US 1 Germany 0

Good game - very entertaining match. And since I'm just starting this, I can't guarantee it, but I don't think I have anything too bad to say about anyone's play today. I've said it before, and I'll say it again (and probably again and again) - we play so much better in a 4 midfielder set - I don't care whether it's a 3-4-3 or a 4-4-2 - we are so good at spreading the field and had so many chances. I'll take our strikers and our middies 1 v. 1 against just about anyone else's defenders any day and when the US spreads as wide as they were in the first half and much of the second that's the situation they find themselves in and they get good chance after good chance after good chance (I'd still like for us to finish more of those chances, but that we're getting them is a bit of an improvement from the last couple of games).

Just a couple of side notes. First, I love watching our little players playing against these German players twice their size. Watching Lil muscle out someone 5-6 inches taller and about 30 pounds heavier makes me smile. Second, I wish we'd wear our road uniforms more - am I the only one who thinks that when they're wearing their whites our girls look like they're running around in undershirts and boxer shorts. A little red and blue ribbing would have been a nice touch.

Formation:

Started in a 4-4-2 (woohoo - 4 middies, already, I was happy) - the graphic on Fox had the alignment of our midfield wrong, which was pretty easy to figure out. Listed back to front, right to left:

Siri - GK;

Pearce, Fawcett, Sobrero, Chastain - D;

MacMillan, Fair, Foudy, Lilly - M - Fox incorrectly had Fair on Lil's flank, but it was an obvious mistake - not only was Lil on her customary flank, but in the back and middle third she was spread far wide, she'd cut in in the top third, where she did spend much of the first half, but in the middle and defensive thirds, she probably was never more than 10-15 yards in - and ditto for Mac on the right - that's what I like to see;

Mia, Millie - F - as comfortable and active in the 4-4-2 as I've seen them. Excellent play from them both.

With Kate's mishap Slaton came in on the left wing and Brandi moved to the left side central D - we stayed in a 4-4-2.

Serlenga came in for Fair at the half, still a 4-4-2.

Akers came in with about 30 minutes left [sound of trumpets playing, heralding her return] for Brandi and we switched to a 3-4-3 with Akers playing up top and Joy as our sweeper. Final sub was Whalen for Mac - she stayed on Mac's right wing but in actuality was back playing defense much of her brief stint in the game.

Players:

Siri - great game - coming off her line fearlessly. Has shown that a few communication breakdowns has done absolutely nothing to her confidence . . . which is a good thing to find out. Since Germany is a very good team in the air and collectively taller than the US Siri hid her kicking game for much of the night. She'd just boot it to Joy who'd get us started. Early in the game though, she was launching some balls and watching the Germans collect her serves shows what a powerful weapon we have in that girl's leg and I wish we'd learn to use it better. I must say, though, that Ms. Akers just might be the one to make it happen. Once Akers got in, Siri started launching some balls again - Akers flicked one of Siri's serves beautifully, if only someone had been going on their run . . . I tell ya, give those two a couple of extra practices together and we might see something quite exciting develop - I wouldn't expect to see it in a game until September though.

Pearce - since toughness has been an issue I've had with her, that's what I look for in her. Definitely saw it in her this game. Challenging and playing very physically all night long. Made good use of her speed too - looked like the offense was getting behind her a couple of times, but she was able to turn the jets on and impede them enough for help to arrive . . . but that was in the second half - didn't notice her having problems of any kind in the first half. My issue with her: she let the attackers spin to her inside a couple of times - a cardinal sin for a defender on the wing - Joy was there every time though so no harm done (and to give her the benefit of the doubt, she may have seen that and that could have been why she let them turn the corner). Overall, good game from Pearce - she'll be a good sub on the right for Joy when/if Joy has to shift to the middle.

Joy - brilliant game - she looked more comfortable in the central D than she ever has. Maybe 9 games is what it takes for her to learn a spot, but she's gone from looking good but a little uncomfortable to looking nearly flawless. Especially in the second half when she was the lone sweeper. She was everywhere she needed to be with exceptional closing speed. Slaton and Pearce just had to slow up the attack a little bit and she'd come charging in. AND - she was very vocal (as was Kate) and we were very well organized - this is the first time that I've noticed her yelling at the backline and midfield and seen her positioning her teammates. She's definitely beginning to make herself at home in the central D. Excellent game from Joy - ties for first runner up for player of the game.

