US 5 Costa Rica 0

A very easy night against a very low level opponent . . . very very low level opponent. While it is nice to see the US score some goals and connect some passes, I donít know that Iíve ever seen them have such a ridiculous amount of time and space - I mean the defenders would swing the ball all the way around to Slaton who would have time to stop look around, file her nails, make a sandwich, call her long lost best friend from the 2d grade and then pound the ball across the field back to Bivens . . . uhhhh, yeah, nice switching fields, all passes connected, it was beautiful - but there was just such a languid/lopey/slow motion passing drill kind of feel to the first half that kind of left me wondering at times, exactly what was the point of this particular exercise. In the second half they seemed to pick up the pace a bit and I think we saw a little bit why the vets are the vets (compare Lil and Hucles - they were in all the same places making all the same runs, getting to all the same balls and Hucles had a nice outing - but Lilís touch is just a little bit better, a little bit faster, a little bit surer and a little more likely to wind up in the box or on someoneís head rather than over the top of the goal for a goal kick). I donít think I realized how slowly they were playing in the first half until the vets came in - then things picked up - less ploddingly swinging the ball around and more switching fields and moving forward with a purpose. Second half just felt less like passing drills to me. All that said I must give a big olí "so what" on this one. I guess the game served its purpose in that it got Boxxís feet wet, gave Bivens some solid minutes, and got Mac back out there . . . for whatever thatís worth. So the game served itís purpose . . . and it was fairly entertaining to watch . . . but I just have to wonder exactly what the point of scheduling a non-competitive game this close to the WWC was. Thereís low level opponent . . . and thereís standing in a gully looking up at a low level opponent . . . . and then somewhere in the valley below that thereís Costa Rica . . .

All right - thereís very little to say here - no one played poorly which is a plus since to have a bad outing against Costa Rica would really really put you on my list . . . and as for the good we saw - enh - I donít know that Iím prepared to get too too excited about anything out there - in real game conditions no one is going to have the kind of time and space they had in this one, they wonít be able to play so deliberately and thoughtfully and they wonít be playing opponents they can push around so easily. Mexico should be a more interesting game to watch and at least semi-competitive.

Formation - 4-4-2, back-front, right-left

GK: Mullinix; Defense: Bivens, Sobrero, Reddick, Slaton; DMid: Boxx; Mid: Roberts, Hucles; AMid: Wagner; F: Parlow, Wambach. At the half, Hamm in for Wagner, CP moves to the attacking mid, Foudy in for Roberts, Lilly in for Hucles, Fawcett in for Sobrero, Chastain in for Reddick, Pearce in for Slaton. Mac in for Wambach for the final 20.

Players

Mullinix - the roar from the crowd whenever she touched the ball cracked me up - I like a crowd with a sense of humor. And thatís it - that is 100% of what Iíve got on Siri in this one.

Bivens - Team USA seemed to be deliberately attacking down the flanks in the first half. Slaton and Bivens had a ton of touches in the early going - they had a ton of time to make decisions and a lot of room to take the ball into the Costa Rica half of the field as well. I imagine having all those touches was good for her but she really wasnít being pressured at all. That said, she handled herself well, made fairly decent decisions with the ball, combined well with TR and served the ball inside. Not a lick of defending to be done, but she was out there moving the ball around connecting more passes than not and she looked like she belonged. Hopefully sheíll get some time against Mexico so she can be in there during real game conditions.

Sobrero - Well - not just a ton to say about the central defenders in this one. There was a lot of swinging that ball around the backline in the first half - I think the defenders as much as anyone were making the game feel like a big olí passing drill and she was connecting with her teammates just fine. Donít really have anything other than that. Kate looked fine, everyone . . . was . . . fine . . .

Reddick - Uhhhh - hmmm, I donít think I have anything different to say about her than I said about Kate. I think she got forward a bit more than Kate - had one blast toward the goal and into the box if I recall correctly but thatís about all I got there. See Kate and Kylie - those comments apply here as well. Doesnít play like a college kid at all - I expect to see her plenty in the WWC.

Slaton - Did she seem to have a little hitch in her run or is it just me. Just seemed like a ton of stutter stepping on the left sideline to me in the early going - not the fluid motion to which I am accustomed from her. She was doing a lot of the switching fields, but like I said at the outset, she had a month to decide to switch and then another month to square her body up and boot the dang thing back to Kylie or TR. Not real game conditions at all. And Iíll mention it here for no other reason than this is where I happen to be typing right now: what the heck is under that field? Bouncy bouncy field - almost looked like they were playing on turf not grass it was so bouncy at times (that is a grass field, right? If not, then that explains it and we donít have to go dig anything up). Maybe because they had so much time and there was so little pressure they just werenít trapping the ball real soundly and that explains it but the dang ball was bouncing all over the place in the first half. Anyway - beside my wondering why Slaton was taking so many short little steps instead of running like normal, Iíve got very little. Thought she was combining well with Hucles on the left, thought she was changing the point well, feeding the ball inside . . . pushing forward and bringing the ball with her. No complaints really . . .

