. Hege is quite deadly on set pieces. It's a shame more couldn't be done with her corners - although I have to say Hege to Top on corners is getting predictable already and Grubb was able to effectively defend it every time. I thought they had more success when they mixed it up a bit later in the game - Carla's a very good option I think, she's excellent in the air. Overall, very good game for Hege - she continues to be a bright spot, but even she needs some help from the front line and flanks for this offense to become a dangerous one.

Mikka Hansen - I thought she had a very strong game. She's very aggressive, strong, has decent speed and of the frontrunners (for purposes of this comparison, I'm putting her up top with Fotop and Florance - she was switching between up top and the midfield much of the game) she was easily the most impressive. She's good with the ball at her feet as well - she was able to maintain possession and make much quicker and better decisions than the flanks and front runners. Her goal was very nice - got the pass from Burt/deflection off Stoecker and put it past Siri - very well done. This was the first game I've seen where she's had significant playing time and I was quite impressed - even in the first half when the rest of the Carolina offense was having trouble.

Burtini - Not much to say - hope she's feeling better because they sure could have used her out there. She's one of the more steady and reliable offensive players Carolina has and is an option on set pieces so opposing defenses don't know it's going to Fotop. And in general she's just a very strong attacking personality - Carolina seems to need as many of those as they can get.

Fotop/Florance - I'm just not enamored with the play of either one them and haven't been in any of the games I've seen. In the first Carolina/Freedom game I thought Hendershot provided much more effective play than I saw from either one of them yesterday. Fotop continues to look slow and not terribly fit and isn't tremendously active off the ball. She seems to be waiting for someone to set her up and doing little else. Florance on the other hand, runs around a lot, but doesn't seem to be very tactically strong at this point in her career. That will take time for her to develop so right now she's running around wearing herself out without a lot of purpose. And both of them were very careless with the ball - it's just a concentration issue - get possession of the pass before you turn to run, be aware of where the defenders are - it's just the little things that they're not doing. And fitness is an issue with them both. I noticed it with Florance in the game against Boston, and whether it's due to her injury, finishing school, being accustomed to being subbed out in college or what I don't know - but she's about a 45 minute player right now - and with Stone and Hendershot on the bench (both of whom I think have played better than Fotop and Florance in the Carolina games I've seen anyway) they can afford to sub her out when she's tired.

Sheppard - I thought she played a solid game especially since I think they said it was her first of the season. Bai Jie definitely got the best of her out on the flank, though, but she was fairly active on offense. She was having the same possession problems everyone else was, but in the second half I thought she was one of the players who improved. Hege was sending the ball out to her and she was sending the ball up to Top and then Hendershot and Hansen. Solid game - McD might be in the process of deciding to give some of these "no name" players a chance since the folks she's had in there haven't been able to get the job done. The bench players I've seen all appear to be quite solid and seem to have fitness levels at the very least equal to the starters. It's way too early to make any wholesale changes, though - I realize that, but it's nice to know the bench she has is fit and prepared for the opportunity when and if she decides to give it to them.

Hendershot/Stone - Most of my comments concerning them in this post are based on past performance. I really didn't take a lot from them in this game other than Stone's really fast (which on this speed deprived team is almost reason enough to find some place on the field for her) and Hendershot is big and strong and quite active off the ball. These are definitely a couple of players I look forward to seeing in the future.

Well - ran out of steam there at the end - and I did this one piecemeal (WNBA preseason started - I've got a feeling fewer of these are going to get written in the future) so I apologize if I'm even more scattered/repetitive than usual. Final words on the game - if the Freedom can play a full 90, the way they played the first 45 then they're going to be tough to beat. As for Carolina - I certainly hope their season gets better, because there's a lot to like about them - and I don't want any WUSA fans or players to have to go through what Mystics fans and players went through in our first 3-27 season.

Beulah