Freedom 4 Spirit 0
Ahhh yes, a familiar story here in Washington . . . inexperienced coach with no clue, more likely than not an Anson Dorrance coaching manual on his nightstand and a big ugly loss . . . this time though, the big loser ainít Washington - itís San Diego. Now, Spirit fans, I know I should be more sympathetic as we went through this last year, but frankly, after reading that article at WUSA.com in which Kevin Crow ignorantly and arrogantly dismisses the entire coaching profession (coaching experience doesnít matter - in fact, everyone elseís problem is that they over coach - whew - where did the league find these guys), itís hard not to laugh when San Diego comes out in a 3-4-3 . . . the very same formation that failed abysmally for every single team that used it last year. So thatís basically the story of this game. The Spirit came out in a 3-4-3, a formation that simply doesnít work when teams of comparable talent are playing. Game over. Freedom really didnít play that spectacularly - I thought the second half of the Boston game was far stronger for them, but SD basically lost this one going in. See, thatís Ansonís secret - thatís why it works for him - UNC still gets the most best players - since a huge number of that much ballyhooed U-19 team is headed to UNC it will continue to work for him. In the WUSA, however, it was a mistake last year and it is a mistake this year. Hopefully for the sake of the Spirit players, fans and investors, Crow figures that out sooner rather than later - or whoever owns the dang team hires someone who actually thinks there is value to a coach who knows what the heck he is doing.
As for the Freedom - well, they played a solid game. I will definitely take it, but it really wasnít as spectacular an outing as the score suggests. In fact, the Freedomís failure to pressure the ball really gave the Spirit time and space all night long - especially in the first half. Iíd really like to see the workrate of this team increase a bit. Iím surprised Shannon Mac wasnít more dangerous in this one for the 19 minutes she was in there - I think the amount of time and space she had surprised her a bit and she wasnít ready to be so open. And letís be honest, the Freedom scored those last two goals after the Spirit pulled their third defender and were playing with a 2 woman backline- which was either a very gutsy move or just a really stupid one . . . you decide . . . I really donít have a lot to say in the way of preliminary comments. This game was an opportunistic one and it shows some maturity that the Freedom convincingly won a game that became a "should win" game in about the 19th minute when Shannon Mac went out injured.
Freedom - 4-2-2-2 (back-front, right-left) - GK: Mullinix; Def: S. Little, Moore, Grubb, Barr; Dmid: Stoecker, Jones; AttMid: Makinen, Pu Wei; Fwd: J. Little, Wambach. Hamm in for Jaqui Little and Gerardo in for an injured Stoecker at the half; Cook in for Pu Wei, Bai Jie in for Hamm; and Fahey in for Siri for the last 6 minutes.
Spirit - 3-4-3 (minus late second half desperation attempts to equalize or win a game, I really thought this 3-4-3 ship had sailed - and during the game I really tried to convince myself Sauer was playing defense, but she just wasnít - she was definitely in the midfield - back-front, right-left) - GK: Pagliarulo; Def: Tanaka, Fan Yunjie, Pickup; Mids: Foudy, Fawcett, Lindsey, Sauer; Fwds (although they were playing deep and clogging up the midfield quite a bit - again, I was trying to talk myself out of the 3-4-3, but when they all spread out, thatís definitely how they were all lined up): Mac, Zhang, Kester. Mercy Akide in for Mac who went out injured - looked like her ankle was wrapped - I was just relieved to see it wasnít a knee. Boxx in for Tanaka who also came out injured - Joy moved to right back and Boxx took up Joyís spot in the middle of the midfield. Omagbemi (sp?) in for Joy who also went out injured although she was iced and hobbling around up and back on the field just fine talking with Julie post game. Rohbuck in for (a defender) and they switched to two defenders trying to score.
