Bellevue 4-1 Sammamish
Almost a week ago, we played really well yet walked off the field with a loss. Tonight, we didn't have our sharpest performance, yet walked off the field with a very flattering 4-1 victory. So I struggle with how to set the tone for this recap. The angel on my shoulder is whispering that our girls worked as hard as always, achieved all of their objectives for this game (win, 3 goal margin, 20+ shots, etc.), and gutted their way to a solid victory when we didn't have our best stuff. Of course, the devil on the other shoulder is sticking me with mental pitch-forks about our sloppy ball control, wasteful shooting and wayward passing that led to Sammamish a goal and several 2nd half opportunities to equalize. On the side of the angels, we didn't have a videographer tonight so I can't stay up late and over-analyze our uneven play. So I'll go with the choir of wings and harps: we did what we needed to do to stay in the chase for the Kingco title. Job done.
The game started brightly, after only seven minutes we worked the ball through to Jo up the left wing, who found Kiley's feet deep in Sammamish territory. Kiley turned inside and crossed to Carly who finished smartly for a 1-0 lead. It was a goal of such simplicity that it is understandable that we might have thought the game would follow a similar pattern: that SHS would capitulate and we would comfortably stroll. But Sammamish didn't capitulate, they continued to battle and disrupt our passing channels. Yes, we launched a season-high 15 shots in the first half, but it didn't feel like domination, it felt wasteful. In fact, it felt like an equalizer was just as likely. But just before the stroke of halftime, we extended our lead to 2-0 as Caylee smashed a clearance from a corner into the back of the Totems net to ease some of the tension.
And despite a 2-0 cushion, we began the 2nd half jittery and continued to make unforced errors, and finally Sammamish punished us, launching a quick handful of shots and earning three corners to begin the half. On the bench, the coaches were whispering how a Totems goal was coming like dark rainclouds on the horizon, and minutes later the storm arrived. We turned the ball over at midfield, the fast-break was on, and suddenly it was 2-1 and Sammamish was joyfully jumping in puddles like little kids in their new rubber rainboots. And they wanted more. The rest of the half was jerky-jerky. Yes, we continued to create chances, but we just couldn't finish, and Sammamish continued to battle. Hard. In fact, the Totems had several gilt-edged chances to equalize, and probably should have done. To be fair, we had plenty of chances too, but our finishing continued to be poor, and the Sammamish goalkeeper contributed a series of very fine saves. With ten minutes left, Delaney followed up a rebound and scored her first goal of the season to relieve the pressure. We added an own-goal from a fine Izzy corner in the last minute and walked off the field with a very very flattering 4-1 win.
After a few hours of reflection, my deepest regret is not rotating the squad more tonight. My game plan going into the game was to spread the minutes around the team as much as possible. Instead, since we were a bit wobbly all over the pitch, and didn't get insurance goals until very very late in the game, I reduced the amount of rotation I had planned. Apologies to those players who didn't see the field today. That's on me. Rotating the squad is important for internal competition, team morale and contingency planning. But when games are tight, and our game versus Sammamish was much much tighter than we anticipated, I tend to make fewer changes in the attempt to find stability and rhythm to break us out of our funk.