Red Stars 1 Freedom 1

This was an entertaining home opener for the Freedom fans.  On the Freedom offensive end, all that was missing was that finishing touch.  The problem finishing was a combination of rushed shots, failing to make the final pass/shooting from too far out and very simply, really good goalkeeping.  On the Chicago offensive end, all that was missing was Carli Lloyd.  It’s tough to score goals and maintain possession when arguably the most talented player on the pitch doesn’t show up.  Defensively, I thought both teams played very well.  Very similar defenses, actually.  Just solid, steady and reliable defenders without much flash. 


And that’s about it in the way of preliminary comments.  Not a lot to say about this one.  It was largely played in the middle third of the field.  The Freedom played a very attractive style throughout the midfield and were just unable to play in the attacking third as well as they played in the middle third.  As for Chicago – I don’t care how well Masar played last week, and I do like this player, but Cristiane needs to be on the pitch.  It’s not little league, it’s not even the W-League.  It is professional soccer and when you have someone who is on the short list of best players in the world, you put that player on the field, even if she’s not played in and even if it means having a tough conversation with someone who did nothing wrong.




Freedom – 4-4-2 (back-front, right-left): GK – Scurry; Def – Janss, Whitehill, Sauerbrunn, Singer; MF – Long, Lindsey, Sawa, Bompastor; F – DeVanna, Wambach.  Gilbeau in for Janss, Moros in for Lindsey, Zimmeck in for DeVanna.  The lineup at the start of the telecast had Janss and Singer switched, but Singer was in fact on the left, and she and Sauerbrunn were playing next to each other.  I do so enjoy it when my adjustments get made.  This  might be the only one I get right all season. 


Red Stars – 4-5-1 (back-front, right-left): GK – Jonsson; Def – Dalmy, Krzysik, Dieke, Ostberg; MF – Rapinoe, Tarpley, Klein, Carney, Lloyd, with Rapinoe and Carney regularly switching sides and Lloyd playing on top of the other midfielders, at least that’s where she was supposed to be playing; F – Masar.  Cristiane in for Rapinoe way too late to make a difference, Spilger in for Tarpley and Igwe in for Masar to play defense after Ostberg got her red card.  That second yellow had to be thrown, but I sure hope she got her money’s worth for whatever she said to get the first.  Her getting booted from the game completely negated any impact Cristiane’s insertion into the lineup could have had. 


Freedom Players


Scurry – She wasn’t tested much defensively.  What did come her way was solid enough.  As for the goal, great shot by Tarpley.  Yes, Scurry did look a little flat footed and she was probably out of position, but it was a nice shot high to the far post that I’m not real convinced she could have saved anyway.  The kicking game is still awful.  A spotlight was shined on that because you could contrast it with Jonsson whose low driven ball makes it to the midfield stripe every time.  Whitehill taking the kick was a great idea, I was disheartened to see it only once (to Scurry’s credit, it did look like she set the ball up for her a time or two when Cat just didn’t go back there to take it).  Am I the only one who remembers that during Scurry’s prime, Carla Overbeck took most goal kicks?  Do they just not want to put the pressure/torque on Cat’s newly repaired knee?  Why not just let her take it, this really isn’t a trapping defense so having Cat back doesn’t mess them up on that note, so what’s the harm?  Anyway, good enough outing, my blood pressure didn’t spike even once.  And yes, you are going to hear about the kicking every single game until they decide to let Whitehill or Sauerbrunn take the goal kicks or until they just stop taking them all together and make short passes on the ground to get the offense started.  I guess they need a goal or two scored on them on a quick counter to make a consistent change.


Janss – Whether it was Rapinoe or Carney, a lot of the Red Stars attack was coming up the right side (Freedom right, Chicago left).  She did a solid enough job with it and had a lot of help from Cat Whitehill.  I thought she was very active and was getting forward into the attack very well.  She does seem to be missing a nice cross and with a player like Abby Wambach on the field, such a weapon would give the Freedom good scoring chances.  And an emphasis on good scoring chances rather than taking a bunch of distance shots from the edge of the box that have no chance of going in should really be the focus of this team right now.