Freedom Players - Iíll probably comment some on the Boston game in this section too (and other games - I think theyíve played 4 or 5 since Iíve done one of these) - it was a much more competitive match. While the first half was pretty evenly played, San Diego simply didnít look good in this one - they looked like they were learning a new formation and were slavishly remaining on their own lines even when such actions defied all logic and totally killed what should have been very dangerous attacks. The Freedom really wasnít pressuring the ball and both before and after Shannon Mac went out SD really should have found a way to do something more than they did - honestly, SD looked a whole lot like the Freedom did at the start of last season. So, for all those reasons, I donít know how many lessons should be taken from this game, but over the course of the last 4 or 5 games, I think the Freedom have shown a lot to be hopeful and encouraged about so thatís what Iím going to talk about:
Siri - well, she made some nice saves but this wasnít the busiest game sheís had. I havenít done one of these for awhile, though, so I have to mention just how incredible Siri has been the last 4 games. She had a tough game, game and a half when she first got back, but starting with that first Boston game 4 games ago, she has returned not to her 2001 form, but to her form of the summer of 2000. This is Siri at her best and the first Boston game and the Philly game were wonderful performances where I think she managed to reestablish herself as one of the best keepers in the league. I have to disagree with Coach Gabarraís assessment that we should have snuck out of Boston with a win instead of a tie. Frankly, the Freedom should have lost that game at least 3-0. The Freedom were outplayed in every facet of the game in that one and it was only the brilliance of Siri Mullinix that kept them from getting blown out. I hope she doesnít have to be as good as she was in that first Boston game again this season, but itís nice to know she can be if we need her. Nice solid outing again in this one. Itís great to see her back and playing so well.
S. Little - Hmmm - Iím wracking my brain but I canít think of a thing here. Sheís been solid. Hasnít screwed up, which is key for a defender. Basically, the Freedom has had several rock solid defensive outings in a row. I think the Freedom is running a lot of itís offense to the left these last couple of games, so Skylarís just been back defending. She does pretty ably run up that right flank. Sheís not the fastest wing player in the world, but Iíve really got no complaints. I think Iíve lost her first halves these last couple of games because sheís been on the other side of the field. But like I usually say with defenders, if Iím not noticing them, then theyíre probably doing just fine.
Moore - Pretty solid once again. The SD attacks more often than not fizzled before they got to the Freedom backline, so I donít have much on the defenders. The first half was pretty evenly played but given all the time and space that the SD front runners and mids had, they really never threatened. I thought she did a fairly good job in Wednesdayís game as well. There was one play in that Boston game when I thought she was done for - Dagny Mellgren was coming at her, and was obviously going to beat her to the ball - instead of panicking and futilely trying to race Dagny to the ball or foul or do something stupid, she just let Dagny beat her, got between Dagny and the goal and managed to force Dagny to the outside where Dagny harmlessly lost possession for a goal kick. Thatís the thing I think a lot of the defenders in this league need to realize when theyíre playing some of the world class players - theyíre not going to beat them 1 v. 1 so they just need to let themselves get beat to the ball, stay between the player and the goal and push the players to the outside where theyíre not very dangerous. Itís better than getting faked out of your shorts and having Mia Hamm score on ya . . . So basically, a nice solid performance from Moore. No complaints.
Grubb - have I mentioned I LOVE this girl??? Sheís just been outstanding as usual. I have almost nothing on her in this one. She was matched up with Foudy a bit - she (the whole game) and Stoecker (in the first half) pretty much teamed to neutralize Foudy. That was more significant in the second half, however, after Foudy pretty much collapsed into the middle to try to get the SD offense going. She had Grubb in her face every time she touched the ball or even thought about touching the ball. In the Boston game, Grubb played Mellgren brilliantly. I have no idea who missed the switch on Dagnyís goal - it looked to me like Stoecker was leaving her off and she turned around and there was no defender there - that was probably Zimnyís fault, or Stoeck should have been more aware of where the defenders were before she let Dagny go - but anyway, after Dagny made one more unmarked run, Grubb kind of took it upon herself to stop Mellgren and it was 14 on 14 for the rest of the night. Grubb did a fantastic job staying with Dagny and getting in the passing lanes leading to Dagny (Moore helped in that). So basically, Grubb has had a nice couple of games which is pretty much par for the course with her. She is easily the most reliable, consistent player for this team and ya know, every team should be so lucky as to have a player like this.