Donít really know what to say about this game. And just to provide fair warning: the likelihood of the quality of this report improving or getting even remotely entertaining is very very low right now so you might want to call it a day and read something else - sorry . . . it was late - way past my bedtime . . . and it was Costa Rica . . . . and the first half looked like a passing drill . . . .

OK - whoís next . . .

Boxx - Well this is the one useful thing on the night - Boxx got capped . . . and Boxx played well . . . and Boxx got to score on a solid strike on a ball from Foudy. Very nice goal. Good game to get your feet wet I suppose - confidence booster if nothing else. But I must say, didnít look like that confidence needed boosting. I tell ya, you would have never guessed she was the one making her National Team debut from the way she played. Was a great ball winner, connected more passes than not, made great decisions - not that there was much pressure, but she wasnít shy about going in and taking the ball and asserting herself - at one point very early in the game I even saw her barking instructions and that impressed me as much as anything. First time on the field in this particular uniform and sheís taking a leader kind of a role on the pitch - even if only for a few minutes. Maybe itís just a function of getting your first cap at 26. While itís a big exciting deal, itís a big exciting deal youíre more than ready for and youíre more likely to take it all in and treat it like just another game. Or maybe Boxx really is just one cool confident customer whoís tough as nails and even tougher to rattle - we shall see. And if this one is any indication, I certainly hope we see quite a bit more.

Roberts - At this level I do like her on the right much better than in the defensive midfield. She has a great workrate and patrols that right sideline tirelessly. Solid in this one - combining well with teammates, sending nice balls in, connecting a good number of passes. I think in the first half they were spending such a long time passing the ball around getting it to the attacking third that when it finally got there some impatient and silly shots were taken, but she didnít succumb to that any more than anyone else. Probably a little less actually. And . . . uhhh . . . thatís about it . . . . She was just fine.

Hucles - well - I like her better on the right - I think sheís stronger there, but ya know - someone has got to back up Lil and sheís as good a choice as any - letís get her accustomed to being over there. She was patrolling the left flank nicely, cutting inside well. Her crosses from the left side definitely need some work. I honestly thought she was having a good game until Lil came in and you saw the field shift and the activity out left was a bit more constructive. More passes into the box, more creating out of that spot, more sure footedness out there - both technically and in the decision making. That said, the thing that I always find so remarkable every time I see Angela play is how composed she is on the ball. Nothing seems to rattle her - very calm and composed and even when the touch isnít a good one, it is one taken with some confidence and authority. I donít think Iíve ever seen even the slightest frustration from her out there (well, except when a Little is in her general vicinity . . . heh heh, they do push her buttons donít they . . . but I digress).

Ya know - I really donít want to take any lessons from this one, so I donít have my usual neat and tidy little wrap up - the opponent was such a non-factor in this one and these game conditions were so artificial and so unlike anything theyíre going to see in the WWC that all I want to take from this outing is that no one stunk. As for playing well - well, yeah, itís Costa Rica, they should play well but to make any kind of statement about a playerís readiness for the WWC based on this outing would be a little silly. Had anyone stunk, then Iíd be real concerned about that player, but as it was, everyone looked . . . fine.

Wagner - nice blast - real nice goal. Some goals from that far out are rushed and stupid - but when you are facing goal, receive a perfect pass (nice job CP), are wide open and have plenty of time to tee it up and put it where you want it, then youíve got to take that chance. She did and placed it perfectly. She had a second screamer too - Abbyís goal was all about Aly teeing it up a second time. Ball probably would have gone in regardless of whether Abby hit it, but as it was it was a beautiful pass, placed perfectly such that Abby simply had to graze the thing to flick it into goal. Well done. Some of the play in and around the box in the first half was a bit impatient - it was like they spent so much time passing and passing and passing that the player who got the ball 15-20 yards from goal just felt it was time to make a big play and Iíd ideally like to see Aly get a handle on that a bit (as Lil, Foudy and CP seemed to in the second half). But it was largely players not accustomed to being on the field at the same time in the particular positions they were playing in the first half, so I imagine they were as organized as they could be and Iím quibbling. Nice game though - I hope she gets time with Lil and/or Foudy and/or Mia in the Mexico match.

Parlow - She was fine. Uhhhhh - thatís about it. Nice assist, combining well with the middies in the first half and played well in the attacking mid in the second . . . Although I still like her better on the right - she can be sneakier that way - itís tough to lose 5í11" on the field, but when you put her right, defenses have lost her and she can sneak into the box relatively unmarked. Especially when Abbyís in there and folks are hanging off of her. Her goal was a nice one as well - picture perfect cross from Lil to CPís head and boom, itís in the back of the net. Positively text book. Playing in the midfield certainly doesnít stop her from getting into the box and becoming a great target. Thatís about it - nice outing, sheís turning into one of the more versatile offensive players on the roster.

