Freedom 2 CyberRays 0
Thank you Siri Mullinix . . . thank you very much. I donít necessarily know if she won the game for the Freedom, but ya know, I sure wouldnít want to see what that second half would have looked at with . . . say . . . Carly Smolak in goal . . . In case anyone was wondering why a good deal of the nice folks in Washington think they have the best GK in the league itís the games like this. The defense broke down, and Siriís game elevated. The worse they play the better she does. Everything she doesnít catch, she hits strong out of the box, and you can talk about Bri and Beene being "athletic" all you want, but youíre not watching very closely if you donít put her on their level. As for the rest of it, well, Iíd say in the first half the Freedom was back to having pretty good possession, although possession without a lot of purpose. While it is bothersome that they arenít showing a ton of improvement on that last pass, they did show some improvement from last weekís NY game (I think theyíre back to where they were in the opener) and letís face it, even if theyíre not doing good things with the ball, when they have it, the other team doesnít. So thatís some measure of purpose in itself. As for the second half, once again they came out of the locker room in survival mode. Keep on playing gang, look to protect your lead for the last 5-10 minutes, not the last 45 minutes. Holding their breath and hoping to escape from games will catch up to them - I kind of hope it catches up to them sooner rather than later so theyíll start playing a full match fairly shortly. For two weeks in a row now, theyíve escaped games as much as theyíve won them.
As for the Rays - well, I must confess, I spent most of the first half focusing on their formation, muttering to myself, thatís a 4-3-3? Thatís not a 4-3-3, Pretinha and Barnes are clearly playing behind Clemens and Katia. Why did they say this was a 4-3-3 in the intro? Am I missing something? Whereís the third forward . . . is it Barnes, is it Pretinha? . . . I donít see a third forward . . . What are they talking about with a third forward? . . . And on and on until the start of the second half when I looked at how they lined up to start and sure enough, they lined up Clemens and Katia up top and that was that - well, I shouted "I KNEW it" at the TV, but then that was that. As for any other preliminary comments, I donít really have any, the formation was kind of my white whale with them (call me Ahab) and was taking a ton of my focus. I donít have a ton individually on them either - this will be even more Freedomcentric than usual, if you can believe it - I think maybe I should have taken this week off so read on at your own peril.
Freedom (4-2-2-2 back-front, right-left): GK - Siri; Def - S. Little, Moore, Grubb, Barr; DMid - Stoecker, Jones; AMid - Lindsey, Hamm; Fwd - J. Little, Wambach (although they switched sides quite a bit). Gerardo in for Stoecker, Golebiowski (hereinafter referred to as KG) in for J. Little (Lindsey had moved forward by this time, she was up top, KG played at the right attacking mid).
CyberRays (I have no idea if Iím right, but even though Iím watching from home and canít see the whole field, I simply canít sign on with what the announcers were saying at the outset, if it was a 4-3-3 then it was being played terribly, and I just donít think thatís what was going on - so, I may be wrong, and I might be screwing up right and left, but hereís my story and Iím sticking to it - 4-4-2, back-front, right-left): GK - Beene; Def - Sanchez, Bryan, Chastain, French; Mid - Barr (playing a bit withdrawn and fairly centrally - Sanchez had command of the right flank), Sissi, Pretinha (playing pretty aggressively offensively, but clearly playing behind Katia and Clemens), Barnes (also playing aggressively, but often playing not only behind Katia and Clemens, but behind Pretinha too - just not seeing the third forward); Fwd - Clemens, Katia. Cook in for Clemens, it appeared Barnes moved up top, Sissi moved over where Barnes had been and Cook played centrally, Venturini-Hoch in for Sissi, Bell in for Sanchez and yes, at this point, they were running three up top and three in the back.
Freedom Players - I donít have a ton on some individuals in this one, Iím grouping some units - As I reread this Iím really thinking I should have skipped this week . . .
Mullinix - All hail Siri Mullinix!!!! I do enjoy the Freedom keeper - that second half could have been a slaughter - Freedom looked like they came out in full on survival mode and you just canít do that for 45 minutes and expect to win . . . unless your keeper comes up huge. Kicking in the first half was shaky, but by the second half that was corrected. I do think theyíre trying to serve a flat ball on some of those and sheís just not hitting it well sometimes, but after that many flubs, itís time to just do what you do best and for Siri, thatís pound it upfield quickly and thatís what she did. I really donít have a ton - I thought she had a fantastic game - showed a lot of poise because the shots were coming at her fast and furious in that second half and her decision making, arguably the weakest part of her game, was rock solid. Great game. Oh, and itís tough to tell from home, but the TV cameras didnít catch her attacking her defenders with a machete even once, which considering they gave up 19 corner kicks shows a remarkable amount of self restraint on her part.