Barr - Over the course of the past two games sheís been getting up into the attack beautifully and seems to have become a favorite target for several of the Freedom players. In this one, it was obvious that the game plan was to exploit Barrís speed against Tanaka up that left flank (SDís right). And Barr is indeed speedy, she and Mac were in an all out footrace in the early going and Emmy just breezed by her. Anyway, they were hitting Barr in the attacking third way wide left all night long and got several corner kicks out of it (the first Freedom goal from Abby on the corner was the result of this very play). Iím not sure whether this is a designed play to exploit the Freedom height on corners or whether Emmy is simply holding on to the ball too long and doing the best she can with the defense flushed over to her. Itís a good play though and Anne Mak especially, is very good at putting that ball out there for Emmy. Iíd just like to see Emmy serve that ball into the box a step sooner rather than blasting it out off of defenders and hoping it all goes well (while she did get some corners, she also turned the ball over before getting the cross off several times). Emmyís been fairly solid defensively as well - and the mistakes she does make that speed more than makes up for. She worked hard in this one and against Boston - at times the Freedom workrate has aggravated me a bit the last two games (really it was their failure to pressure the ball more in this one - workrate in the first half against Boston), but Emmy seems to have been playing hard and running non-stop throughout. She really does make dozens of runs up that left flank a game and still gets back to defend. Overall good stuff - a little fine tuning and continued heads up play is all Iím lookiní for here.
Stoecker - got her clock cleaned and hurt her knee. That was excessive. And unfortunately, I read in the paper this morning that she is probably out for the season. Since she did manage to walk off the field, I was hoping that it was her head making her the wooziest - that clears up faster than knee injuries. Her rather scary injury kind of overshadows the rest of her game in this one - in my mind anyway. As always though, she was great defensively and not so good offensively. I just donít know why they ever let her get in a position to have make a decision in the attacking third of the field. Sheís generally pretty good about getting the ball to Anne Mak and now, Steffi Jones is a good outlet for her, but those synapses just donít seem to be firing for her in the attacking third and she always seems to do something quite silly when she gets that far upfield. Luckily, she doesnít find herself up there too often, but I vaguely recall her putting one over the goal in this one and missing the open runner. Overall though, she does that defensive part of defensive mid very well and she will definitely be missed. She is one of the players for the Freedom that you never want to see off the field and Iím still kind of hoping the Post report is wrong (thatís awfully quick to confirm a ligament tear - I know, Iím kidding myself - Stoeck has been so solid defensively this year and is one of the hardest workers on the field, itís just disappointing that she may be out for the season).
Steffi Jones - hereís what Iíve been focusing on the past couple of games- the biggest difference between the world class players and everyone else is very simply the workrate. Now, I know the Kristine Lillys and Mia Hamms are just better than everyone else, but frankly, they just work harder too. And maybe itís because Kristine Lilly was just in town and Mia just came back and maybe itís just because the Freedom have looked a little listless in the early going in the past two outings, but ya know, I really think if you could wipe my memory of who was who, Iíd still be able to pick the longtime, veteran internationals out of the mix without any problem at all just on the basis of the workrate. They are always running, they are always moving and they are always pressuring the ball. And Steffi Jones is one of these players. She is really kind of buried in the Freedom defensive midfield in that two tiered four woman midfield they seem to be playing so I donít think weíre really seeing Steffi Jones in all her glory but sheís always running, sheís always going up strong for those 50-50 balls and sheís always making quick, confident decisions with the ball. Like the defenders, Steffi was really quiet in this one. Against, Boston, however, she showed a lot. She was great defensively, showed extraordinary ball winning ability and she and Anne Mak have a lot of chemistry together already - some of their passes and reads were just beautiful. Jones is very strong at pushing that ball from the back or deep in the midfield to the attacking personalities up top - she is the link that I think the Freedom have been missing at times this season. It is very nice to have another player on the field whose speed of play is so fast. The Freedom probably need to play the ball through her a bit more. For some reason in this game, the ball was going through Stoecker a bit and Stoeck was the one pushing up more - they need to reverse that - Steffi can do far more damage pushing forward through the midfield than Stoeck can. With Stoeck probably out now, I definitely think Jones will step up and weíll see a bit more of the personality player that she is emerge. Thatís about it - sheís a great addition to the team and has been rock solid since she arrived. I donít think itís a coincidence that the Freedom havenít lost since sheís been on the field. She does all the things no one notices . . . I have a pretty strong feeling sheís going to be doing all the things people do notice soon as well.
