Bellevue 3-0 Interlake
Every team in Kingco deserves our respect, none more so than the Saints who entered our game with a 3-0 record on Tuesday night having scored 16 goals and allowed only 2 before arriving at Bellevue Stadium. The Interlake team is organized, quick and determined, so we knew we had to stay focused on a wet and rainy evening that made the ball difficult to control. Difficult, but not impossible. And as I told the girls before we kicked off in a driving rainstorm, a slick surface favors a possession team who likes to play to feet. And so it went.
Our first 20 minutes were excellent as we moved the ball quickly and efficiently. Halle, Paige and Hinana were terrific, getting everyone involved, switching play repeatedly, and winning the ball in midfield when required. We had several opportunities to score before earning our first corner kick at the 10th minute. Ally fired a perfect corner into a dangerous area and Julia headed it into the back of the net for our first official goal of the season (well done Julia). It was great execution on a set-piece we had worked on repeatedly during our pre-season camp. Then in the 26th minute, Kennedy made a great run on the left wing and Halle found her with a superb lofted pass into space. Instead of rushing the play, Kennedy cut back and slid a patient square ball to Mo who timed her late-arriving run to perfection. Sometimes the simplest moves are the most effective, and because Kennedy's pass was the right weight, Mo was able to open her hips as if about to hit a shot, but then smoothly cut back to her left leaving two Saints defenders frozen before calmly depositing the ball into the lower right corner. We are constantly talking about how we want to play quickly, but not in a hurry, and Kennedy and Mo's combination play was exactly that...quick, but measured, calm and ruthless in its effectiveness. Our last goal was scored on the stroke of half-time as Taylor played an excellent ball centrally to a diagonally running Mo who earned her brace with a stonker of shot in the upper right hand corner that left the Interlake keeper no chance. Beautiful.
Our three goal halftime lead gave us the opportunity to experiment with players in different combinations and positions. We are blessed to have a roster of 19 soccer players...not specialists, but girls who can slot in at several different positions and be effective. So we rotated the squad. Kennedy played several positions. Paige played in three roles. Our CB Audrey, took a shift at striker. Yes, it's true that over the season we'll settle into the familiarity and mutual understanding of certain roles, but coaches love it when they have the flexibility to rotate a team and plug several players into many positions. It makes us much more dangerous as a team. Recognition of space is important whether you are playing winger, center midfield or fullback. Covering and playing a pressing "front-footed" defense is important everywhere on the field. Soccer players can play anywhere on the field. And I'm thrilled to have 19 soccer players on my roster this year.
On Thursday we visit title-aspirants LW. The Kangs are always tough and well organized and should be among the top teams in the state this year. We enter the game with respectful confidence. I'm looking forward to another excellent game.
175. That's how many minutes we have not allowed a goal to open our season. It isn't probable that we'll go an entire season without allowing a goal (but that would be cool), but if we can log several long stretches of shut-out soccer during our season, our team will continue to be successful. Our defenders and goalkeepers are pivotal to this effort, but good team defense requires exactly that...gritty participation and attitude from the entire team. Job well done to Ava, Audrey, Julia, Court, Kaatje, Imme, Chloe & Paige for anchoring our backline, and to Ashley and Izzy for combining for another shutout. D stars with pressure up front, and Ally, Mo, Rebecca, Taylor, Kennedy, Court & Paige all contributing with good pressure up front, which makes it easier for those behind them in the formation.
16/9 vs. 2/2. That's our shot/corner ratio against Interlake. My goal for this team is to average 15 shots per game with less than 5 allowed across the entire season. Last night was good start in that direction.
The 12. Coaches describe positions in a formation using numbers 1-11. For instance, the #6 and #8 are our holding midfielders, our #9 is our striker. But in a long season, the #12 is the most important. In a team, sometimes our role is to be a starter, and sometimes our role is to be a substitute. If the latter, I ask our girls to be prepared, engaged, and ready to positively contribute when called upon. Everyone did exactly that on Tuesday, but I was especially proud of Kennedy's assist on Mo's first goal, both players had been on the field for just a handful of minutes before changing the game for the better. Likewise, Taylor's perfectly weighted assist to Mo just before half-time came just a few minutes after she entered the game as a sub. Kudos to our players coming off the bench for making a profound difference in the outcome.