Defense - Well - I thought the whole team had a solid first half and the whole team just looked like they wanted to get off the field with the win in the second. Iím not quite sure what happened with the defense in the second half, or even if it was the defense or the defense being played in the midfield, but in the second half, the defense wasnít slowing down the CRays at all. Part of the problem? I think a lack of poise and a lack of speed. Itís tough to tell watching on TV, but with the number of corners they were giving up Iíd say speed was a major issue out there in this one. When do you put it over the endline as a defender? When you have no other choice - and generally speaking, you have no other choice when you get to the play late and/or when you panic. 19 corners is inexcusable . . . 19 shots on top of that . . . Siri had to come up huge often - these are not signs that the defense is playing well. Lots of panicky passing in the second half resulting in turnovers as well. When the pressure was on, they simply broke down as a unit. Yeah, Moore and Grubb made some nice stops. I really canít assail the individual defending/individual performances too much. But as a unit? as a unit, I donít see how they can be pleased. 19 shots, 19 corners, let their keeper get abused and they were on their heels for an entire half . . . . Just let that sit for a sec . . . . . OK . . . All that said, the Freedom won - I donít know how, I donít know why, but for all the problems that are so apparent every week, they just keep on winning and thatís what itís all about, so I canít really complain too much. Just gotta keep hoping the personalities play like personalities (it was Siri in this one) and the rest of the team does just enough. As to the individuals, like I said, I donít have much:
|S. Little - Iíve got almost nothing here. I noticed a lot more coming up
the Freedom left than the Freedom right. Sanchez was great in the first half
and was wreaking all sorts of havoc. Didnít notice that Skylar got forward too
much in the first half, but she did have her moments (the goal - pass before
the assist, if Iím not mistaken - see, the little blonde girls have some nice
chemistry out there, donít they), and the whole defensive unit was scrambling
and on their heels in the second. I really have nothing here - sorry, defenses
are much easier to watch in person than on TV.|
|C. Moore - I thought she was getting beat badly in this one. Speed is a
definite issue here. Did she make some nice stops? Sure she did. Was she
getting to plays late and simply not where she should be often? Gotta say yes
there too. I do recall her making one nice play against Katia, but one nice
play against a speedster, doesnít negate the fact that sheís simply having
trouble keeping up speedwise and that plays are being read very late. I didnít
think this game was an improvement from last week. She seems to be real up and
down to start the season - hopefully, next week against Atlanta will be an up
week - Dominguez carries a ton of speed, very good with the ball at her feet,
Moore is going to have to sit back on D and play deep if sheís going to be
effective just like she did last week against NY. Maybe that was the problem
in this one, maybe in the second half, they just underestimated the offense
that the Rays could muster and lost their composure a little bit with the
relentless pace of the Rays attack. Itís still early in the season, maybe itís
just as simple as that - maybe they just need more time - maybe to go through
the league once to gauge it and be better prepared. Weíll see.|
|Grubb - As usual she was the bright spot on the D, but ya know, in the
second half, she was getting to plays late and speed was an issue as well.
While her straight ahead speed over distance is not a strength, Grubb has good
acceleration to the ball - which means, sheís got good speed in short bursts.
In the second half in this one though, the hinges just seemed to come off the
whole defense. Like Iíve said earlier, on TV, I canít see whatís going on off
the ball, so I donít know whether the midfield was just letting a ton through
or whether the problem was the defenseís alone, but I have a feeling the loss
of poise in the second half was a team effort. They just came out after the
half looking to protect a 2 goal lead for 45 minutes, theyíve been sitting on
leads for 3 weeks now and it has just made for real sloppy endings all three
weeks. Hopefully, theyíll continue to play well enough to win, but I have a
feeling everything is going to need to sharpen up as the season wears on . . .
And I realize it is just the third game of the season, so I imagine it will.
