Bellevue 1-1 OT Mercer Island
Rivalry games are so weird. It's the same sport, with the same rules, with the same soccer ball, as we have played for our previous 7 games during this season; but somehow, when we take the field against the girls in maroon and white, the contest devolves into a nervously feral bootfest. Passes that we normally complete go slightly off-target and simple ball control seems more difficult. I suppose "poise" and "rivalry" aren't often seen in the same sentence together, let alone on a soccer field. Of course, we also get added drama, tension, hard-tackling, and desire to win. It makes for a game that crashes more than it flows.
That all being said, our first half was solid, as we didn't allow MI a single chance on our goal. However, we weren't exactly creating an avalanche of offense ourselves either. I counted 4 real opportunities, with Hinana's pass to Mo at the top of the box, and Kennedy's beautiful cross to Chloe our best looks at opening the scoring. The second half started similarly, we were in control, but still too sloppy compared to our lofty standards so far this year. Paige overlapped down our right wing effectively, creating several near chances for Ally and Chloe, but we couldn't quite find the final shot. Every team in Kingco is good enough that if you let them in the game for too long, there can be consequences, and so in the 67th minute, MI scored with their first attempt of the night. Consequences indeed. Two unsuccessful tackle attempts, a simple pass into space for their left winger, and an easy side-footed pass into our goal. And we were down a goal with 13minutes left in the game.
Suddenly our girls found some urgency. Where this urgency was before the MI goal is a puzzle that the coaching staff is trying to solve. Our overall soccer didn't really improve, we still gave the ball away too easily, but our intensity significantly increased. And that matters. As much as I love to play beautiful and joyful possession soccer, it must always be balanced with aggression, focus and commitment in defense. And with less than a minute from defeat to our rivals, I got a bit of both. Hinana aggressively jumped on a loose ball at midfield, joyfully danced around a defender, slipped the ball to Mo in a crowded penalty box, Mo laid off a poised first-time return pass to a still charging Hinana who calmly stroked the ball past the MI goalkeeper to tie our rivalry game in the most dramatic way possible. (I suppose "poise" and "rivalry" can co-exist in the same sentence...).
The overtime period was uneventful. And the game ended 1-1. Game stats tell a tepid story for both teams: BHS 9/2 shots/corners to MI 2/3.
Given that we aspire to control the ball, I periodically track pass completion percentages for our individual players and team. It's a helpful statistic that still needs lots of interpretation by the coaching staff. For instance, is a player who completes 8/10 passes, but all of them backwards and less than 10yds, better than a player who completes 6/10 passes but who is consistently trying to pry open opposing defenses with pinpoint passes over distance? Maybe, but maybe not. Context matters. So it's useful data, but not comprehensive by any means. The best pro and national teams complete 80-90% of their pass attempts. We should realistically approach 70% given our style of play and overall talent. Less than 50% no matter what position you play, or style, is too low. We were at 66% against MI as a team. Good, but not at our best. And that describes how I felt about last night: good (comeback), but not our best (no shutout, lack of more scoring chances). Good thing that we are only half-way through the league season, and we now have the opportunity to play each team again. We went undefeated in our first half (4-0-2 / W-L-T), but still find ourselves in 2nd place by a point to LW. Our goal is to improve our results in the 2nd half of the season, and that challenge begins on Thursday, away at Interlake.