Anne Makinen - well, I sure hope that whatever issues the coaching staff was having with her are over because the Freedom offense is far more effective with her on the field. She was good in todayís game and that goal was a nice finish, but she was positively brilliant in that playmaking role against Boston. Every pass she made connected, she spread it left, she spread it right, she sent through balls at just the perfect pace for everyone, she didnít just serve balls to the front runners, she was careful to serve them to the side away from the defender who was closing . . . it was incredible to watch. Reading between the lines of some of Anson Dorranceís comments in the Philly game and the first Boston game it seems that Anneís defense (or lack thereof) is what is troubling the Freedom coaches and to that I respond: who cares. Sheís the playmaker - who cares if sheís not an all star defensively. This is one of the things that makes Mark Krikorian such a great coach - he understands this - he understands that every player has a role and not every player is going to be Kristine Lilly - that is, not everyone is equally good on both sides of the ball. Anne Mak is the playmaker, and judging from the Boston game, I donít know if thereís a pure playmaker in the league who Iíd pick ahead of her - if someone else needs to cover her defensively, than so be it and in this 4-2-2-2 youíve got 2 defensive mids anyway so it doubly doesnít matter (and in her defense, she really did win more than her share of 50-50 balls and used her size well Wednesday - Steffi seems to have inspired Anneís air game - those two really have a nice chemistry developing). Everything about the Freedom picked up once Anne hit the field Wednesday night and I think that the Freedom hitting the field without her again can only be a mistake.
Pu Wei - She had a nice game - nothing too spectacular. Sheís one of the players who I would like to see pressure the ball a bit more. Mia always pressures when sheís in there, Jaqui and Abby pick their moments, and both could do better, but the attacking midfielders, both Anne Mak and Pu Wei, need to pressure those defenders more. The defenders and defensive mids were just marching up the field, it is only because they (Joy in particular) stopped themselves that the SD defenders and mids didnít march right into the box unchallenged. I tell ya, if the Freedom does this against Carolina Staci Burt will destroy us. I watched a Carolina game a couple of weeks ago where the Courage scored two goals, both of which were created by Staci Burt charging upfield unchallenged. Her best game the past few weeks was probably the Philly game. She was really attacking quite aggressively in that one. With a 2 front and two attacking mids, it is very important for Pu Wei to be aggressive so that the Freedom has numbers up. This is something that the whole team is doing better than they did last year and itís why theyíre able to have many more legitimate scoring chances than they did in the past. Solid game, and I think itís only a matter of time before she busts out with a big big game.