Overall, great workrate and great defense on set pieces. And I would be remiss
if I didnít commend the whole team on this - yup, 19 corners is inexcusable,
but successfully defending 19 corners is pretty incredible so a big thumbs up
|Barr - she still doesnít look right to me. Donít know what it is - she is the speed on the backline and sheís just not using it well. Maybe the knee is hampering her, but as the only real speed on that backline, if sheís going to be slowed down for too much longer, the Freedom might have a real problem brewing. She got forward nicely, the only defender I noticed who consistently did. The last pass remains a problem though - she just doesnít pull the trigger on that cross fast enough. And of course, the return of the Emmy knucklehead moment did not just thrill me - Iím sure Siri and the other defenders didnít appreciate that late turnover in the box - what were ya doiní Emmy? Who were ya passing to? Think a little - kinda ironic that the trigger is too quick when sheís right in front of the Freedom goal, but you canít pry the ball from her when sheís attacking . . . Something to work on and I hope if the knee is troubling her, she gets well soon - sheís generally quite the weapon for the Freedom, her knucklehead moments notwithstanding . . .|
Stoecker - Well - like I mentioned, the defense on corners was outstanding, Stoeck, Grubb, Jones and Abby are formidable offensively on set pieces, but in this game they showed that theyíre even stronger defensively. They won everything in the air, the smaller players took away and cleared everything on the ground - great job on those plays. As for the rest of Stoeckís game, well, the first game of the season she looked great, and she did have a few nice tough plays in this one and had a solid first half. Second half though, like Emmy, she didnít look right. Just a complete non-factor. Maybe itís too much to ask someone coming off an ACL to go 90 minutes all season long - might be too soon . . . which is kind of a concern considering Gerardo is on her way out and there is absolutely no one on the bench to come in at the defensive midfield . . . but I guess Iíll leave this particular discussion for another day. Speedwise she was having some trouble, she usually reads the game well enough so that doesnít matter, but in this one, I think part of the problem the defense was having is that they were getting through Stoeck unhindered. Even though this CRay team doesnít have the fastest individual personalities on offense, as a whole, just about the entire offense is made of smaller quick players (and tall and quick Katia) and that might have been the root of her problems and the problems of the Freedom defense as a whole. I think the Freedom handles a team with one or two speedsters better than they handle a team where the whole midfield is as small and quick as the midfield was in this one. I look for a better outing in the next one - just might have been a part of a teamwide panic/meltdown in the second half, so Iím not going to take too much from it as to her individual game.
Jones - well, it sure is nice that she and Stoeck seem to be rotating substandard games. I thought she was much improved from the last one. She was winning balls great both in the air and challenging attackers on the ground. In addition, she was taking the ball forward great - dribbled forward through the middle quite a bit in the first half - if theyíre going to give her all that space, then sheís got to make teams pay and I thought she did a good job of that in this one. A lot of the problem in this one is simply that the Freedom didnít have numbers forward . . . ever. So when she (or Abby, or Mia, or Lindsey, or Jacqui, or Emmy) would get forward they would be all alone and it would be a wasted possession. Honestly, as much as Iíve been ripping on the defense, what I thought was most troubling about this game was that the Freedom was having a lot of trouble getting numbers forward. There was just no one to pass to far too often - a singular player making a run forward. This is what Iím talking about with possession without purpose. If the goal of possession isnít to put it in the back of the net, then exactly what is the point. Here, on Steffiís runs forward, I was left wondering, where are the forwards - Freedom only run two up top, and she got ahead of them and then boom - possession without purpose, thereís nothing good to do with the ball at that point. I think part of this is that they are having trouble with that last pass, I think somewhere in the back of Miaís, Abbyís and Jacquiís heads is the knowledge that theyíre having trouble with that last pass and they hold up on some runs so they donít get caught offsides. They feel that no one is going to protect them with a timely through ball so the runs just donít get made. Again, something to work on. Once they start putting those balls through, the players will run onto them . . . Quite the digression once again - back to Steffi - solid game, great in the air, great getting forward, great takeaways - solid game.
