11 February vs. Team Thunder:

As has been the habit recently, we started the season on a frustrating note. We started the game minus two women, but had a full crew (and a woman sub!) by halftime.  In a scene reminiscent of the 30 September game with Thunder, they got out to a 2-0 lead 10 minutes into the match on a couple breakaways by their striker (No. 1) that caught the defense by surprise.  We then started settling down and Debbie evened up the score at two apiece with a study in perseverance at the 30 minute mark.  She got the ball about 30 yards out on a breakaway thanks to a nice through pass and ended up one-on-one with the keeper who managed to make two great saves on the initial shot and the first rebound, but was out of position for her shot off the second rebound.  We dominated much of the remainder of the first half even though we were down a player.  Lisa, Bill, Debbie and Dante all had good chances to score, but we couldn't even buy another goal.  Unfortunately, the Donnerheads scored again on a freakish corner kick that went in untouched shortly before halftime.  The second half was a back and forth affair with occasional shows of passing skill and the ability to move the ball down the field, but the goal drought continued with several near-goals but no joy.

Nobody played badly, we just didn't get the rhythm going like we had at the end of the fall season.  Lisa, tireless as usual, and abused constantly, was helping all over the field from her midfield spot.  Raoul had a good steady game at mid and sweep (after Ian was temporarily ejected for unstealthy hooliganism), leaving calmitude in his wake wherever he went.  Charlie, Tony, Todd, Joe, Alex, Grazia, and Catherine also did well while rotating in at midfield, while Tony, Matt and Vincent did the honors at stopper while Patti, Jihan (with several good takeaways) and Grazia held down the wing fullback slots.  Ian, the Canadian Cannonball,  had a classic game at sweep, directing the defense (loudly) and dominating all Thunderclaps who dared come near.  Brian filled in for Geoff in goal, notching (is that the right word?) several outstanding saves and handling the ball with great confidence.  Bill, Steve, and Debbie all had a good night up front -- they would have scored several more if not for a bad bounce or two.  Welcome to Tony, and welcome back to Todd and Grazia.  Final score 2-3.
18 February vs. Stingers:

Pretty scary start this time.  Actually started the game with 7 players -- thanks to Jihan for showing up in time to avoid a forfeit.  We were up to nine players by halftime and were actually controlling the game at that point.  We had a much improved passing game compared to our last match -- possibly due to fewer choices of players to pass to.  Right.  In any event we were looking pretty good by the end of the first half.  Stingers opened the scoring at the three minute mark (while we were down four people) when what looked like a cross was deflected off someone into the goal.  We had lots of good chances with near misses by Steve, Dante, Matt and Debbie before Charlie evened things up just before the half with a pretty goal from the left side from about 12 yards out following a nice backheel assist from Alex.  We controlled  most of the whole second half with well thought out runs by all of the forwards and midfielders, ending in some good shots by Matt (up from stopper), Raoul, Steve, Dante, Alex and Debbie.  Joe wins the prize for momentous shots on goal for missing the net while being practically alone inside the goal box.  Oh well.  In general we had trouble finishing from inside the penalty area the whole second half until Dante brought the ball into the penalty box and drew a few defenders before setting up Brian with a nice pass to the left side of the goal box. Brian's game-winning stuff made the score 2-1 about 35 minutes into the final half. 

The defense had things well in hand after the first few minutes, and Geoff really had a pretty quiet night in goal.  About all he had going on was occasionally policing up a long ball.  Vincent, Matt, Jonathan and Raoul had a great game, torturing their offenders offense.  Jihan had her best game ever and was quite aggressive while challenging Stingers' strikers. Patti held her own in the back line, putting together some nice passes in the process.  Great effort in the midfield where we played at least two people down the entire game.  Charlie, Dante, Brian, and Joe really worked hard and effectively controlled the last 60 minutes of the game.  Thanks go to Steve, Debbie and Alex at forward who were particularly good about coming back to help at midfield.  The forwards had a bunch of chances on goal that were saved by their keeper who was having a good night.  The ratio of shots on goal had to be 10:1 in our favor.  Debbie apparently had her coffee as evidenced by several sub-orbital crosses.  All in all a good effort against a much improved Stingers team.  Final score: 2-1.
24 February vs. Bunker Hill Bruisers:

Almost a full team this time -- managed to get 10 on the field.  As the score indicated, everyone had a great night, in a game marked by a bizarre strategy by Bunker Hill.  They played what appeared to be their most inexperienced people in the goal and defense and concentrated their more experienced players on offense.  Their offense was quite fast and formidable as evidenced by their four goals, although two of them were in the last ten minutes -- after the match was decided.  Once the ball was passed through the midfield into their defense, it was off to the races.

