FALL SEASON GAME HIGHLIGHTS

10 September vs. Team Zia:

No report forthcoming yet.  Anyone?  Anyone?   Guess not.  Final score: 1-3
17 September vs. Houston City:

Fairly good turnout.  We started one short, but were up to full strength within 10 minutes and ended up with a couple women and three men subs.  The Urbanites controlled most of the game using youth, speed, and passing skills to their advantage.  We did win the percentage game -- half our shots on goal (one by Erin and one by Joe) went in, while only two of their twenty or so shots made it to the net.  Great night by the defense and Geoff to frustrate their attackers.  We had problems getting the ball through their very strong midfield.  However, everyone seemed to agree that we played a good bit better in this game than we did last week.

Of the few bright spots on offense, Erin had a great shot at the goal that was stopped by a good diving save by their keeper, and Dante served up a very pretty pass to Joe who was standing alone just outside the right side of their goal box about midway through the second half.  That produced an easy-looking goal on a rare (for Joe) right-footed shot.  Final score: 1-3
30 September vs. Team Thunder:

This report is from a weak memory, so help me out if I get some of it wrong. We went from having several women subs in the previous game to playing two women short this time.  And, of the three women there, Patti and Debbie had just finished playing an over-30s game.  

We got on the board first at the 15 minute mark with a nice shot by (help me out here) Dante from about 10 yards out.  They evened things up a few minutes later and then went ahead 3-1 with several of many breakaways in the first half.  Ian moved up to striker from sweeper and gave their keeper some worries...and a few bruises.  (A fair challenge from Ian took the keeper out of the game.)  Shortly before that Ian got a sweet goal on a header from a corner kick by...who?...Dante?  Textbook. 

Things got off to a decent start in the second half when Dante caught Thunder's new keeper out of position and threaded one in off the left post, tying the game at 3 each. They added another on a breakaway, followed almost immediately by Dante's third(?!) goal -- this one from the left side at what looked like a near-impossible angle.  Unfortunately, the donner-heads scored again shortly before the end of the game.

Playing shorthanded sure took its toll, especially since both Patti and Debbie were worn out when the game started.  We had many, many chances to score that...well...just wouldn't go in.  Obviously, Dante had a great game.  Others played heroically as well -- Steve had a good game filling in at midfield most of the time, Ian had several great shots, and Debbie had several chances as well.  

The defense had their hands full with a couple very fleet enemy strikers.  Still, even shorthanded, Vincent, Matt, Jonathan, and Ian (when he wasn't terrorizing the keepers) did a noteworthy job.  Patti played well when she was upright, and Catherine had a good time harassing folks in the midfield.  Geoff didn't have that bad a night -- most of the goals were one-on-ones, and he stopped a fair number of those.  Final score: 4-5.
  8 October vs. Houston City:

Feast and famine people-wise.  This time we had 20 folks at the game with three women and six men subs.  Yikes!  Unfortunately, let's see...what did I say when we played them three weeks ago?  "The Urbanites controlled most of the game using youth, speed, and passing skills to their advantage."  Well, that pretty well summed it up this time too.  

We did win the percentage contest again with one of our three shots going in, whereas the downtown folks only got four out of 20.  Hah!  Showed them, eh?  Actually, our goal was quite the pretty thing -- Dante got the ball out to Steve, who drew their defense over to the right side of the penalty box before chipping it back into the middle where Dante had enough time to stop it, turn and put it into the net.  That evened the score at one each early in the second half and gave some hope.  We were doing well to only be down by one up to that point.  Unfortunately, they added another one a few minutes later, and scored twice more before the end of the game.  We were having trouble putting passes together and we were rarely able to get the ball through their midfield.  Bill and Debbie did have a good shot or two, but their women were largely kicking our guys' butts.  Patti was overheard saying, "what high school do these kids go to?"  At least this is the last time we'll play them this season. 

Well, let's see...Patti managed to stay upright most of the game.  Lots of trading out due to the large numbers. Steve, Laura, Debbie and Bill rotated at striker; Laura, Catherine, Brian, Dante, Raoul, Erin, Maria, Joe and Charlie worked at halfback; and Jonathan, Vincent, Ian, Marina, Matt, Jihan and Patti had their work cut out at defense. Welcome back to Jihan, Erin, Laura and Brian after being out for a few weeks.  Better luck next time.  Final score: 1-4.
  21 October vs. Stingers:

This one was a feast goal-wise.  Decent turnout for an early Sunday game -- we started with a woman sub, and three extra guys.  Patti and Debbie had both played about half a dozen games each over the weekend, and Patti actually played in four games on Sunday. 