Lindsey - Her goal was the best in the run of play for the Freedom in a while. First one all season that hasnít been just individual effort - it was great combination play from Jacqui and Lori. Fantastic pass from Little and nice finish by Lindsey - you canít draw Ďem up any prettier than that one played out. Good job, glad to see her get on the board. Overall, I thought her game was quite a bit better than the last time out - she just had more touches on the ball - inserted herself into the offense more. She and Jacqui were on the same side of the field for longer stretches in this one and she did connect with Abby and Mia a few times as well. This whole chemistry on offense thing might take some time - and because there really is no overriding offensive system with the Freedom, it will take them a bit longer than most other teams. In the meantime, they have some nice isolated combination play, theyíre getting a bit better possession-wise and I have to assume eventually, theyíll be possessing in the offensive third some too. And of course, they seem to get the individual efforts and lucky breaks they need to be successful. As for her playing up top in the closing minutes of the game, she was actually a lot more active than Jacqui was. She put in some nice minutes up there - in my opinion, if a switch was going to be made it was pretty ridiculous it wasnít Mia who moved up, but Lindsey did a good job. Nice game.
Mia - Well - still hating her in the midfield, but she is tremendous defensively. Ya know, I was watching an offensive minded midfielder on NY (Janss) playing some of the worst defense Iíve seen an attacking type midfielder play, so I really do appreciate what Mia brings to the table here, but itís just such a waste. As for Mia being a playmaker, no, sheís not. Sheís a forward playing in the midfield, sheís not a player looking to involve everyone, sheís not a player looking two passes ahead, sheís simply not a table setting midfielder. She is the goal scorer and/or the assist, sheís not the one who anonymously sets the table for everyone else, itís just not her game. Sheís not organizing the offense, her dangerous moments offensively remain in the attacking third in either a 1 v. 1 situation, or a pass to a target, and sheís really not making much of an impact offensively outside of about 25-30 yards out . . . exactly where sheíd make an impact if she were playing up top - except that if she were playing up top, sheíd be in a position to make that impact a heck of a lot more often than she was able to in this one. Again, the defense she was playing was outstanding - she was probably the best defender on the field - the workrate is tremendous . . . offensively though, for the second game in row, she had far too few touches, she was playing way too deep and as I was wondering why no one was in the box to receive a pass, I couldnít help but wonder if Mia was playing up top, would she be testing that backline. I donít like it. Going back to last year, Freedom goals in the run of play have been scarce, itís mostly been set pieces. The goals that have been scored in the run of play have mostly been about individual effort - I find it hard to believe theyíre going to make it through another season like this and I donít know why it is the most prolific goal scorer in the world whose game you want to adjust rather than adjusting your offense to fit her. But then again, Freedom won, theyíve scored 7 goals in 3 games, so itís working. I think itís a waste, I think the Freedom would be a much more dynamic team with her up top and if they had a true playmaker, but thereís no denying itís working. I certainly hope it continues.
J. Little - great assist on the goal. Precision pass to Lindseyís head - good stuff. Other than that, she had a relatively quiet outing. Just not a lot of touches on the ball, and she wasnít testing that defense at all. I remember seeing Abby running all over the place pressuring that defense, and Jacqui was nowhere to be seen. This 4-2-2-2 formation is already such a defensive posture, it really is incumbent on the two front runners to stay forward or there simply are no numbers on offense. Thatís what I think happened here, Jacqui was playing too deep and maybe too afraid of the offside call. While I recognize the Freedom arenít ever going to have much offensive shape, they simply are going to have to have more than they showed in this one. Itís tough to score when only Abby is up top and itís really easy for teams to key in on and abuse the big girl terribly. All the abuse Abby took, if someone else would make some runs at the defense, maybe they wouldnít be able to hammer her quite so much and quite so often. Maybe if someone else would make those runs, Abby would have some place to quickly go with that ball so the ref would have to call some of the abuse heaped on her - they canít hit her if she doesnít have the ball. Abbyís a big sturdy girl, but if Jacquiís going to be running up top with her, then she needs to run up top with her and not leave her out there hanging all alone so much. Great assist, but otherwise a very quiet outing where she failed to get forward.