Kate - well she was having a good game until she got knocked out. I noted that she had a couple of very nice serves off the backline and was moving up more in the attack than she usually does. She was all over the field and teaming with Joy in the central D to smother just about everything and was helping out on the wing frequently. Good stuff from Kate. As for her hit - couldn't really see what happened - almost looked like she hit her head and mask on Siri and/or the German player. Did see that Joy was touching her hand and she wasn't responding or moving at all - read in Mac's little journal that she was out . . . and she looked out. But, she was able to get up and walk off the field, so tough girl award for the night, for the third straight game, goes to Kate.

Brandi - ya know - not a huge impression made - she had a couple of nice tackles. She was moving up well in the attack and sending some nice serves up and in. I do recall, when Lil would push up top, she would push up on Lil's flank, so I'm sure she was a part of our attacks, but for whatever reason, I'm pretty much blanking out on her game right now. I recall it being a solid evening from her and recall she had some very nice moments (of the Brandi as Enforcer kind) but for the life of me, I can't remember a single one of them clearly. Sorry - lots of players on the field, can't keep track of everyone :-)

Mac - spread waaayyyy wide on the right. Much of the activity in the first half was through the middle and on the US left, though - she was getting back and helping on D a bit (the announcer kept calling her Fair and then was surprised when Fair appeared to be on both sides of the field at the same time - but he was a little better this game, so I'll lay off). I thought she was much more active offensively at the start of the second half. The goal - I love the goal - collected a nice serve from Slaton and then (yes I've been waiting to say this again) sent in a BOOMING cross from the right flank to Julie Foudy and GOAL. I love those booming crosses from Mac on the right flank. 4 middies . . . we must play with 4 middies. Overall solid game from Mac, great assist on the goal. The yellow card - don't know what was up with that - didn't see what the call was that she and Foudy were arguing, did see Foudy showing up the ref by pointing at her captain's band repeatedly, then Mac steps up and the card comes out (looked like it came out before she even had a chance to say anything). Interesting . . . don't know what it was about, but it was fairly amusing.

Fair - OK - not gonna rip her this evening per se, but I am going to try to explain (as gently as I can) why I don't necessarily want her on the field in Sydney: She was active defensively, and in a 4 woman mid, she really doesn't have to do much offensively, so she doesn't. She was well positioned for Mia Hamm to almost bounce a goal in off of her head, but just couldn't get it on goal. Not a bad night, overall (still too many turnovers, but she had so few offensive touches, not much damage was done). Watching her in a game like this I can't really point to anything that she did wrong, but she just doesn't seem to belong. Maybe that's the only way to articulate it, and even considering the comments from people who like her play, everything is spoken in terms of her talent and promise and what she could be not what she is or what she gives right now. The way I see it, Serlenga plays on this team like she belongs . . . Fair plays like she's still trying out - they are light years apart in terms of poise, confidence, field sense, strength, toughness and just about any other measuring stick you could throw out there. You'd think they'd measure up the opposite from what they do since Fair has been training at the highest levels since 1996 (4 years) and Nikki has been training at the highest level for just about 6 months. Fair remains far behind Nikki on my depth chart and I start to get worry lines if she actually gets in a game in Sydney - she just doesn't play with any confidence at all - she plays like a girl amongst women, she's the only player out there, youngsters included who plays young - we're playing with fire bringing that into a game on the Olympic stage. Just one woman's opinion - again, I acknowledge the skills, just don't think the package is ready yet and after 4 years of Sr. Nat Team training, UNC and significant playing time on the U-21 level between Sr. Team camps, I'm wondering whether it ever will be - she just doesn't look any better now than she did a couple of years ago.

Foudy - nice game - especially a nice defensive game. She was scrambling all over the place and being quite disruptive. Offensively, she was doing a nice job spreading the ball out wide, especially on the left side. I noted that she and Fair switched a couple of times, to try to get Mac a bit more involved in the offense (playing center-left, she was getting it out to Lil most of the first half, so she and Fair would switch for a bit to try to spread it right). Very nice run on the goal - very good at ignoring the Germans barreling toward her and getting off a good shot. Overall, solid performance - much much better than the China game.

Lilly - a return to form - great game from Ms. Lilly. Tied with Joy for first runner up for player of the game. Had several good chances in the first half. When we play with 2 strikers she invariably pushes up top and becomes the third option. Whenever she got to the top third, she'd push inside and make a run toward goal - very disruptive and she made a nice target for both Mia and Millie (achingly close on that one pass from Millie, Silke just came out and kicked that ball away, nothing Lil could do about it). She actually seemed more active and energetic this game than she has in a while - she was all over the place offensively and defensively - especially in the first half - and pushed bigger players off the ball with regularity - she's quite strong. The usual great game from Lil.

