US 4 Germany 1
Pretty doggone entertaining game - it was a fun one. It was just so good to see them back out there, looking like they wanted to be out there - it's been awhile. My quick (or not so quick, it's all relative, isn't it) take on it (Fair fans be warned - stop reading now - I'm not kind . . . I am repeatedly not kind . . . I am repeatedly not kind even more than usual):
I thought the team looked as good as they've looked in ages and ages - they looked rested and fired up and ready to go . . . and hungry - they looked like they wanted this one from the start which was good to see . . . and they looked like they were having fun (especially Mia) and it's been awhile since we've seen that from them too. There's only one player who I thought looked bad . . . really bad . . . awful actually - and of course, it was Lorrie Fair. The German goal was hers - she turned the ball right over to Germany, the US was playing a 3 back, and Lorrie just unleashed the attacker on the D, two of them, actually - nothing the D or Beene could have done. I must say, Aleisha Cramer is a huge upgrade in the defensive mid over Lorrie Fair - she served some beautiful through balls, made some nice defensive stops, I thought she showed great field vision - switched fields, did everything you would expect a central midfielder to do. Lorrie Fair added absolutely nothing positive on that field. I know she's a really wonderful person who everyone really loves and adores, but c'mon, how long is that going to not only keep her on the team but keep her starting. She's not bad . . . she's AWFUL. She's not a young player who makes mistakes but shows improvement and progress - she gets worse with each passing game and still has absolutely no idea what to do with the ball out there. She doesn't make one or two costly turnovers - she turns the ball over on almost every touch and moreover (and more importantly) she provides absolutely nothing out there that makes her worth her downside - I could list 20 players just off the top of my head without thinking too hard from the WUSA or college who would provide more out there than Fair does or ever has. If that wasn't so, I could live with the turnovers, but she just is completely bereft of any skills you would expect a central midfielder to have. I don't get it, I never have and she's getting worse not better - how in the world has this continued so long and through two different coaches . . .
As for everyone else - pretty much just a solid effort for everyone, it was just good to see the energy level up and seeing that they meant business out there.
Formation: 3-4-3 in the first half, switching to a 4-3-3 in the second. Back front, right left. GK - Beene; D - Sobrero, Fawcett, Chastain; M - MacMillan, Fair, Foudy, Lilly; F - Hamm, Parlow, Milbrett. Start of the second half, Kluegel and Cramer come in, Fair and Mac go out. Kluegel takes over at right back, Sobrero pushes in and we have a 4 back - Cramer plays central mid, Foudy moves out right, but basically stays central - Jena was pushing up on the right flank well, and that was the totality of right flank play in the second half (sadly, that's about as much as we had in the first, as well, but that's another story). Reddick in for Joy, Wambach in for Millie, Mitts in for Parlow (she came in at right back and Jena went somewhere off my TV screen - I have no idea whether she went left back and Brandi moved into the midfield, or vice versa or what - whatever, they were just chewing up clock at that point anyway). And if I screwed up the order folks came out, sorry - who can remember all this stuff . . .
Beene - not really tested - there was nothing she could do on the goal and little she could do on the shot that should have put Germany up 2-1 (man Muller muffed that). That one point blank stop on Muller in the second half rocked though - I know she fired it right at Keysia, but she positioned herself very well. I disagree with Ms. Akers that Beene is one of the keepers who is good with her feet - one of the new breed of keepers. She's not, but as far as old school keepers go, Beene is quite formidable (and old school is where April seems to be going - Solo and Mullinix and even Branam are at home, and they're the best of the new breed). And she was smart enough not to rely on her kicking too much - although I think Joy needs to realize it's a Bri type kicker back there, not a Siri type . . . some of those back passes were scary - one Beene totally failed to clear and got passed around dangerously until Lil finally swooped in outta nowhere and kicked it out. Overall a nice solid outing albeit a wonderfully uneventful one.
Kate - solid as usual - her service game out of the back looks improved. Thought she looked much more comfortable after the switch to a 4 back in the second half - she seems much more comfortable in the center . . . And no, I wasn't real taken with the US 3 back - they made it work for about 30 minutes, then the hole where Fair was playing got to be too much and you can't unleash attackers on a 3 back like that. To make a 3-4-3 work, you've got to have solid defense through the midfield . . . and more importantly, possession through the midfield - and it's hard to have possession through the midfield when a player as inept on that count as Fair is in there . . . oh, this was about Kate wasn't it (hey, Fair fans, you were warned at the start . . . slowly, step away from the computer . . . ) Two thumbs up for Kate . . . and she really needs to stop running face first into things.