Abby - Nice goal - very typical Abby kind of goal. Shot/pass powered in from distance and Abby gets enough of a head on it to slightly change the trajectory and/or add a bit of pace and boom, goalkeeperís picking it out of the back of the net. After about the 30th minute or so I felt she was doing a lot of things well, getting her head on balls, making good decisions . . . Before that though, I must admit this wasnít my favorite Abby outing. Some specious decision making and some impatient play I thought. One of the things that has been so fun to watch as the Freedom season progressed was how creative Abbyís game became. I felt she was playing a bit predictably for the start of this one - she was the one who seemed to be a tad impatient trying to make the big play. While thatís generally her job, itís rare that you see Abby trying to force it - for a big finisher, she can be quite unselfish and is generally pretty aware of where she is on the field and where her teammates are and is as good at feeding them as she is at going for goal herself. And after about the first half hour, I thought she was showing all of that - just had a slow start . . . I guess Iíll chalk it up to the remnants of a The Freedom Won and I was MVP happy buzz and expect to see her a bit sharper and playing with her head up a bit more against Mexico. Like I said, she got there in this one, but there were a lot of wasted opportunities/chances in the early going. I hope she gets some time against Mexico - I have a feeling that a tougher opponent will tighten her game up a bit.

Joy - Hmmm - not really anything much to say - she was getting forward often, involved in set pieces . . . uhhhh . . . not a good game to talk about defenders - I got nothiní.

Brandi - Uhhhhh . . . uhhhhhh . . . uhhhhhhh . . . I canít even think of anything to make up.

Pearce - I thought she had a nice outing - running up that left sideline often - both she and Lil had the blonde braid goiní so they kind of blended into one another at times, but it looked like they were both running up the left, cutting inside, providing good service. Pearce is usually right sided, but I thought she and Lil were working very nicely together in this one and that they were both working well with Mia and CP. Nice outing.

Foudy - the passing got a little bit faster and seemed to be with a bit more purpose in the second half and Foudy was a big part of that. It seemed like the ball got from the defense to the attacking third with an economy of touches which allowed them to be a little more patient in the attacking third and take some better shots and for the combination play to be a bit further up the field than in the first half. Both she and Lil were instrumental in this - the passing was quite accurate in both halves, they just werenít taking so long to move the ball around in the second. Like I said, looked less like drills and more like a game. And the assist was very nice. Foudy always has great awareness out there, found Boxx in a good spot and Boxx nailed it home. I think Boxxís entry might have been as gentle as it was because there were players out there quite familiar with her. Solid outing. Not much more to say than that.

Lilly - Again, nice game, great crosses, picked up the pace on the field, just did all the things a professional does. Hucles did a solid job out there, but I donít think anyone is going to be able to measure up on the left flank to what Lil provides out there. Sheís so dangerous - itís like having an extra attacking midfielder, an extra tactician setting the offense and an extra scoring threat all in one. Nice to see her so spry and active out there - no sign of weariness . . . watching the second half of this one, I definitely get the feeling those vets donít like spending the first half on the bench - they were amped up and ready to go.

Mia - Very opportunistic and professional goal. Play started with a great pass across the field from Bivens to Lil, then Lil boots it in to CP, misclear by Costa Rica and who happens to be standing right there relatively free of defenders? Mia Hamm . . . and goal . . . Well done. I like to see numbers in the box like that - even against Costa Rica itís nice to see that many people forward ready to pounce. Other than that, I guess all the comments I made re Lil and Foudy apply here - strong outing, nice passing, good chances, helped pick up the speed of play . . . I think sheíll be starting, and you can probably write her name in ink - itís the other forward spot that seems to be at issue.

Mac - well - this is the grumpy part of the match report - you Mac fans need to just skip this section. I have nothing positive to say about whatís going on here - nothing positive or popular. From what I saw, if she gets in a WWC game theyíre nuts - you only get three subs, it would be ridiculous to waste one on her. Folks can keep on talking about how miraculous a recovery this is and if itís good for everyoneís psyche for her to be out there, then so be it, but sheís dodging hits, unable to plant on that leg, unable to cut on that leg, not moving well and despite JPís comments otherwise, those corners were well placed, but they were not solidly struck (she was pushing them off the top of her laces, those werenít the booming bending crosses/corners that set Mac apart). She looks absolutely fantastic for someone who tore her ACL 3-4 months ago - no doubt, sheís been working hard, remarkable recovery: GO MAC. However, she does not look like a world class soccer player and she will not look like a world class soccer player before September 21. I wish her the best, and I look forward to seeing her on the pitch in Athens, but right now, seeing how gingerly she moves and how fragile she obviously still feels that leg is, I watch her with a knot in my stomach just hoping that she can keep on dodging hits, she keeps remembering just to run straight ahead (and not to put any stress on the sides of her knee by cutting sharply), and that she doesnít try to do too much because I donít want to see it if she pops that thing again.

So thatís that - not much to say about this one. To take any lessons from a game like this would be a mistake. Fun to watch, a nice warm and fuzzy match which had some very fan friendly moments, but other than that, this game was of minimal use in preparing for the World Cup and Iíve got to wonder why they even bothered with it. Hopefully the game against Mexico will be a better show and a more useful outing . . . it would have to be.

Beulah