Whitehill – Much more active outing than the first match.  She and Sauerbrunn were fairly stifling in the center of the field.  She provided nice support to Janss.  Carney and Rapinoe were both making runs up that flank and then cutting inside and Whitehill did a great job making takeaways and forcing passes.  The Freedom defense was able to play a fairly high line at times and Cat was making good short passes to midfielders.  Her leg is a powerful weapon, one I don’t know that the Freedom is using effectively at this point.  While I enjoy the attractive style that they’re able to play in the midfield, it really is OK to mix in a few direct balls to Abby.  It would make the attack less predictable and since the Freedom really don’t have the athleticism and speed to effectively use the full width of the field, a direct ball every now and again might be another way to get some good scoring chances in the box rather than on the edges and outside of it. 


Sauerbrunn – And a central defender does it again.  Gotta love the number of goals from the tall defenders so far this season.  Body up on those players, that’s the only hope the shorter defenders have on set pieces.  Defensively, I thought she was solid.  I still like the chemistry between her and Singer.  She escorted more than a couple of Chicago attackers right over the endline and once again did a good job not giving up corners.  Nice solid outing by the entire defense in this one.  Minus one Tarpley shot, the Red Stars really didn’t look very dangerous. 


Singer – I don’t have much.  Like the rest of the defense, I thought she was solid.  Much of the attack was on the opposite side of the field.  My only quibble is that she still is not getting into the attack.  She did make a few overlapping runs, but I don’t remember the ball going back out to her when she made those. Part of the reason she didn’t get into the offense much is that the entire midfield seemed to be shifted to the left.  Bompastor is a dominant force on that flank and that doesn’t give the left back much opportunity.  Add to that the fact that Allie Long really was playing fairly centrally and there simply wasn’t much space for her to make runs forward.  Overall, nice game – defending is what they need from her if she’s going to play behind Bompastor, and defense is what they got.


Long – Well, the starting lineup at the outset of the telecast had her playing wide right.  I’m not sure I saw her out there even once the entire game.  The only width to the right in this one was when Janss got forward.  Long was playing centrally, at times it appeared she was playing on top of the midfield right behind the forward line.  She was shifted over to the left side of the field quite often.  The whole field leaned left on offense for much of the first half.  And I don’t have much else.  The Freedom had sustained possession throughout the midfield and she was a part of that.  It looked great.  Now, they just need to work on maintaining that possession in the attacking third, making that extra pass and taking good shots rather than many bad ones. 


Lindsey – I am officially not a fan of the flat central midfield.  For brief, fleeting moments, Sawa and Lindsey both showed flashes of brilliance.  Lindsey as a defensive midfielder and Sawa as an attacking one.  Not sure where this stubborn determination to not define roles in the midfield comes from.  Use the players you have – what the Freedom has is one of the best attacking midfielders on the planet in Sawa, and a player who has shown she can handle holding the field offensively by maintaining possession, and defensively by taking possession in Lindsey.  Define their roles and let them play.  If Carli Lloyd had actually shown up for this game, and/or Ostberg had kept her mouth shut, the Freedom could have found themselves in the loss column despite the fact they dominated possession in the middle third of the field the entire game.  Solid outing, made some nice take aways, made some nice passes, played some nice defense in the middle third of the field.  With Long playing centrally, the attacking midfield was packed at times and she fell back and swung wide-ish to avoid the dreaded bunching that plagued them in their last outing.


Sawa – A few brief moments of brilliance and about 85 minutes of looking like she was playing with shackles on.  There were a few instances when she carried the ball forward, completely electrified the field and then passed the ball off for a missed shot or a nice save by Jonsson.  I’d like to see more of this.  I’d like the Freedom to be a little less wedded to its W-League past and use the international player they brought over here a little more effectively.  Trusting her to run the offense for example, would be a good choice.  Maybe that last pass would get made if she was playing far enough forward to be the one to make it.  Playing a flat central midfield though, she’s necessarily going to have to play relatively deep in the midfield, lest the opposition be allowed to do whatever they want in the center of the field.  That said, it’s just as early for the coaches as it is for the players.  It took a long time for Gabarra to figure out how to use his international players in the WUSA, but eventually he figured it out.  So I’m assuming he’ll get it.  I just hope it doesn’t take quite as long this time around.