Joy - did she really just have a kid 3 months ago - she ran down one of those German attackers from behind - unbelievable - she's not human . . . she's my hero. She does need to take charge out there a bit - this is the same problem we had with her in 2000 - she's still flawless, but she just doesn't have the command out there she should - if she'd yell, they'd all listen to her . . . she's Joy, of course they'd do whatever she said. They weren't having too many of those issues in the second half though - so maybe she got more vocal - then again, after Cramer came in, possession throughout the midfield and up top was beautiful so the D wasn't really tested a whole lot.
Brandi - pretty solid - I think the deteriorating speed is going to get more and more problematic - and will come to a head before 2003 rolls around. She is crafty though, as Mich pointed out . . . it will be interesting to see how this plays out. For now though, very solid outing.
Mac - she took a nice corner kick, that's for sure. However, this was an invisible Mac game. I hate it when she does this invisi-Mac thing. She needs to be more aggressive - Mich made a good point, Mac needs to take on players 1 v. 1 more - she's got the most explosive first step in women's soccer (well, maybe that Tiffeny Millbrett is more explosive, but not by much), she should be exploding to, and around defenders with regularity. She just seems to defer to other players out there - she needs to stop that - when she does stop that she's incredible. She's definitely at the point in her career where she shouldn't just take everyone else's scraps - she needs to demand the ball and be extremely aggressive when she gets it. Lil is way wide on the flank just like Mac, but Lil's rarely wanting for chances . . . and if nothing else is contributing defensively a bit more than Mac was. And without ripping Fair more than is absolutely necessary - I realize that was part of Mac's problem - Fair doesn't even look to her right . . . it's tough when the middie playing next to you isn't sending balls up that right sideline for you. I think one ball got sent up there - it was over hit and they didn't go right again in the first half in any meaningful fashion. Overall though, not a bad Mac outing, just a very very quiet one. I look for her to have a much louder game tomorrow night.
Fair - she was awful . . . AWFUL I tell you. Not one good thing to say. She brings nothing others couldn't bring and bring better and without the huge downside. I do not get it. And it's getting less amusing - especially since Cramer is such an incredible upgrade at the position and to see and compare the 1st and 2d halves just makes me mad - it just has never had to be this way . . . it really hasn't.
Foudy - solid Foudy game. I got nothin' else. She looked good. Mich's "a swing and a whiff" comment had me laughing, but she did muff it big time - just pounded that ball straight down, moved about 3 inches . . . heh heh - too much back swing I guess . . . . And in case you couldn't tell, I enjoyed Michelle in the booth - it was refreshing not to have someone who seemed interested in promoting an agenda doing the commentating (Wendy's boosterism for her buddies over the WUSA season crossed a line in my opinion). She's not polished and she seems a little reluctant to criticize without couching the criticism in a compliment, but she's pretty fair in what she does say - and we're spared the prom queen crap Wendy feels a need to go on and on and on and on about . . . and she did criticize Mac when warranted (not taking players on) and while she went on about Lil and how incredible she is for a bit, she also did not hesitate to point out the bad passes/turnovers when they happened.
Lil - solid Lilly-like game. Nice solid D, relentlessly running that left sideline the entire game. A few too many turnovers in the early going, but the wonderful thing about Lil is that when she turns it over, she turns around and tackles it back . . . and then 15 seconds later, she tackles one back Fair turned over . . . just heads up soccer all the time with her. And that one free kick was wicked good - she almost put that sucker in . . . don't know that was exactly what she was trying to do with it (I think she was probably aiming for a player on the far post and just boomed it a little too far) but it was good nonetheless. And can I say how weird that kick looked - free kick from the right side being boomed off her left foot - that ball had some movement on it too . . . hope we see more of that - it's got to throw a keeper off a bit - it was just so odd lookin'. And best of all, this is the first time I've seen her in a Nats uni in a long time that she didn't look burnt and tired . . . she looked like Lil - that was as good to see as anything.
