13 September vs. JFC Thunder

Interesting match, I think, even though I didn't see much of the second half (standing in goal).  Both teams playing with full sides, but minimal subs (one each extra man and woman for us, one guy sub for them).  Thuds were playing without their Argentineans, we were minus Rafael and Bill.

We got off to a great start with an odd play about five minutes into the game.  It seemed like everyone -- offense, midfield and the entire defense except the keeper -- spontaneously decided to push into the offensive third of the field at the same instant, completely overwhelming Thunder's defense.  Dante made a brilliant pass to an overlapping Vincent (the sweeper) who drilled the ball into the back of the net from about 10 yards out for our first goal of the season.  Unfortunately, that success bred several similar attempts that didn't end as nicely and led to some scary Thunder counters.  One of these ended in a goal at the 15-minute mark when the defense almost, but didn't quite recover in time.  We kept a lot of pressure on their defense through the first half, but Thuds keeper was having the game of his life and we couldn't buy the proverbial goal.  They managed to catch us with eight offsides calls in the first half alone, which was quite frustrating too. Even with all the frustration in the first half, we were having a lot of success getting the ball into scoring position with lots of good short and medium-range passing, particularly from Cruzalberto and Kristen in the midfield.

At the start of the second half Alex complained that he was too bored back in goal and asked to play on the field.  I reluctantly went in the goal for him, indicating that nothing would be too boring for me.  I don't know exactly what it was, but the ball stayed in Thunder's end of the field most of the second half.  Could have been Alex the Elder's added help in the midfield, or my bleating and begging the defense not to go too far up the field, or the midfield and strikers finally clicking and dominating play, or Thud's players getting tired, or some critical combination of all these factors.  In any event, other than a few through balls and one corner, I almost didn't need to touch the ball thanks to an extremely impermeable back line and great possession play up front.  Again, I couldn't see very well from the opposite end of the field (particularly after getting a thumb in the eye after fielding a ball), but I know Maritza got the next goal earlyish in the second half to make the score 3-1.  That was followed by goals from the two Alexes and, I think, Cruzalberto pretty much evenly spaced in the remaining time.  Outstanding goal production in the second half.  Again, much of the credit goes to the defense -- Pam, Alex the Younger, Les, Diane, and of course, Vincent in the middle, and Maritza who played back part of the game.  They were able to keep the ball out of our half most of the time.  The midfielders had an awesome night as well by maintaining possession, covering for the defense and overlapping on offense.  Maria, Jennifer, Kristen and Diane played out on the wings and Dante, Les, Alex the Elder, and 'Berto anchored the middle of the middle.  Maritza, overlapping midfielders, and the odd overlapping defender provided most of the striking punch.  Whatever they were doing worked.

Good game.  Welcome to Cruzalberto.  Final score 6-1.
20 September vs. Olympia V

Another interesting match, although we had the advantage of playing 11 on 9 (Oly was short two women) against a normally very tough opponent.  We had a decent turnout for such a late game (9:15 pm) -- a full women's side and a couple extra guys.  One advantage of playing so late is that the weather was a little cooler.  Visibility was somewhat limited for us old folks since the field only had lights on one side.

Dante got things off to a good start by hitting the goal early (at the 5-minute mark) with a nice crisp shot from about 10 yards out.  Olympia was able to move the ball around with increasing frequency as some of their ringers began showing up through the first half.  Fortunately, our defense was able to cope very well and slowed them down enough to keep them from getting off good finishing shots, although Alex was tested in goal several times (including one grazing kick in the head).  Lots of back and forth followed until the 25th minute when a shot by Beto was blocked, but not controlled by their keeper and Maritza was able to put it away to add two more points to the tally.  Beto finished the scoring the first half with a nice finish to a breakaway as Olympia's defense began to tire and break down on the outside.

The second half opened up for us a bit.  We were able to do more passing instead of making long, solo runs at the goal.  Oly was clearly suffering from lack of subs and playing short.  Beto added another notch fairly quickly, then shortly afterward was taken down in the box by one of their defenders.  Maritza stuffed the resulting PK to make the score 7-0.  Cristhian and Beto both added late goals to round out the scoring.

As mentioned above, the defense really played well by simply limiting Olympia's intrusions into our end of the field all night.  The runs that were made at us were pretty good, but Vincent, Diane and Kristen were able to cover (and recover) quickly enough to limit their shots on goal to just a handful.  They were able to make overlapping runs as well -- something that worked better this time since everyone didn't go forward all at once.  Alex the Younger and Les traded out at stopper and also contributed to a fine defensive performance while making the occasional overlapping run forward.  Jennifer, Kristen, Patti, Dante, Beto, Cristhian, Les and Alex the Elder did a great job in the midfield and provided most of our offensive punch with overlapping runs.  Maritza (who also played back in defense part of the second half) was our lone dedicated striker in what has evolved into a 4-5-1 lineup.  Tom traded out for Alex the Elder in goal about 10 minutes into the second half and was relieved to find the defense playing so well together that he only  had to touch the ball a couple times.  His closest call came on a hot back pass from Diane.

