Bellevue 3-0 Lake Washington
Games versus LW are always competitive and tightly contested affairs. And October match-ups usually have the looming added pressure of league playoff positioning. No different last night as both teams came out with a very organized and controlled tactical game-plan which resulted in a midfield battle that we knew would be decided on just a few moments of either brilliance or nerves. In recognition of the girls who were part of the 2nd half goal explosion versus Interlake, we started the same line-up that scored five times in 20 minutes. We absorbed some early LW pressure, but as the game progressed we began to make headway with good possession at midfield leading to opportunities down our flanks. In the 35th min, Claire was fouled in the LW defensive third wide right after strongly shielding the ball and goading the LW defender into over-aggressiveness. From the resulting free kick, Grace sent a perfect curling cross to the back post where Izzy's timing was equal to the quality of the service as she thundered a volley into net from close range. Disciplined and quality set-pieces are so important to the success of a team over a season. We took our chance well with impeccable timing and great execution.
And just a few minutes later, we scored one of our better team goals of the entire season (allow me to wax poetic for a very long wordy moment): Izzy won the ball at midfield and found Ally's feet wide left. We have been working on getting our wingers to check back to receive the ball (not just sprinting away into space that requires a low-percentage long ball to be successful) so it was great to see Ally check back and Izzy begin her overlap around the outside. Now Ally's attempt to feed Izzy wasn't successful, but her reaction was just what we want to see: Ally didn't pause even for a millisecond to contemplate or mope about the intercepted pass, but instead applied immediate pressure, won the ball back, and then found her opposite winger (also checking laterally for the ball) Claire. Perhaps we need to rename the position of "winger" in our system, for in reality, we need both of our wide attacking players to be checking back inside during a game as it opens up space both up front and behind them (for the striker and fullbacks respectively). Width is important, but intelligent movement is more important. We want passes served to feet in wide areas. So Claire received the ball from AllyS, Halle was already moving forward in support from midfield so that Claire had a simple first-time drop underneath to Halle. This movement released Grace into the space that Claire had just left. Halle made a balanced first-time upfield pass to Grace who took a great first touch and smashed the ball into the upper left corner. What a team goal! Again, the keys: Ally's ball-winning mentality in transition, Claire's checking run inside from her wide wing position, Halle's movement beneath in anticipation, and Grace filling the space behind and composed finish. Beautiful. 2-0 at half.
But a lead at halftime isn't a job done. It's nice, but ultimately counts for absolutely nothing. We challenged the team to finish the job and they did. Again, there weren't many chances in the second half, but when you have a 2-0 lead, the pressure is on the opposing team to create, whereas we needed to keep disciplined and engaged with good shape as our primary directive, with opportunities for counter-attacks that would surely result as LW chased the game. And we did our jobs well. LW had a few shots, but none on goal and only from distance. And in the 66th minute, we put the game to bed on a counter-attack as Julia rumbled her way through midfield going from challenge to challenge and winning every contested ball until she found herself in the clear about 30yds from goal. Julia then passed a very composed ball to Grace's feet who replicated her previous goal with another hard shot that skipped past the LW keeper. 3-0 and job done.
Highlights: Shutouts are cool. Every player contributed to good team defense, but special recognition to our keepers Isabelle & IssyS, as well as the back line of Claire, Imme, Audrey, Julia & Court. But one of the reasons our team D was so stout, is that we are willing to join in the attack from the back and therefore pin opposing teams into their own half. Front foot vs back foot defending is what we want; Our midfielders were so good vs LW that we didn't risk tampering with the growing chemistry and left them in for the entire 80 minutes: well done Kendall, Halle & IzzyB. The balance between all three is getting better and better as they rotate around to create goal-scoring opportunities and to cover for each other; our attack took their chances with another 2-goal and an assist night for Grace, but also solid contributions from Claire, AllyS, Taylor, Malena, Kaatje, Zoe and Kaia. We ask our wingers to do a lot of running, and so that rotation will always be important to our success.