Bellevue 2-0 Juanita
The great Dutch player and manager Johan Cruyff once said, "Football is simple, but it is difficult to play simple." It is a paradox of our sport that when players do the seemingly simple things well (move, trap & pass), and avoid undue complexity (over-dribbling, low-percentage "hero" passes), the game actually becomes more beautiful and nuanced. It is more fun to play (and to watch). And there were long long stretches in the game versus Juanita that we played with a beautiful simplicity.
Our previous Juanita game was one of the bruises on our record that hurt the most. We lost 0-1 to an organized Rebels team despite outshooting them 25-5. Therefore our challenge to the players was to rectify that result on our home turf. There was the added incentive that if we prevailed, we would mathematically secure a spot in the 3A Kingco championship game versus no1 seed MI next Tuesday evening for an automatic birth into the state playoffs. So the game had some added pressure, as will every game we play for the rest of our season. And our team responded to the pressure well.
Playing simple on offense requires that we are playing with equal discipline on defense, working hard for each other, stepping forward into challenges, and winning our duels. And our first goal featured all of the above: on a Juanita throw-in, Kendall challenged for the ball with commitment, she didn't win it, but the challenge itself was important because Julia was in a perfect cover position behind. Instead of trying to do too much with the ball deep in her own defensive third, Julia delivered a crisp one-touch pass to Izzy's feet that bypassed 5 Juanita defenders (almost half of Juanita's team was suddenly on the wrong side of the ball from one direct composed pass). Izzy turned smoothly upfield and with her third touch found a sprinting Claire on the right wing. Claire took a touch to set-up her shot, and blasted the ball into the upper left corner of the goal. Each skill required for the goal was relatively simple, but when blended together with good timing, it was beautiful. 1-0 BHS after 14 minutes.
In the 53rd minute, we added our insurance. The root causes were similar: good aggressive team defense and incisive passing. From right fullback, Claire anticipated a Juanita entry pass and stepped into space in front of her forward to win the ball. Running at pace at a defense that was moving the opposite direction just a split-second before is an attacking players dream (which is why front-foot defending is so important, it launches counter-attacks...). Claire made the most of it, continuing up the right flank before sliding a ball into Grace's feet. The Juanita defender attempted to shield Grace away from the ball, but Grace wasn't to be denied, strongly side-stepping the challenge and finishing past the Rebel keeper from point-blank range. 2-0 and that effectively ended the game.
The statistics supported what we witnessed on the field (21/6 shots/corners vs. 2/0 for Juanita): a complete performance both offensively and defensively. Next up: undefeated MI for senior night on Thursday in a preview of the Kingco championship game to be played five days later. I know our girls will be up for the challenge.
But especially for a 2 shot shutout in what was essentially a playoff game. Well done IssyS, Isabelle, Audrey, Julia, Zoe, Kaatje, Court, and Claire along our backline. Our middies were tough and composed all night, Halle, Kendall, IzzyB, AnnaB and Court controlled the midfield, challenged for every aerial, and switched the point of attack out of congested areas. Our attacking players checked back into space when appropriate, and created good angles for combination play: Grace, AllyS, Malena, Claire, Kaia, Del and Taylor all worked hard up front when given the opportunity. It was a great team win with lots of solid play from all of our players.