Bompastor – Once again, the most dynamic player on the field for the Freedom.  The field definitely leans left.  She and Wambach are definitely developing chemistry.  I’m not sure the trust is there for her with the other US players though.  Clearly, she is one of the three best players on the field for the Freedom and at times I think she’s trying to do too much.  One of the reasons why the Freedom didn’t win this game was because they weren’t making the last pass (the other reason was Caroline Jonsson).  These players don’t just need time to learn each other’s games, they need time to learn to trust each other’s talent.  Bompastor’s individual game has been a highlight each of the first two games.  In coming weeks, I think we’re going to need to be able to say that about how she combines and works with her teammates if the Freedom are ultimately going to be successful.


DeVanna – I thought this was a much better performance than the last game.  The workrate was just much much higher.  She was very disruptive, she was running all over the attacking half of the field.  She was pressuring defenders, she was running in space, she was making more constructive off the ball runs.  I would have liked to see a midfielder or Wambach putting more balls through for her to run onto.  Most of the damage she did was bringing the ball up through the midfield herself or short passes around the edges of the box.  She did have a tremendous chance about 5 yards from goal but she booted it high.  And that remains my gripe – she’s an international player.  Five yards from goal, she shouldn’t be kicking the ball into the parking lot.  Taking an international slot on this roster, the coach shouldn’t have to teach her that you don’t always have to knock the stuffing out of the ball to score a goal.  She has a tremendous amount of talent.  That’s clear, but it is still a very raw talent.  It’s always fun to watch a raw talent develop, but honestly, if it doesn’t develop quickly, this could be a really long season for the Freedom. 


Wambach – She had three really great chances and Jonsson stole each and every one from her.  For all my griping about the Freedom failing to make that final pass in the attacking third, Jonsson really stole this one.  They had enough good shots to win this game, they just didn’t.  Typical Abby game for most of the contest.  Toward the end, it seemed she was trying to do too much on her own.  The temper tantrum at the offside call was indicative of her level of frustration, and I think some of the ill advised shots from distance were a sign of the same thing.  This team has some integrating to do on offense.  Not much else.  What Wambach brings each week is a given, she’s remarkably consistent.  It’s getting everyone on the same page that’s going to be the challenge. 


Zimmeck, Moros, Gilbeau – I don’t have much on any of them.  By the time Moros and Zimmeck got in the game, the Freedom stars were just teeing it up and shooting at goal. The longer the game went on, the more numerous and impatient those shots seemed.  So, not a lot of combination play or built up attack going on at that point.  As for Gilbeau, she made some nice runs up the right flank.  Served a ball in that I recalled.  Really don’t have much else for any of these three.  This isn’t a deep squad, especially on offense. 


Chicago Players


Jonsson – Without question, the player of the match.  I couldn’t have been more impressed.  Easily the best goalkeeper performance I’ve seen this year (settle down Solo fans, I haven’t seen St. Louis yet).  She stopped several really good shots by Wambach, she changed shots by DeVanna and Bompastor and just generally commanded all activity in the box.  She is extremely confident, composed and decisive.  Not many goalkeepers in the women’s game can completely dictate play.  She’s on the short list of those who can.  And the kicking game, I love the kicking game.  Her goal kicks are low driven balls that make it to the midfield stripe every single time.  It is consistent so her teammates know where to win the ball, it has length to avoid quick counter attacks, and it’s a relatively low driven ball that can catch opposing defenses on their heels.  Her teammates weren’t winning as many of those balls as they should have but once they get that sorted, the goalkeeper might be one of the more dangerous offensive weapons on the field.  Great game.


Dalmy – Honestly, I don’t have a whole lot on her.  The Washington defense was attacking toward her much of the game and got a lot of shots off.  She did disrupt some passing lanes a bit and some of the bad shots and shots into traffic might have been attributed to that.  I thought her most notable defensive moments were against Abby in the box.  It seems that a lot of teams have a tall defender who can go toe to toe with Abby.  Nice athletic defenders are great, but to play against the Freedom, having height on the backline to negate any direct attacks seems to be a good strategy.  That’s about it – I think I need to pay closer attention to her next time I see Chicago play.