Everyone had a great night at the same time and the score reflected our harmony.  Raoul got things started at the 15 minute mark on a TV highlight-quality half volley into the net (a good thing in soccer, as opposed to tennis) from the top of the box on the left side.  Not two minutes later Charlie chipped one over the Stingerees' keeper, just under the bar, for an equally pretty goal.  Our last score of the half came on what was actually an own-goal off one of their defenders (set up by a lovely cross from Lisa).  However, had their fullback missed the ball, Joe probably would have gotten it in.  Speaking of Joe, he erupted late in the first half -- taking strong shots from outside the 18 that just missed.  His performance culminated about 25 minutes into the second half when he got two nice goals (and left-footed too) about two minutes apart.  The second of these appeared to take their keeper completely by surprise because he probably could have stopped it if he'd reacted in time.

We dominated most of the game, mainly due to great overlapping play between the midfielders and forwards, and a great coordinated effort from the defense.  All goals scored by our team were put in by midfielders, with help from the front line.  In this game, the center midfielders Charlie, Dante, Raoul and Joe, really controlled the pace, while Lisa provided the link to the forwards much of the time.  For that matter she supplied a good portion of the defense as well.  Debbie and Lisa teamed up to torment Stingers' defense with numerous runs down the right side that resulted in many opportunities.  Brian (playing in the striker slot) had several good chances too -- both directly on goal, and via some quality passing.  Ian (swapping off with Brian at striker) should have an assist on their own goal as he grazed Lisa's cross with his head an instant before their defender nailed it into the goal.  Even though he didn't score this time, Dante's passing set up at least two of the goals in one of his better efforts in memory.  Catherine played a solid game at left half, overlapping to fill the gap directly behind the front line of several occasions and running seemingly tirelessly the whole game.  Raoul was as solid in the midfield as ever, and even though a second half volley (a mirror image of the first goal) didn't go in, he had several other nice chances and distributed the ball well, as did Charlie.  

The defense really kicked ass this time too, with Vincent and Jonathan anchoring the center, and Laura, Jihan and Patti protecting the flanks.  Virtually nothing got through, including a PK that Geoff stopped handily in a bizarre situation where, down 3-0, Stingers' had a guy take the shot.  Go figure.  Vincent did a great job making sure their star player (a particularly dangerous woman) didn't get any decent shots off.  (One of the more paranoid members of team management was convinced that she was going to score otherwise.)  Jonathan had a particularly good night and made several overlapping runs at their goal from his stopper slot.  Jihan, Patti and Laura also did well against Slinkers'  male forwards after they tried to get mismatches by putting them up against our women defenders.  All in all, a most excellent evening.  Final score: 5-1.

  29 October vs. Marathon Madness:

Another goal-fest.  We played short a woman-person this time, but had about six guy-subs.  Fortunately, that was enough.  This was one of our better matches in memory, and, once again, most everyone was playing to potential in our second win in a row.

As seems to be the norm these days, we got of to a shaky start with little or no coherent passing 'til we started to warm up. The Marathoners were having pretty good luck working the ball into our end initially (and at the start of the second half) and we were unable to get it back upfield because our midfield seemed to collapse into our defense.  Fortunately, the mob back there kept them from scoring while Dante notched one more of many goals this season at about the 20-minute mark on one of his patented shots from somewhere near the penalty mark. He also had a couple more shots that went just wide of the post.  Unfortunately, at the other end of the field Geoff got separated from reality (but, fortunately, not the ball) by a thump in the head in a bit of of overaggressive play from one of the mad dog's strikers.  Great save, though.  He was able to leave the field under his own power, but sat out the rest of the game in a parallel dimension.  A trip to the ER found he'd received a bad concussion.  Shortly after Geoff left, in a mirror-image of his goal last week (left-footed this time), Charlie forced the keeper to come out on him, then lofted it over his head into the net.  Very elegant.  Raoul got the next one on one of the best examples of coordinated passing I've seen anywhere.  Basically, it was a giant synchronized run down the left side of the field by half the team with about six sweet passes that didn't require anyone to break stride -- appropriately finished by Raoul who drove a well-placed left-footed shot into the goal.  Debbie also got aboard with a very strong solo performance that started near the midfield stripe and involved outmaneuvering two defenders before finishing nicely from just inside the penalty box.  She had an encore a few minutes later following some nice passing by Dante that set her up with a clean shot from about the same spot, only without all the running.  Awesome offensive display this week.