Wambach - my goodness she was getting hammered. It was a full on game of whack-a-wambach out there. Itís up to another attacker to make them pay for keying in on her so much and unfortunately, Abby was the only Freedom player in the attacking third far too often. Like I said, sheís a big girl and I realize no one is too worried about her well being like they are worried about Miaís, but dang, someoneís got to step up and protect her better than that. She gets attacked like she does because she has to hold the ball. She has to hold the ball because none of her teammates are moving forward with her. Abby at her best is a very fast one or two touch player. She needs some help, she needs some teammates running up top who can play as fast as she does so that the ball either comes to her or come from her in one or two touches. The switch of Little and Lindsey late in the game helped a little but not nearly enough. As for her game, her workrate was great, she pressured the defenders and Beene the entire game and brought that pressure D into the midfield and she was often the sole player forward for the Freedom. And the few times she didnít manage to get all the way back up top after helping defensively in the midfield or winning and flicking one of Siriís kicks, well, in those instances there was generally no one forward at all. That needs to change - hopefully time will take care of it, but in this one, a lot of Abbyís efforts were wasted. Solid game, great defensively on set pieces, great pressuring the defenders, good getting forward for much of the day. Not much else. Iím sure there were lots and lots of ice bags with her name on them after this one, and hopefully someone else will give her some support in the next one so the target on her back isnít painted quite so brightly.
Gerardo - I lost her - by the time she entered the game, the CRays were going so fast and furious toward goal I was just wincing and hoping the Freedom would get out with the win. She did have some timely takeaways, sadly, I think she had one terribly untimely giveaway as well. Stoeck was having some trouble in this one though, so the sub didnít disappoint me too much. Ya know, with her impending departure, the defensive midfield all of a sudden becomes painfully thin for the Freedom. I guess you could put Zimny in on defense and move Grubb up, but dang, Stoeck and Steffi better stay real healthy . . . and they better play real well.
Golebiowski - Well I was anxious to see our new Aussie and she did not disappoint. Brought a tremendous amount of energy, and despite being a skinny little thing, sheís pretty fearless challenging attackers. She made some nice takeaways. Sheís got good speed, a great workrate, sheís pretty tough. Freedom were pretty much on their heels by the time she got in, but I saw enough to make me quite curious about what she can add to the Freedom attack. Hopefully, it will be a lot of speed and excitement
Beene - I donít have much - she really didnít have a ton that was dangerous coming at her. She made a nice save on that Abby header if I recall correctly. I really am completely blanking out here. Iíll have to take a pass. I think there might be several CRays players I have to take a pass on.
Sanchez - I thought she had a very nice offensive outing. She owned that right flank. Very active in the offense. Minus the handball (if youíre going to bring the ball down with your shoulder 1) donít do it in the box, and 2) donít be quite that obvious about it) I thought she had a solid outing. Freedom really only beat them on the goal and toward the end when they had everyone forward, but other than that, there was very little that was dangerous in the Raysí defensive third. So as a unit, I have to give the Ray defense a thumbs up. Overall good game - not much else.
Bryan - again, solid defensively - I have very little. Not much support to the attack, but there rarely is from her - she defends, putting her in the middle negates some of the liability she is serving the ball in that she really doesnít have to lend a ton of support on that count. I think I donít have just oodles to say about the defenders in this one because I donít think the Freedom gave them tons to do. Abby was pressuring up top, but midfielders seemed to hack her and take her down before she could do too much damage.
Chastain - I guess Iíll talk about it here since she is so renowned for her heading prowess. 19 corner kicks . . . 19 corner kicks . . . 19 . . . corner . . . kicks . . . . And itís not just that they didnít score, they rarely won a ball on those. There were a couple where they just completely mistimed some jumps. I realize the Freedom are tall and they defend these corners well, but dang, 19? The offense did a heck of a job earning those, and to make nothing of 19 corner kicks - well, I donít have to think too hard to figure out what theyíre going to be working on in practice this week. And for the bicycle kicks to be so plentiful is gratuitous - one of those she booted right back across the face of her own goal - seeing that kind of cute play on the offensive end is one thing, but there were two of those in her own box in this one. One of those balls wound up as a Freedom corner and if the Freedom had any players forward it very well could have been a point blank shot right back at Beene. In the box in front of your own keeper is not the time to hit a ball in a fashion that you canít control - itís just not smart and I donít expect to see Brandi do it again. On a less soccer/more human note, it was nice to see her out there - sheís definitely had a rough year and as always, as a fan, I wish her well (and as someone who really doesnít care if the ball winds up in the back of the CRays net - take all the bicycle kicks you want if it makes you happy, hon . . . ). So, overall - disappointing set piece night for the whole team, but a very solid defensive performance from Brandi - Iíd just prefer a little less "cute" in front of her own goal. And yes, I know it was a difficult day for the Rays, especially for the captain. I hope it gets easier - I truly do and Iím rootiní for them against everyone but the Freedom.