Krzysik – She seems to have a nice chemistry with Dalmy and they’re very complementary players.  Much like Singer and Sauerbrunn.  This defense really is very similar to the Freedom’s.  Not much flash, they’re not going to make spectacular athletic plays that will make you ooooo and ahhhhh, just solid experienced defenders who do what they can to force the other team into bad shots and who try to avoid getting  themselves into situations that require the spectacular play in the first place.  That said, Jonsson was really busy in this one, I think the speed of Bompastor and DeVanna, and to a lesser extent Long, were giving them problems at times.  If Washington’s athleticism is giving them a little bit of trouble, Jonsson is going to have to be ready to come up huge against sides like NY/NJ and Los Angeles that have superior athletes at every offensive position. 


Dieke – She had some really nice moments.  She is a nice physical presence on the backline.  She’s not afraid of the hard tackle.  At the same time, I think she struggled a little with players running at her.  She gave up too many corners.  She seemed content to let DeVanna force her into putting the ball out over the endline.  They’ve got nice height on the backline and defend corners well, but I think she needs to work on turning that ball out over the sideline.  Overall, not much to complain about.  Jonsson was busy, but I couldn’t really put my finger on anything any of the defenders were doing horribly individually.  I think part of the problem is that the Freedom were pretty much able to do whatever they wanted in the middle third of the field.  That’s why there were so many shots.  That there were so many distance shots is a sign that the defense was clogging up the area around the box.  They just needed some help stopping the attack before it was unleashed on them full throttle out of the midfield.


Ostberg – No idea what that first yellow was about.  The second one was a good call.  What can you do?  I think it was a game changer though.  Chicago went from putting Cristiane in and trying to win the game to having to come back and defend to try and preserve a tie.  Unfortunate.  As for the rest of her game, I thought she was getting into the attack much better than any of the other Chicago defenders.  The Chicago attack leaned left as well and she was a big part of that.  Defensively, her individual defending was solid enough but I didn’t see much chemistry between her and Dieke.  She was certainly hollering at everyone a lot, but I didn’t see the cooperation that was more evident between Dalmy and Krzysik.  Solid outing, but not controlling her emotions hurt her team in this one – she needs to make sure that her frustration doesn’t carry the day in the future.


Carney – They had her on the right in the pregame, but she was on the left as often as not and most of her most memorable play was up that left sideline.  She’s very good with the ball at her feet, seems to have good tactical awareness and was making good decisions, has nice speed and makes nice off the ball runs.  This just looks like a special player in waiting.  She was wreaking havoc up the left side of the field and cut inside effectively.  The people to whom she was passing weren’t having their most effective outings, so she didn’t have as flashy a game as she could have.  It’s tough for the flanks to look great when the folks in the center are having a quiet night.  Once Cristiane gets worked into the lineup and Lloyd starts playing a bit more like herself, I think both she and Megan Rapinoe will be recognized as two of the better flank midfielders in the league. 


Tarpley – Even when those around her are having quiet nights, Tarpley manages to shine.  One of the most understated superstars in the US National team player pool, but make no mistake about it, she is a superstar, not a supporting player. Nothing rattles her, nothing frustrates her, nothing overwhelms her.  In addition, to being one of the most athletically gifted players in the game, she is one of the most mentally strong.  She never gets upset, you’ll never see her griping at refs or exasperated at her teammates.  She’s just a quiet assassin who waits and waits and then kills the opposition with a brilliantly timed and placed ball in the back of the net.  On a day when the Chicago offense was having a little bit of trouble combining through the center of the field, she pulled out a point for her team. 


Klein – I liked her first half a lot.  She was making great runs, getting behind the defense, taking the ball to the endline at times.  She was very active for the first 45.  Both Carney and Rapinoe found her with through balls and passes in the midfield at times.  I think there’s a nice chemistry developing there.  I think my concern with this Chicago midfield is that they really don’t have anyone holding the field defensively.  All five of the midfielders seemed to be offensive minded players in this one.  The Freedom didn’t have much trouble maintaining possession and passing the ball through the middle third of the field.  She kind of fell off the table for me in the second half.  The Freedom really had the run of play in the second half, especially after Ostberg went out.  The Red Stars offensive players all kind of got lost for me in the second half.