The midfield and defense more than did their part.  After a tenuous start, the midfield settled down and began controlling the pace of the game.  The defense kept Marathon's scoring opportunities to a minimum.  Geoff had the one save when he got deheaded, and Brian (as keeper) had a good one too.  Our keepers probably touched the ball fewer than 10 times.  In the middle of the defense, Ian, Vincent and Jonathan traded off at sweep, while Vincent, Matt, and Jonathan rotated in the stopper spot.  Jihan and Patti played the whole game as wing fullbacks, both having solid performances (Patti was only involved in one tipping incident).  All-in-all, a very scrappy, tenacious defense.  Laura and Joe both had good nights in the midfield with Joe's hot shots on goal and Laura's tenacious defensive play.  The midfield and forward lines really did well with an eye for making smart passes at the right time.  Once again, our overlapping midfielders did most of the scoring while Steve and Bill (who worked their butts off at forward) pulled their defense out of position repeatedly, then made great passes back into the middle where the action was.  Smart play -- good game.  Final score: 7-0
  4 November vs. Stingers:

Yet another goal-rich evening.  We had a full team plus an extra male body, and two extra woman-persons.  Fortunately, that was enough.  This too was one of our better matches in memory, and, once again, most everyone was playing to potential in our third win in a row.

While the offense had a great night even with some of  the regular folks missing, the defense was the key to the game. With their play, even one of our goals would have been the game-winner.  Time after time Vincent and Matt came through whenever Stingers' offense tried to come up the middle.  Jihan, Laura, Marina, and Patti did a good job of containing anything that came down the field's fringes too.  This was their second shut-out in a row...and without Geoff or Brian in goal (not that Ian wasn't doing a great job back there).  Actually, the defense has only allowed one goal (to our 17 goals) in the last three games.  Speaking of Ian, he had a keeper's dream night -- not much action.  He did field a few shots, and actually had to get dirty making a good save.  He'll probably have a good scab or two to show off.

Dante got things going with the game-winner at the 20-minute mark with a grounder from the top of the box that must have gone off three defenders before winding up in the back of the net.  Dante was having another game of the century, as evidenced by great passing and his second goal (from the far post this time) a few minutes later when a nice cross from Steve came straight across the gaping goal mouth after being missed by several defenders and Debbie. The second half got off to a good start with a third goal that was practically a duplicate of the second one -- cross by Steve, mass confusion in front of the goal, only this time it was Joe lurking at the far post.  He blasted it into the net on what looked like the second swing, but into the net it went nonetheless.  Three goals by the midfielders with assists from the front line.  The passing between the midfield and forwards was to die for, particularly in the second half.  Dante, Erin, Raoul, Catherine, Joe, Laura, Debbie and Steve really did some good work, moving the ball up the field effortlessly.  Debbie and Erin had several nice wall passes early in the game that set the stage for things to come.  The pass-fest culminated late in the game when Laura stopped a goal kick and pushed it up to Catherine who made a great long pass  to Raoul who one-touched it to Debbie who caught the keeper out of position and finessed it in for the score. Whew.  Sweet night all around.  Final score: 5-0
10 December vs. Team Thunder:

Wow, great first half effort, particularly after being off for a month. We were down a woman, but they were down a man (playing with five women and five guys), and had no subs while we had five extra guys.  For once we got off to a hot start and had the Thunderheads down 5-0 twenty minutes into the game.  It's hard to come back from that kind of deficit.

Bill opened up a 10-minute scoring frenzy 10 minutes into the match with a nice run down the left, finishing nicely from just inside the 18.  Debbie followed almost immediately with a blast from the middle after ending up one-on-one with the keeper.  Not to be left out, Raoul finished with a great (left-footed?) shot of his own.  Verrry nice.  Alex made the score 5-0 at the 20-minute mark when what looked to those of us on the sideline like a cross from near the end line ended up in the goal.  Nicely done in any event.  Debbie got her second of the night near the end of the half following a field-switching pass from Raoul (I mean all the way across the field) that left her with a short run and (again) alone with the keeper.

With two goals Debbie obviously had a good night, even after bathing in the Olympic-sized swimming hole in front of Thunder's goal.  Bill and Steve mixed things up nicely and stayed fresh by swapping out frequently at striker.  For once, our forwards got the majority of goals (3 of 5) this outing.  The passing game was pretty good, again considering the long layoff,  and considering the number of subs, which tends to disrupt continuity and the flow of the game.  The effort by the midfielders was great -- Brian, Joe, Maria, Raoul, Alex, and Charlie all contributed mightily with good play both on offense and (gasp) on defense as well.  Vincent, Matt, Laura, Patti, Brian, and Ian all had good night on defense as well.  I only remember one real shot on goal all evening, and Geoff made a great save to stop it.  Fortunately, Geoff didn't get much opportunity to show off any new skills he may have picked up at the keeper clinic last week.

Again, well played.  I note that we've outscored our opponents 24-1 in the last four games, with the last three games being shutouts.  Great work.  Welcome to Alex in his rain-delayed first game, and welcome back to Maria after being out for a few games.  Final score: 7-0