French - Kind of the same comments I had re Sanchez - French didnít really own the left flank to quite the degree Sanchez did the right, but she was getting forward well and seems to combine with Barnes fairly nicely. While Sanchez looked good individually, I think French combines a bit better with her teammates - which makes some sense considering Keri is the newcomer. French also cuts inside and provides some support up the middle very nicely as well - very aggressive into the midfield defensively helping out too. Most of the Freedom attack was stopped before it got to the attacking third, French pushing into the midfield and causing turnovers there was a reason for that. Overall just a nice solid effort. Itís rarely spectacular with French, but you know what youíre going to get every night out and she provided her typical consistent and solid game in this one.
Barr - she was playing a bit withdrawn from the other midfielders and was cluttering up the center of the field. She had some nice takeaways on the ground and reads passing lanes pretty well - intercepted a lot of Freedom ground passes. Having a little trouble winning some of those air balls versus Stoeck and Jones, though. Heart can get you a lot of places, but it canít put 4-5 inches on ya. She wasnít providing great service out of the midfield. She seems to be playing a defensive midfielder role so she needs to provide some good balls from deep in the midfield. Actually, most balls out of the back, either from defenders or from Barr were flying over the forwards or flying out of bounds. They were having a tough time connecting on those long balls. Seeing that both forwards are players who prefer to have the ball at their feet, and seeing that their midfield is very small . . . and is also comprised of players who prefer the ball at their feet (at least until Tish got in) flying those balls in like that might not have been the best idea. I understand that teams are going to try to do that to the Freedom to test the speed on the backline, but unless you put that ball so far over the top that you clear the very tall Freedom defensive midfielders, then I donít think that strategy is going to be terribly successful. When you put that ball up, my moneyís on Grubb, Stoeck and Jones to win it before the other guys even have a chance to test their speed. Itís going to be tough to get behind the trees with the ball without putting it over the endline or leading your forwards offside. Honestly, in the second half, I didnít notice that they were doing that too much anymore though so they might have figured it out on their own. All that said, Barr, whether it be balls in the air, or simply changing the point of the attack, needs to contribute a bit more offensively if the Rays are going to have any kind of a quick counter attack. Third game of her career though, I think sheís going to be a nice solid player in the league. Definitely has the workrate already and some nice defensive skills. Just needs to fine tune things a bit.
Pretinha - she was playing in what appeared to be an attacking midfield role yet her workrate defensively was outstanding. After she stepped into the passing lanes and intercepted about the third of fourth ball of the day I started wondering exactly who was this player and why didnít she ever appear for the Freedom. She was very simply the most dominating offensive player out there. She was all over the field, creating for her teammates, dribbling forward and creating opportunities for herself, working very well with Clemens, Sanchez and of course, Katia. Just a great game - it no longer surprises me to see the players who underperformed in DC thrive in other venues, but dang, this looked like a different player. Excellent game - if she keeps playing like she did in this one, sheís going to make a lot of noise in the league this year.
Sissi - Uhhh - Iím gonna get attacked by CyberRay fans, I know it, but uhhhh, it might be time. You know what time. Time for the aging player to realize that sheís the aging player and consider hanging them up or a new role. All of last year I felt it, and I felt it here too. She is just a nonfactor out there. Sure, sometimes youíll see flashes of what she was, but sheís not the dominating playmaker or player with the ball at her feet she once was. She wasnít combining well with her teammates and the few serves I saw her take werenít hitting their marks. And the set pieces, the showcase of her game, the stuff that made her little bald head famous in this country, were not just scintillating in this one. She really didnít provide anything out there and nothing underscored that more than Pretinhaís performance - this is the kind of performance Sissi used to have - and itís the kind of performance I havenít seen from her since season 1. Now that Iíve said this, sheíll probably hit a game winning goal for the Rays in the next one, but if Iím a Rays fan, Iím anxiously awaiting Tishís full recovery and return to the starting line up. It might be time for Tish too, I have no idea, but I would at least want to see something different out there.