Jaqui Little - honestly, this wasnít my favorite Jaqui Little performance. Usually one thing that you can count on from Jaqui is that sheís going to scamper around, go on her runs and pressure the ball on every single possession. In this one, I just didnít see her pressuring the ball as much as Iíd like. She put down some blistering hits, as usual, so she was defending, but she just wasnít running to the ball as much as usual. As Iíve mentioned several times, the Spirit had a lot of time and space in this one and if we let a team like Carolina have similar amounts of time and space then we are going to make the next game a very very difficult one for our backline and goalkeeper. And without Stoecker in there, team defending becomes that much more important. When Mia plays, she never rests, while I donít expect anyone to be as good as Mia, one thing everyone can do is work that hard. Maybe this game was disappointing to me because of how well Littleís been playing. Her workrate is generally beyond reproach, she usually does pressure the ball for the entire time sheís on the field, she plays tenacious defense, is tough as nails and is great at going back, getting the ball and bringing it through the midfield and into the box. In the second Boston match her charge up the field and hitting Anne Mak with a pretty little pass through the defense is what set up Abbyís goal. Great stuff. I hope that she, and the whole team frankly, was just a little fatigued from playing two games this week and sheíll look more like herself in the next one. She may be a 45 minute player now with Mia on her way back, but strong play from her is crucial to the success of the team and I hope thatís something everyone tells her constantly and I hope thatís something that doesnít get lost with everyoneís excitement over Miaís return.
Abby Wambach - This kid just has a tremendous nose for the back of the net and does a great job getting herself in position to score. Sheís good about getting forward and going on her runs. She does need to pressure more up top. I think looking at her the last couple of games, that workrate thing comes to mind a bit and comparing her with the Mias and the Lils Iím thinkiní she still has some work to do. I think she has the potential to be a very special player so itís not an unfair comparison, especially since both Kluegel and Slaton do measure up very well with the vets on this count. She came out very very flat in the Wednesday night Boston game - there was one point where she killed a quick counter attack simply because she wasnít paying attention and didnít get herself back onside after a goal kick. Thereís simply no excuse for that - especially playing against a keeper like LeBlanc who has been known to muff a goal kick or two in her time. Scoring seems to energize her though. After her goal in the Boston game and after her header in this one she looked like a different player. And in the second half against SD, she was back to form, working hard and challenging balls more often than not. The first 25-30 minutes of the last two games may simply be a rookie lapse, which is to be expected and to her credit, those lapses really did only last about 25-30 minutes, but itís the first time Iíve seen something from her I havenít just loved so I felt a need to mention it. Mia coming back should help her - I think Miaís workrate (and Jonesís) should be infectious to the whole team, but from what Iíve seen so far, it affects Abby more than anyone else and it affects her in a positive way. As for her goals - great header on the set piece for the first one - Pu Weiís corner kick was just perfect and easily her best of the year (sheís real hit or miss with those corners - she either hits a perfect ball or she muffs it horribly - there is no in between) and Abby just put it home. As for her second goal - just shows that Abby was working hard in that second half. Bai Jie ran up the left side, Abby trailed while running up the middle and staying onside, they were 2 v. 2, Bai Jie beat her defender and sent the ball in, Abby beat her defender and put it past the GK - very professionally done and it was great to see them working so well together. So basically, while I do have some concerns with the way sheís started these last two games, sheís scored 3 goals during them and ultimately finished each game very strongly, so itís been very good stuff . . . and if this is her rookie slump or the growing pains sheís going to go through this year, then I will definitely take it.
Mia Hamm!!!!!!!!!!!! - ya know, I didnít think I was going to be excited to have her back, coming off of injury I really didnít expect her to be anything special . . . . just goes to show what a know-nothing idiot I really am. Mia, very simply, is Mia, injury not withstanding. Sheís one of the (if not the) most skilled players on the ball I have ever seen, she sees the field so well itís like sheís playing on a different plane, and at times, the game just seems to be too easy for her. Couple that incredible talent with the fact that she never fails to be one of the hardest working women on the field - just a bundle of frenetic energy from the minute she comes on the field to the moment she goes off - and even hurt sheís one of the best players in the game, and I definitely am glad she plays for my team. She has just been spectacular in her return. In that first game, she showed that sheís a little wary of trapping with that injured leg, but even the balls she flinched from and got by her, sheíd track down and somehow maintain possession. And her goal was world class - blasted in a cross/shot (not sure which she intended) it was deflected to her, Kluegel followed the play, stepped up to challenge her, Mia faked her out of her shorts and buried her shot far post - beautifully done, one of the best Freedom goals of the year. In this one, she was just as active, pressured the ball from start to finish and was very creative resulting in Anne Makís goal. Iím glad they let her take the PK - she definitely deserved it for her work the past two games. Great stuff and 35-40 minutes of Mia is proving to be more than enough and truly a treat to see.