Mia - another one who had a great game - she, too, was all over the place - like I said earlier, I think she's getting the hang of this two strikers thing . . . she was getting back, she was getting up, she was spreading wide when Lil pushed up and in, and she was pushing up and in when Lil was back on her flank. They looked quite smooth in the 4-4-2 in this game. Her serve to Fair that Fair almost headed into the goal was beautiful - that would have been one of those Mia bouncing the ball off a teammate goals. My best Mia moment of the night, though, is just a quirky little thing that cracked me up and is why I love Mia - Mia followed the ball to the endline, saved it, then went out of bounds so that she wouldn't be called offsides, so she had to stay out of bounds until the play was over, nothing came of the attack, the ball had been booted to about the midfield line, Mac was impeding the German attacker somewhat and in comes Hamm thundering down the field to join the play - German player was definitely not expecting anything like that to be coming from behind her - and was definitely a bit startled. Needless to say, US wound up with the ball. I love our forwards tracking back on D. Overall - great game from Mia.

Millie - player of the game . . . again. She's having one heck of a year. The near assist on the play to Lilly I described earlier might have been a little too unselfish on Millie's part, but her angle might not have been so great - if this were last year, she never would have passed that ball, so it's good to see her flesh out her game and become a more complete player. She had the most painful miss of the night. Silke was out, she booted it by her and it hit the post (and she hit herself in the head realizing she missed a golden opportunity, but at least she managed not to take the telecast to an R this evening). She was extremely active up top, in the middle and even on a couple of plays in the back. And since I love the little players taking out the big girls, she managed to take down Steffi Jones and then pop back up like nothing happened (and showing good sportsmanship she did go see if Steffi was OK - and it was a good tackle - she was going for the ball - but still, she's half Steffi's size . . .). Millie was everywhere being extremely disruptive all night long. She has been our most consistent player this year and seems to be getting even better as the year progresses. I look for big things from Ms. Milbrett in Sydney.

Slaton - when she first came in it was pretty apparent she wasn't planning on being in the game just yet. But you could see Joy talking to her and Lil positioning her and after a few minutes she settled down quite nicely. She's quite fast on the wing, she pushes forward nicely, has a good long throw in (another weapon to uncork in Sydney). Sees the field very well for one so young and for a defender. Plays with a lot of poise. She was the pass before the assist on the goal - very nice serve wide right to Mac. That's what I've been griping about - the lack of service from our backline, and tonight it was done quite well. First, by Kate, then by Joy and Danielle. Solid game from Slaton, she continues to make my Olympic team and see significant playing time.

Serlenga - great game - again, she just plays like she belongs, like she's been on this team for years - this one has all the confidence in the world. She sees the field and distributes the ball very well, she's tough as nails and backs down from no one, she's strong enough to muscle a ball away from the opposition and once again, she had a great shot from the top of the box. She is a realistic threat to score from there every time out - and as was pointed out to me, she's got a very quick trigger from out there. Great game - she remains on my Olympic team, sees significant playing time and is ahead of Fair on the depth chart.

Akers - WOOOHOOO!!!!!!! It was just great to see her out there. And she was running and running and running and running (got a little nervous energy there Michelle). Once that nervous energy burned off though, saw some flashes of what's to come in very short course. Just in the 30 minutes she was in there you could see the composure coming back and her legs coming back. On one beautiful sequence she chest trapped the ball, spun about a quarter turn and fired off a really nice shot - too bad it was right at Silke, but it showed the patience and skill are still there just waiting to bust out in a big way. And I would like to reiterate my contention that Siri to Akers will be a serious weapon used down in Sydney. And yes, she got hit a couple of times, and yes she went down hard, yes on her shoulder, and yes, she popped right back up. Great to see her out there, great to see her up top, and even without considering all the factors we should consider, she had a solid outing.

Whalen - not really in there long enough to judge much. She helped out on D a lot while she was in there. Pushed up a couple of times on the right flank, but nothing too remarkable. Not much of an impression made. I'm sure she's one that will see a lot of time in Norway (I think Lil and Jules and Mia need a night off, they've been playing a whole lotta games).

Well - that's about it from me. This was a fun game - thought we played fairly well. Pretty dynamic offense in the first half, just couldn't get anything to go in. Solid night all the way around.

Beulah