Rapinoe – I thought she had the same game that Carney did.  She was very active, very high work rate was all over the field, switching with Carney and playing on both flanks.  She was cutting inside and combining well with Klein and she set Masar loose with a couple of through balls.  She is a high energy player who goes full tilt the entire time she’s on the pitch.  As chemistry builds on this team, they’re going to be a fun offense to watch – so long as they have someone in the midfield who’s going to consistently be winning balls.  Solid outing.  I look for this Chicago team’s offense to improve by leaps and bounds in the not too distant future.  Key to all is . . .


Lloyd – Did she play?  I mean, really, did she?  I’ve been taking shots throughout the entire match report and here’s why.  She is very simply one of the most talented players in the US player pool.  She plays with confidence, she plays with attitude, she defends with at times brutal force, she wins balls and she’s got one of the hardest, most accurate and efficient shots in the game.  And you know how much of that we saw on Saturday?  Nada. Zippo. Zilch . . . Nothin’.  Her play has been my single biggest disappointment this season.  Playing bad is one thing, I can deal with bad games.  Just not showing up, not taking command, not imposing her will, not playing with the energy that her teammates did.  That?  I’m not so inclined to let go with an oops and a smile.  They need Lloyd to be Lloyd.  Maybe she feels the pressure of that, I don’t know.  But Chicago needs that borderline cocky I-will-knock-you-down-take-your-ball-and-put-it-in-your-goal attitude she generally brings to the pitch.  They simply need Carli Lloyd to show up. 


OK – tough love done.  By way of full disclosure – Carli Lloyd is a favorite of mine and preseason, Chicago was my pick.  I have loved just about every personnel decision that Emma Hayes and the gang have made, starting with the initial allocation.  While the Markgraf baby news tempered my enthusiasm a little bit, I’m sticking with them.  So long as Carli Lloyd wakes up . . .


Masar – She’s active.  She makes a lot of off the ball runs and seemed to be getting behind the defense fairly regularly.  I think they need to concentrate on getting her the ball a little bit more.  She’s going to stop making those runs if they don’t reward her more often.  Like Klein, I liked her first half better than her second.  I thought she fell off the page a bit in the second half, both before she moved to the left flank and after.  Solid outing . . . I wouldn’t start her over Cristiane . . . she probably wouldn’t start herself over Cristiane . . . but a solid outing nonetheless. 


Cristiane – I think she needs to develop chemistry with the rest of the offense.  She combined with Klein and Lloyd a little bit, but there just wasn’t a lot of time for her to do anything as Ostberg was sent off not too long after she got in the game.  Chicago really shut down their offense when they went a player down.  I don’t have much else.  Lloyd’s not the only one who needs to show up in the next one.  Cristiane does too and that starts with having her in the game at the start.  While the story was that Masar was being rewarded for her play in the previous game, I’m sure there was a concern about the fact that Cristiane wasn’t terribly played in with her teammates.  She won’t get played in unless they put her out there though.  After another week of practice, assuming she’s healthy, I would guess Cristiane will be in the starting line up.  If not, I’ll be scratching my head, and possibly jumping on that LA Sol bandwagon, real fast.


Spilger/Igwe – Both came in to play defense after Ostberg came out.  Spilger on top of the defenders, Igwe on the left wing.  A lot of the attack the whole day was coming up centrally and going toward the Chicago right/Freedom left.  That didn’t change when Igwe came in so she didn’t have a lot to handle.  Spilger, I just lost completely.  Nothing was stopping the Freedom in the midfield at that point, so it’s probably just as well that I can’t remember much here.  And that’s about it – I need to get better following the subs.


And that’s it.  Nice possession game by the Freedom.  They just need to work on taking better shots and getting Sawa into a more aggressively attacking role.  They really are playing a much more attractive style than I thought they’d be able to.  Mix in a few direct balls to make Abby happy and they might have a varied enough attack to put a few goals together in an outing.  As for the Red Stars, Jonsson by herself was worth the price of admission.  As soon as that offense gels a bit, they will be too.