Gerardo - She was fairly solid defensively. SD really didnít challenge just a whole lot in the second half though, so she didnít have a lot to do. Offensively, she really didnít do much. The one play I remember was a turnover where she missed a wide open runner who had the defense beat. Gerardo is generally at her best defending or serving as a target player - sheís not good at pushing the ball through the midfield. Since I imagine sheíll be seeing more playing time with Stoeckís injury, I hope everyone remembers that and she embraces the defensive role, is as adept at playing simply and getting the ball to someone else as Stoeck is and manages not to succumb to that turnover bug that causes her so many problems.
Ann Cook - She came in for Pu Wei and was pretty active. Sheís solid enough - she rarely helps a lot, but she never hurts and at some point as you go down your bench, that player who doesnít make mistakes becomes an important one. And in this one, she managed to do something that helped - a lot. When SD pulled that third defender and were playing with two defenders back, I know I got excited and apparently the players did too. Cook managed to march right up the field unchecked, and was in the process of breezing by one of the two players back when said player had no choice but to pull her down. It wasnít spectacular and if the defender hadnít fouled, I really donít know how damaging Cook could have been up there all by herself, but thereís no denying it was an incredibly smart and opportunistic play by Cook. Itís the most notable thing Iíve seen from her so far. I hope she continues the heads up play as her playing time increases in the absence of Stoeck.
Bai Jie - She was only in for a few minutes but she made them count. Sheís another of the veteran internationals whose workrate just jumps off the field at you. I know she was only in for a few minutes but the energy and the nonstop activity that she brought in was incredible. She is always moving when she comes in the game. And always moving makes good things happen. A moving target is harder to defend and gets more opportunities.
San Diego Players - well this is already incredibly long and I donít have much. Just a few preliminary comments and Iíll try to breeze through the rest. Basically, individually, they werenít that bad. When you put it together though, it just didnít work for SD - theyíre obviously not a very well coached team, yet, they seem to be somewhat disciplined and thatís the same odd mix we had last year here in Freedomland. What results is players slavishly staying on their lines and in their positions even when the game dictates they should be a bit more free flowing. When I saw Joy Fawcett, who had a path to goal clear enough to drive a tank through, stop like she was on a bungee cord before she got to the attacking third and look for a pass I almost choked on my soda . . . She would have been 1 v. 1 with Siri if she had just kept running - she had to have seen it. I swear, this was just like watching Mia in the midfield last year and it was as painful to watch the Spirit playing like this as it was the Freedom . . .and the second half was also similar to the second halves of the Freedomís games last year - the realization by the players that what little game plan there was wasnít working and the complete breakdown of what they were trying and 11 players on the field running willy nilly to and fro trying to make something happen. Had Mac still been on the field, maybe it would have worked out better. Honestly Spirit fans, I hope it gets better for you guys faster than it did for us here in Washington, but frankly, even with the incredible individual talent on SD, I think you guys are just in for a terribly long second half of the season.
Pags - well - itís like Iíve said from the start - Pags is the best backup in the league. Unfortunately, sheís the starter for SD. Sheís solid, but I donít think she has the athleticism or skill to be a top keeper in the league. Generally she doesnít hurt them, and playing behind a 3 back and then behind two defenders is difficult and I donít know if anyone else would have done a lot better than she did in this one, but I think her entire reputation has been based on 3 or 4 good games at the start of last year and she has been nothing more or less than a backup of average skills ever since. Sheís a likable kid, so Iím sure Iím going to get flamed for this, but I donít think sheís ever going to be any better than she is right now, and I donít think sheís going to be the kind of keeper who will win games for the Spirit that they wouldnít have won anyway with any one of a dozen other keepers.