MMMIIIIIIAAAAAAA!!!!!!!! - how happy was she to be back in the bosom of the Nats. It's like looking at a different person. She smiles, she's happy, she's fired up and pumped and relaxed out on the field. It makes this Freedom fan happy just to see it. She doesn't look like that here in DC . . . I hope she scores buckets more - a happy Mia means big trouble for whoever she's playing against. Mia didn't have just a ton to do in this one, but what she did, she did very well. Both of her goals were very opportunistic - she just runs so hard to every ball and she got two goals off challenging the keeper and challenging balls most players would have backed off of. Her most impressive play of the game was the assist on Millie's goal though, she just read the situation so perfectly, and looped that ball right up to Tiff - she already had Silke drawn out and all Tiff had to do was chip it up and over - good stuff - that's the kind of chemistry we won't see in the WUSA for awhile - that's the kind of chemistry built over 7-8 years - perfection - I LOVE it.
CP - enh - not real thrilled. Basically, it's nothing she did - she was solid enough . . . and she's awfully nice on set pieces. I'm having issues with her running hard to the ball - that's such a big one with me. Silke was having obvious problems handling the ball and CP was pulling up way too early - she's awfully quick to give up on a ball. And while I'm harping on my pet peeves: she'll give a hit, but she won't take one - she pulled up there too. I don't know, she just didn't look like she was working as hard as Mia and Millie to me - nothing goes unchallenged with those two. Overall though, no extreme complaints - she was solid enough - got herself in the general vicinity of where she needed to be most of the time, but I just felt she wasn't finishing off the plays the way she should . . . like running hard to the ball, not just when you know you can get it, but every time out. As Mia's exploits showed, wonderful and unexpected things can happen if you challenge the ball every single time.
Millie - fairly quiet game for her. As usual, Rob Stone was calling Millie's name for half of Lil's touches, so she wasn't nearly as busy as he made her sound. Solid game, nice goal, not much else . . . I look for her to have a much louder game tomorrow night too.
Kluegel - well, I thought we were in for another disastrous Kluegel outing, but that kick to the stomach/ribs really helped her . . . she got much better after that, seemed a lot of the jitters got punched right out of her and she wound up playing a fairly solid game. Playing on the right side for a bit too (until Mitts came in with a few minutes left) - nice versatility. Not a bad outing, I might have to start being nicer (I was calling her a left sided Lorrie Fair after her disastrous outing against Canada - she was pretty bad in that one - might just be jitters though - maybe someone needs to knock the wind out of her before she steps on the field every game . . . maybe we can put Pags in charge of that - give her something to do . . .). Solid outing - I actually hope we get another chance to see her - and hope when we do, I hope it's the player we saw after getting the wind knocked out of her rather than the nervous looking tentative one we saw before.
Cramer - I thought she was great - great vision, great technical passing ability, served up some beautiful through balls, spread the field and made tactical decisions like a seasoned vet . . . just a great outing. She does all the things any central mid should do, she is great at possession, all of her passes connect (or are far enough out of the US end, that the turnover isn't deadly . . . although, I can't recall a single turnover she made that was her fault). This is how a defensive/central mid plays and seeing someone who actually helps Foudy out there, allowing her to get more involved in the attack, rather than someone whose errors the entire team scrambles to try and mask, is refreshing. And it really does make me mad . . . I know a lot of the difference in the two halves was due to the formation switch, and I know for about the first 25 minutes (until they started running through Fair) the US looked strong, but you just can't ignore the spark Cramer brought when she came in and you can't ignore the huge improvement in possessing the ball the entire team experienced - there is no way to rationally deny that it was due at least in part to Ms. Cramer's presence and Ms. Fair's absence. Outstanding outing, that seemed all the better because she was such an improvement over the player she came in for. Imagine how good this kid is going to be when she finally fills into that long lanky body of hers.
Reddick - I was sorry to hear she's not in great shape fitness-wise because she was rock solid on the field again. She made some great defensive stops - especially after Mitts came in - she went out on Mitts' wing and made a great stop on an attacker who faked Heather out of her shorts. I continue to be impressed by this one. I look forward to more. Wambach and Mitts - not really in long enough to make much of an impression. I got nothin'.
All right - I'm out - it was a fun game (once I calmed down after the Fair gaffe that resulted in the German goal . . . and it took me about 10 minutes to stop ranting and cursing over that one, that's for sure . . . and I'm still bitter, does it show? :-) Again, it's not personal - I actually think Fair is one of the young players who really gets the USA mentality thing . . . maybe that's why she keeps getting chance after chance after chance - but she's just damaging to have on the field at this point - and again, she's not showing improvement - and after all these years, if she's not getting better, I find it hard to believe she's going to). It's just so good to see them looking this pumped and ready to play - it's been a good long time since we have. Can't wait for tomorrow night's game . . .