Barnes - She was pretty active out there. Part of the second half onslaught. She got forward well, pushed up and in often. French would fill in behind her - nice shift, decent offensive shape. She looked good in the second half when Clemens went out and she moved up top. Just a nice outing - the Rays put on quite the show in the second half - if I wasnít a Freedom fan Iíd think it was a shame they didnít net one - they certainly had the run of play in the second and probably deserved at least one.
Katia - Well - I donít really have anything here I havenít already said. Minus the finishing, the CRay offense had a great second half. She was a big part of that. My only issue is what Iíve already discussed - while I have seen her score some great goals with her head, sheís appears most comfortable and most dangerous with the ball at her feet taking on players. It seemed to me they didnít let her do that enough in this one. Pretinha was tearing through the Freedom midfield and defense, I felt they should have turned Katia loose a bit more as well. I donít really have a lot more than that. Nice game, need to work on the finishing and as one of the taller players on the team, she needs to work on having a bigger role on those corner kicks. It seems that playing her physically on those set pieces takes her out of the mix - she needs to stand her ground and be a bit more formidable. Rays did a great job earning those corners - they really do need to find a way to capitalize. Theyíre going to be able to do to New Yorkís defense what they did to the Freedomís. Admittedly, they probably wonít get 19 corners again, but their team speed will put those Power defenders on their heels and they will put it over the endline more than they should - Rays need to be ready make more of it.
Clemens - I like her workrate, sheís got a motor that doesnít stop. Didnít notice that sheís combining real well with her teammates though. I thought she was playing a tad too deep as well. Like with the Freedom, when youíre running two forwards up top, those forwards need to stay forward. Sanchez looked like she got ahead of her more than a few times and I just donít know where she went on those plays. Might take a few weeks to integrate the new faces into the offense. Sheís another one who needs the ball played on the ground. Ya know, if they wanted to take advantage of their speed against the Freedom, through balls on the ground would have been better than the over the top approach. Guess they did do that a little in the second half, but using Clemens to test the restraining line in the first probably would have been a good idea. Let her and Katia switch sides for a bit and run her at Skylar, or between Skylar and Moore, would have been interesting. With all the focus on Katia, I think theyíll be able to slot her in spaces if one of the middies is thinking to put the ball through at the right times . . . maybe when Tish gets back to full strength. Not much else - I warned you my CRay section would be thin on any interesting content.
Cook - Ya know, I thought she looked great. Thought she brought a great offensive spark when she came in and played some nice defense. She brought the ball right through the middle of the field on several occasions and I was thinking to myself, "so we kept Gerardo, and we let her go . . . even without the retirement, exactly why was that decision made?" Sheís just a smart player who will never ever hurt you and sometimes can help in surprising ways. I thought her offense through the middle of the field was the surprising plus in this one. Pushed pace, pushed the ball forward, kept up the relentlessness that had the Freedom on their heels. I donít know, maybe I expected too little, but I was impressed with what she brought to the field when she came in. Glad to see her doing well - I think most of us Freedom types were quite fond of Cook and just as with Frenchie, itís nice to see her have some success back in San Jose.
Bell - I actually thought that her coming in was the beginning of the end of San Joseís onslaught. I think once they switched to three in the back, the Freedom saw an opening and actually started playing again instead of just surviving. Mia sure perked up in the last 10 minutes, thatís for sure. She just didnít seem to fit with what the team was doing. She almost would have been better suited to being in there in the first half when they were flighting those balls forward rather than in the second when it was a mad scramble through the midfield and into the box barreling toward goal. Sheís not exactly a mad scrambler. I donít have much else. Not really in there long enough or while the offense was organized enough to have a whole lot on her individual performance.
And that is it. Fun second half played at a breakneck pace. True, most of the fun was the Raysí but thereís not denying it was an exciting edge of your seat second half. I hate that Siri has to play games like she played in this one, but itís fun for the fans to watch. Just great stuff from her. And I realize I did a whole lot of complaining about the Freedom in this thing, but the fact that theyíre 3-0 isnít lost on me - just as it isnít lost on me that it looked just like this when they got to the Founderís Cup last year. So I guess Iíll just smile, shake my head and repeat, it doesnít have to be pretty, you just have to win. Freedom are winning and Iíll take it - and Iíll just hold my breath right along with them in the second half of these games and hope it continues. I donít know whatís going to happen when Atlanta comes to town, but I have a feeling whatever it is, itís going to be interesting . . . very very interesting. Should be a fun one to watch.