Tanaka - Iíve read the hype, but Emmy was taking this kid to school before she went out of the game. I wasnít terribly impressed. Emmy was running right at her, was much faster than her and managed to smash the ball off her for corners. Emmy just looked like she was able to do just what she wanted to do against her. The three back is just as unkind to defenders as it is to goalkeepers, but she really wasnít that impressive in this one.
Fan Yunjie - As good as she is defending in the air and on set pieces - the Freedom are just too big for her to be effective. I didnít see who was attempting to cover Abby on corners, but frankly, with Boxx on the bench, whoever it was didnít have a chance . . . honestly, Abby just sits on that back post on corners and on several of them, I didnít see anyone pick her up and stay with her when she charged inside. I donít have much else - I think the score is a little misleading - the SD defense really didnít play poorly, they were just outnumbered all night long and they paid for that. The Freedom were very opportunistic - such efficiency is uncharacteristic of the Freedom and maybe that caught SD by surprise.
Pickup - not to nitpick, but her flip throw-ins werenít real productive in this one. I think Tullock does a better flip throw in. There seems to be a bit more power on hers and theyíre flatter and more directed. And the spots from which Pickup was taking them were a bit of a head scratcher - she was taking them from midfield and from the Spiritís own end basically creating 50-50 balls in the middle of the field and with as many folks pushing 6 feet as the Freedom have clogging up the field, I just donít see the wisdom in taking those throw-ins unless theyíre deep in the attacking third and using them as set pieces (I donít think there was enough room for her to take them in those spots - usually, Pickup doesnít do that flip throw in here - probably should have shelved it in this one as well). Other than that, Iíve got nothiní - she was on the other side of the field the first half and pretty unremarkable in the second.
Foudy - hmmmm - not a big fan of Foudy the right flank midfielder. She was really staying wide most of the first half too. Like I said, they were pretty disciplined in the way they were playing that 3-4-3 the first half even though you could just feel the frustration oozing off them at times (Foudy was pulling players aside for long talks a lot). What youíve got is one of the best playmakers in the history of the game and youíve stuck her on the right flank . . . Add in the fact, she ainít as young as she used to be, ainít as fast as she used to be and her best asset is her smarts at this point (probably at every point in her career actually) so you take her and you hide her wide right and put the rookie in there to run the show instead. Anyone else seeing a problem here. In the first half she simply didnít have enough touches. In the second half, offensive and defensive shape was a thing of the past and Foudy positioned herself in the middle and ran the show a bit - sadly, because of that lost shape there wasnít much of a show to run. In addition, Grubb was playing great defense on her so she just wasnít too dangerous. It is for Foudy that I hope things get better more than anyone else - from all accounts this league wouldnít exist were it not for her hard work and she deserves better than the mess over there.
Fawcett - well, Iíve talked about her a bit. I just donít understand why she stopped - she had a clear path to goal and all the time in the world but she just pulled up and looked for a pass - she would have been able to dribble all the way into the box - there was no one even close. I just donít get it. Once she moved back to the right back spot she was fine. Not a lot of action - Barr still went on a few runs and actually got by Joy a couple of times and hit it off of Joy for a corner once, but the Freedom had the good sense to run away from Joy most of the time. Her injury didnít look real serious - then again, it had to be pretty painful since she immediately hobbled off the field and itís very unlike Joy to ever leave the field. She was hobbling around postgame though without too much trouble so hopefully she just tweaked something and will be fine.
