Bellevue 3-2 Liberty
2nd min BHS 0-1 Liberty goal
16th min BHS 0-2 Liberty goal
34th min BHS 1-2 Alex (Maddy) corner
58th min BHS 2-2 Alex (Saleen)
81st min BHS 3-2 Lillian (Saleen & Alex)
The coaching staff spent a lot of time thinking about how to approach our last regular season game against a very good Liberty team. For league standings, the result didn't matter. However, I'm a firm believer that momentum does matter, and as long as we were going to take a long twisty bus ride to the Renton hills, we should treat the game like a serious dress rehearsal for our upcoming playoff campaign. Full commitment. And those were our marching orders as we took the field on the first really cold and chilly evening of our season. The Liberty Stadium is beautiful, but sits in a little valley and it feels like the field is 10 degrees colder than the published temperature. And that's exactly how we looked as the referee blew his whistle for kick-off: cold. Arms folded across jerseys. fingers pulling on long sleeves and shoulders scrunched up around our ears as if that would add a few degrees of body warmth. And so it wasn't surprising that we played like we looked: cold. On the other side, Liberty came out buzzing, their excellent midfield passing and moving in constant triangles with their spacing discipline giving them quick switch opportunities with every possession. And that's how they scored their opening goal in just the 2nd minute, we pressed as a pack on our right wing but Liberty was able to break the press and find their midfielder for a quick switch to their left winger. Our defensive angles were wrong, the winger charged into our box and hit a wonderful shot into the upper right corner. Unstoppable shot, but our slowness in defensive shifting created the space for the Liberty opportunity. Again, we looked cold.
And in the 16th minute, we dug ourselves a deeper hole. Again, Liberty rotated the ball to their left winger, we didn't close the space quick enough, and the winger hit a speculative shot from 40 yards that arced high in the chilly air...before bouncing into the back of the net. For those of you who have watched Ted Lasso, you'll probably remember Ted's speech about "being a goldfish." That having the short memory of a goldfish enables us to move on without any lasting repercussions. Mistakes happen in soccer. I would even argue that mistakes should be encouraged in soccer (at least for the first time of trying...) because that means we are attempting new things and gaining valuable experience. But sometimes we just need to forget and move on. This is one of those times. Goldfish. Enough said. Bellevue 0-2.
Then, 0-2 down, we finally began to warm up and slowly impose ourselves on the game. I liked that we didn't panic or try to score three goals with every kick of the ball. There was plenty of time to rectify the situation, but we did need to increase our overall tempo. And we did. In the 34th minute our increased pressure and ball possession got us back into the game. We earned a corner, and as we saw twice against MI on Tuesday, Maddy delivered an excellent ball into a dangerous area and Alex rose highest to head the ball firmly into the net. Bellevue 1-2. Halftime.
We made some adjustments at halftime, but mostly the message was about intensity and tight organization. Liberty's triangle of midfielders is really good, but due to their style of play, they have to cover a lot of territory to make their system work. And that's tiring. And so we consistently rotated our midfield and wingers, and wore them down with switch passing of our own. The midfield spaces got wider and wider. One of the obvious strengths of our team is that we aren't a starting 11, we are a team. And that enables us to keep legs fresher than most of our opponents. And so in the 58th minute, Kenny won the ball in midfield with a first-time pass to Saleen who turned deftly and released Alex down the left with an incisive backdoor pass. Alex took a touch to settle and blasted a low hard shot with her left foot that was too much for the keeper to stop. Bellevue 2-2.
Momentum is real. And it matters. But facing must-win games next Monday, neither coach wanted an extra 10 minutes of overtime for a game that wouldn't change the overall standings. Digging deep to get a result is a collective skill that is often required in November high school soccer. And so we pressed on and I was pleased to see that the quality of our soccer got better and better. We created several excellent chances to get the game-winner in the last phase of the game, but the net didn't bulge until the 81st minute, well into the three added minutes of injury time. Lily threw the ball into Saleen down our right side and our freshman midfielder spun and took a touch into the box surrounded by four Liberty defenders. Saleen was quick enough to launch a low hard shot that the keeper was able to parry onto the far post, but the rebound seemed destined to be cleared by a well-positioned defender; however, Alex lunged to her full length and somehow got a big toe to the ball, poking it to Lillian at the top of the box...and Lillian didn't hesitate but opened her body and sent a perfectly struck banger to the upper right corner. Pandemonium. Bellevue 3-2 with almost the last kick of the ball. Final score.
Momentum is real. And although we started slowly. Coldly. we found a way to get the job done. And that is an experience that should help us as we enter the tournament phase of our season. Safety nets are removed and every game is an opportunity to progress towards our ultimate goal.
Our game statistics reflected how the game felt. 15/5 shots/corners to 7/3 for Liberty with most of our statistical advantage coming in the second half. Not overwhelming, but enough to get across the line. As some of you know, my pre-season statistical expectation for this Bellevue team was to average 20 shots and 5 corners per game while allowing 4 shots and 1 corner for the opposition over the full course of the season. I believe in probabilities and that's a winning formula. Our final regular season statistics after last night:
Goals per game: 3.68 (56 goals in 16 games..all-time high)
Opposition Shots: 3.06
Opposition Corners: 0.94
Opposition Goals per game: 0.56 (9 goals in 16 games)
Spooky. And the first time a BGS varsity team exceeded every team KPI I had set in preseason.
Now we tear up the stats of the past and focus on one game at a time. Past stats don't win games, players do. To that end, we'll welcome several JV players from our Kingco champion junior varsity squad who will join us for our playoff run. We can roster 22 players for each playoff game, and that roster can change from game to game, so we carry slightly more than that for the duration of the playoffs so that we have maximum flexibility in case of injuries, match-ups, etc. There was a very long list of JV players who were ready for varsity-level play (our JV team is full of talent), but we selected our call-ups based on positional needs and season-long performances. Most importantly, congratulations to our JV team for an excellent season. I watched every minute, and they played beautiful soccer. The future of the BGS program is strong.
Our total focus is now on Lake Washington on Monday night. As I wrote last week, beware the angry kangaroo. And their pride will have taken a punch after the 7-0 result we put on them last time we met. So I expect an angry mob of kangaroos on Monday (yes, a group of Kangeroos is called a "mob"...).
We'll be ready. Momentum is real.
The magic number is five