Good game. Thanks to everyone who came out so late.  Hat trick for Beto. Welcome to Cristhian.  Final score 9-0.
27 September vs. Strokers

Decent turnout for the men (three subs), but started short one women.  This was by far the most challenging game we've played in some time. 

The game started will a lot of back and forth play that quickly escalated into Strokers flooding our defense with superior numbers (like six on three).  That led to an early women's goal and started us off with a two-goal deficit.  Fortunately, shortly afterward our Central American contingent arrived, giving us a real keeper and a little more speed in the midfield.  Dante managed to get a point back towards the middle of the first half with a nice shot from the right side of the penalty box as we began putting more and more pressure on Strokers' defense.  Bill, Maritza, Beto, Kristen, Jason and Cristhian were keeping their middle defenders pretty busy for the remaining three-fourths of the game.  I don't recall exactly, but Cristhian added the equalizer either right before or right after the halftime break.  All was going pretty well until Strokers added another goal about 20 minutes into the second period.  That sparked a flurry of offensive activity on our part  that required several rather spectacular saves by their goalkeeper.  It began to look like this was going to be a game when we would always come very close, but not be able to buy a goal at any price; however, with about 10 minutes time remaining Beto managed to sink the ball in the net for a scrappy goal after a long, running skirmish with their keeper up and down the touchline.  Then, in a stroke of luck near full time Beto was taken down from behind  in the box by the keeper.  Alex the Keeper made the PK at the final whistle to put us in the lead for the first time of the night.

Strokers' youthful women on the front line were quite a challenge.  Rumor has it that they were Mayde Creek High School's varsity offense.  In any event, they were able to put numbers forward very quickly and, with their men, had a lot of scoring opportunities.  The defense for the evening -- Vincent, Diane, Les, Joyce, Raymi, Kristen, Cristhian and Maritza -- did well to hold their scoring at three points.  It could have been much worse.  Diane really deserves credit for keeping her high school-age striker in check.  As required by our new 4-5-1 or modified 4-4-2 lineup, the midfield served as both a link to the back line for transition play and supplied much of our offensive power.  Overlapping runs by Kristen (with two great crosses from the touchline), Beto, Bill, Dante, Cristhian, and Jason all contributed to each of our goals, and Patti and Joyce both provided key passes, particularly in the second half.  Maritza served as our designated striker most of the game, and really ran their defense to death.

Great literally last-minute come-from-behind win with little panic and lots of character.  Final score 4-3.
18 October vs. Big Kahunas

I don't know if it was the long layoff, the late game, the Africa-hot weather, their very skilled, wicked-fast players, or what, but we finally lost our first game since the start of the summer season in June.  We were a bit short on the people side with a full team, but no subs.  They got even for the drubbing we gave them early in the summer, although this appeared to be a completely different team (other than their manager).

We didn't play that badly, but it was one of those nights when we just couldn't get a clean shot at the goal that was on frame.  Maritza had probably the best chance to get on the board late in the first half when their keeper made a rather impressive diving save to keep the ball out of the net.  Had she scored it would have been a different game.  The defense got a real workout this time with Kahunas' extremely fast attacking male players coming up the middle and very competent women attacking from the wings.  Basically, we got overwhelmed and the defense was doing well to hold the line at a 2-0 deficit at halftime.  Diane, Pam, and Jen deserve special credit for keeping the lid on their attacking women who were more than capable of scoring, but didn't.  Vincent directed the defense and did a great job, but they were pushing so many players up that the numbers were not in our favor.  Alex did a great job in goal, and honestly didn't have a chance to stop the two goals the Bigs got in the first half.  Beto, Rafael, Kristen, Maritza, Dante, Diane and Pam all made good runs at the goal, but, as mentioned earlier, couldn't get a good finishing shot in.  Kristen earned the most mileage award for covering literally the whole field, making saving stops on the defensive end, then making key through passes while overlapping into the offense.  The final score probably would have been 3-0 if Tom (replacing Alex in goal at the half) hadn't let one crossing shot slip under him to be tapped in by one of their forwards, and, in a bizarre play, let one be lobbed over his head after everyone -- including their striker -- stopped playing, waiting for an offsides call that never came.  Oh well.

There's always next week.  Final score: 5-0.
25 October vs. Team Zia

Pretty scary.  Very light turnout, particularly for an early game.  We started the game with three men and five women, missing our center defender and much of our offense.  Zia started with nine, but that included all six of their men, and quickly added three more women. Bill showed up about 20 minutes in which helped some, and we got up to full strength at halftime when Beto and Cristhian came from work  And just in time too.