Lindsey - Iíve seen her a few times now and this wasnít one of her better performances. Honestly, I almost think it would have been better for everyone if Fawcett had been playing right flank and Foudy had been in the middle with Lindsey. Lindsey generally looks good when sheís playing centrally with Foudy. I think Lindsey is a great young player, I just donít know that sheís ready to run the offense yet, especially when veterans like Joy and Julie are on the field. The ball was being played well through the midfield, itís just that last step getting it up top where the Spirit were having trouble. Lindsey simply does not see or exploit spaces as well as someone with Foudyís experience would have. Foudy out wide was a head scratcher for me, especially when one of the Spiritís problems in the first half was using all the time and space the Freedom were giving them. And a lot of that has to be on Lindsey.
Sauer - she was pretty active, actually. I thought she had a decent game defensively. The Freedom was really picking at San Diegoís right and ramming it right up the middle most of the evening. Sauer was playing tenacious defense and was making runs up the flank. She and Kester connected a bit and those two along with Zhang actually made for the most dangerous combinations of the evening. There werenít many, but they did combine nicely a few times. Solid game, I always like what I see from this kid.
Mac - like Joy, I was sitting and wondering why Mac didnít dribble the ball in several times. Itís like she was anticipating the defense, the thing was, the defense didnít show up. The Freedom blew coverage on Mac a few times like they did Dagny in Wednesdayís game, the difference was that Mac didnít exploit those opportunities. She had ridiculous amounts of time and space and passed rather than taking on defenders 1 v. 1 - sheís got to be more aggressive than that. She does this with the Nats at times - itís part of why sheís so streaky - sheís got to just go straight to goal - sheís Shannon Mac - thereís no one on that team whoís going to do more damage than Mac and she needs to step up and take those shots herself. As for her injury - I hope sheís OK - sheís one of the players who makes the league fun, itís good for everyone if sheís out there scoring goals.
Zhang - she was probably the most dangerous player on the field for SD in this one. Often, despite the 3-4-3 Zhang was the only one pushed forward - everyone else was back helping on defense or clogging up the midfield and they werenít pushing forward efficiently or in any organized fashion. She had some nice shots, Siri had to make a few saves, but I didnít think she was as dangerous as official accounts of the game made it sound. San Diego just really never had me concerned in this one and Iím usually sitting there waiting for the bottom to drop out (5 years of being a Mystics fan - I always wait for disaster to strike - I think I have some sort of sports fan related post traumatic losing stress disorder). Overall a pretty nice game though. Sheís another player who will be key if the Spirit are going to get on track despite the fact they have a 100% inexperienced coach.
Oh goodness - this thing is long even by my standards . . . Iím at the point I just want it to be over, so Iím really giving short shrift to the rest of this.
Kester - she was pretty active out there. Sheís just a nice solid player in the league. Sheís never going to knock your socks off, but sheís very versatile and is a nice tool to have on your bench. Solid outing.
Akide - she was pretty disappointing. With her size she should have been able to match up well with our towers and she just didnít make the impact she should have. She did have one nice attempt but other than one vague recollection of a nice attack at goal, it was really an unremarkable outing.
Boxx - whatís going on here - someone in SD fill me in - she goes from being one of the most promising defensive midfielders in the league to being benched. And she is the only one on the SD roster other than Akide who had a prayer of matching up well with the Freedom big girls. Of the things I do not get, this one is high on the list. She had a solid outing defensively, but possession and that final pass to the attacking third was just a problem for SD all the way around.
Flo, Rohbuck - I got nothiní.
And I am done. This wasnít the prettiest game, but it was nice that the Freedom could win an ugly one for a change and make the most of the opportunities they created. And letís face it - scoring a bunch of goals is just fun, no matter what has gone on for the rest of the game. They did a lot of things well and considering it was their second game in four days it was a strong performance. Just like with Emmy, I think weíre down to the fine tuning and mental aspects of the game with this team. I think a commitment to a bit more of a high pressure game and to playing smart, heads up soccer and the Freedom might challenge for a playoff spot. Winning the "should wins" is the first step, now the Freedom needs to pick up three from one of the top teams. I think weíll see in the next couple of weeks exactly where this team stands.