The first half was pretty much a rerun of last week's game, with the opposition making run after run at our goal.  The defense, anchored by Les this time, did a great job keeping them out of the net, but we never could get the ball out of our half, and it was only a matter of time before they were going to score.  Fortunately, through a combination of scrappy defense and some strokes of luck, Zia just kept missing the goal.  Two balls went off the posts and one went off the crossbar in the first half alone.  Tom stopped a few, but they finally got one in on the second of several one-on-ones with the keeper.  Everyone was playing defense at one point or another during the first half, attempting to counter their committing five men to offense.  Special credit goes to Pam, who saved a pretty sure goal by heading a nasty corner kick out of danger when the keeper lost the ball in the lights.  Kristen, Alex, Diane and Maritza came back from upfield to help out, and Les was more than busy keeping things as close to being under control as possible.  The great thing was that nobody gave up, even when it looked hopeless -- the defense did a super job holding the score to 1-0 in the first half.

With Beto and Cristhian on the field in the second half, the character of the game instantly changed 180-degrees.  Twelve minutes into the half we were up 3-1.  And, most importantly for me, the keeper only touched the ball a couple times, not counting back passes from the defense.  Zia did manage a second goal on a really perfect shot into the upper left corner from about 25 yards out.  However, once Cristhian and Beto started wreaking havoc in the Zeoid's half of the field their defense and midfield had to pull back to try to cover.  That freed up our defense to get a well-deserved breather, and allowed the midfield to go to a offensive footing.  In addition, Bill was able to come back to help Les in the defense.  I couldn't see the details of who scored what in the second half, but I know Cristhian got a hat trick, Beto got two goals, and Alex got the last one.  I understand most of them were very pretty too.  The rest of the offense had good opportunities as well.  Both Diane, Maritza and Kristen had good scoring opportunities.  In addition to covering both ends of the field, Kristen had at least two assists with smart field-switching passing from the right wing.  Patti had some good touches as well.

Zia was quite impressive.  It's a mystery why they haven't won more games than they have.  Their women are very skilled and quick, and on defense were often able to get to balls before Cristhian and Beto, which is fast indeed. With their guys, they were able to put together repeated, coordinated offensive pushes, and got inside our 18 often enough, but, fortunately for us, couldn't get enough of their shots into the net.

Good, exciting game.  Great effort.  Final score 6-2.
8 November vs. RFC

Whew, bad night.  Started the game with barely seven players to their sixteen.  Unfortunately, that led to a 2-0 deficit in the first 20 minutes.  We were up to 10 players by the end of the half, but the core of the team was worn out by then and the score was sitting at 4-0.  They picked up right where they left off in the second half, adding six more points on two guy goals and two women's goals.  If we had been more successful at controlling their very fast offense it would have been a much closer game.  Hopefully, we'll remember that next time.  Actually, most of them were pretty good.  One bright point was Beto being taken down in their penalty box.  Maritza scored on the resulting penalty kick...twice (she had to take it again when someone encroached in the 10-yard circle around the penalty spot.)  Everyone played well enough, but we were simply overwhelmed early on and were never able to recover. 

Ick.  Final score 10-2
15 November vs. Pumas

Better, marginally earlier turnout this week.  Started the game with ten and were up to full strength about 15 minutes in. Finished with a couple guy subs.  The defense truly did heroic work, holding Pumas' scoreless until 10 minutes from full time.  Both Pam and Diane were controlling their very quick male strikers very effectively on the wings and Vincent did his usual job keeping the middle of Pumas' offense from getting off a good shot with help from Kristen, Les and Rafael who were both everywhere on the field. 

The game got started with a lot of back and forth, but some of the pressure was relieved about 15 minutes in when Rafael scored with a nice shot while running parallel to the end line about 10 yards out.  Pumas' keeper was having the night of his life, particularly after Beto and Cristhian showed up.  The score at the half could easily have been 5-0 but for many seemingly impossible saves.  Fortunately, after we got up to full strength most of the action was confined to their half of the field, punctuated by several quick counterattacks.  The constant battering of Pumas' defense by Beto, Cristhian, Dante, Rafael, Kristen and Maritza finally paid off when Maritza got open enough to slip one into the left side of the goal a few minutes into the second half.  She added one more in similar fashion 10 minutes later, making the score 5-0.  Her second score prompted a goalkeeper change, allowing Alex (who had been banged up a bit keeping a clean sheet) to play on the field.  That prompted Pumas to score two quick goals in the closing minutes -- one by their keeper who made a surprise appearance at the wrong end of the field at the final whistle to poke one past Tom.

Good game.  Good recovery from last week.  Final score: 5-2