I'm pretty sure Geoff didn't score from the goalkeeper position; I know Dante got the first goal about three minutes into the game, and Debbie got the first of her four a couple minutes later.  I remember Alex got one right at the end of the half.  Steve got one in the second half when the ball dropped out of the sky and landed on his foot at the top of the goal box.  Debbie must have gotten another in the first half (keeping track was a chore). She got two more in the second half.  Is that right?  I know her last one came with about ten minutes remaining, right before Johnathan's goal which wrapped up the scoring for our side.   Bill had several good shots before unselfishly volunteering to play back at sweeper to give Raoul a rest.  Actually, it could have been better -- the goal posts and bar deflected four other shots that could have but didn't go in.  Debbie had a couple of those -- one of which hit the post so hard you could hear it ring in Texas City.  Joe also had one that rang the crossbar (we all thought it was going in).  Alex had a half-field long run at the goal only to have what looked like a sure thing snagged by a great save by their keeper.  Vincent had a good shot from the top of the box that went just wide.  Matt also had a couple good tries while sniping at the net from outside the penalty box.

Obviously the forwards gave a good accounting for themselves, but the midfielders and defense really came through as well.  They managed to control several of their very fast, skilled players, particularly in the critical first few minutes.  Charlie, Catherine and Marina had hallmark games in frustrating the Bruisers' offense.  Vincent, Johnathan, Matt, Raoul, Patti and Geoff also played well in an extremely fast game on this small field, with Geoff having several great saves.  Our passing game showed improvement, probably enhanced by Bunker Hill's inexperienced defense.  Regardless, we were often able to find the wide open midfielder who was  the key to starting the blitz on their women keepers.  Excellent through passes by Charlie, Dante, Joe, Catherine and Matt, and a couple well thought out runs up the left side from his sweeper spot by Raoul made the difference this time. Welcome back to Marina.  Final score: 12-4.
4 March vs. Olympia V:

Almost a full team again this time -- managed to get 10 on the field once more  Cold weather too with temperatures down in the 30s by game's end.  We got started first on the scoring thing in the 12th minute with a pretty rebound goal by Jonathan off his own blocked shot. It came right back to him near the right side of the goal box and he put it away nicely.  The Olympians got on the board next with a nicely taken PK following a really cheesy call by the ref.  Looked to us on the sideline like their woman stepped on the ball and fell down in the box, thus drawing the call. Vincent hardly touched her. Honest.  About five minutes later Debbie put us ahead for good with a spectacular finish from just inside the18 at the 20-minute mark.  She added a second goal (making a total of six in her last two games) in the closing minutes of the half following a perfect through pass from Dante.  Following a shaky start in the second half -- they added a goal off your basic two-minute cluster-riot in front of the net -- we wrapped up the scoring with a classic set piece off a free kick about 25 yards out.  Raoul put a nice push past the left side of  their wall to a speeding Alex.  A one-touch to Daddy who had synchronized his run around the other end of the wall did the trick.  Six yards out with the ball and one-on-nil with a keeper who was on his back after coming out on Alex -- now that's a good spot to be in.

The passing game kinda came and went.  Many times we'd make a few good, maybe even inspired passes, followed by a mistake.  When we did manage to put a few good ones together we usually scored or got off a good shot.  Hats off to the women (Lisa, Debbie, Jihan and Patti) once again -- playing short with no subs takes fortitude.  Hopefully the numbers will improve with the weather.  Lisa ran at least ten miles, and fast too, making herself available for the easy pass and was key in moving the ball though the midfield up to the front.  In addition, Dante, Todd, Jonathan, Alex, and Raoul also played a good game at midfield.  Steve, Debbie, Alex and Bill all did turns up front and contributed in the defense at midfield when necessary.  Alex ran like the wind, and Vincent had one of his best games in memory making key stops, many as the last man back.  Jonathan, Patti, Jihan, Raoul, and Bill did an excellent job in the back by stopping a very determined and swift offense.  Holding Oly to one sloppy goal (we're not counting the PK here) was an accomplishment.  Geoff had a great game at keeper, making more than one great diving save.  In addition, his stern demeanor in goal warded off a second PK by one of their women following an unfortunate body-meld with Jonathan in the second half.  Jihan gets the prize for most-improved play.  She just keeps getting better -- making good stops and passes back on defense.  All in all, a good night.  Horrible referee.  Final score: 6-3.
11 March vs. Orange Crush:

Hey, a full team!  Catherine's appearance made it a full 11-person side on a windy but warm night. Playing into the wind for the first half looked a bit frustrating.  It was awful hard to clear the ball on defense, and Brian (in goal) and Raoul had a hard time getting their punts and goal kicks to go anywhere.  Short goal kicks to Raoul who took the ball upfield worked pretty well.  The defense held up nicely in a scoreless first half, with good takeaways and picking up long passes made even longer by the wind.  We had several good chances on goal in the first 40 minutes, but, with the long shots taken away by the wind, we had trouble getting a strong finish close in. Someone had a good shot that went off the bar from about 20 yards out -- was that Debbie or Joe?  Lisa, Steve, Bill, Todd, Joe and Raoul also had good shots after avoiding their stopper (Ruuuudy!) and a very good female sweeper. Steve opened up the scoring midway through the second half off a nice throw-in by Lisa near their end line.  He then managed to get the ball actually inside the goal box and put it away from about 2 yards out (he claims it was a skillful shot from at least 4 yards away).  Lisa was next with the game winner at 36 minutes into the half from just outside the goal box on the right side on a rebound off one of Debbie's shots.  Verrry nice first goal of the season, and just at the right time too since the crushers eked out a goal of their own a couple minutes later in a classic melee in front of the goal.

We had a decent game, managing to control the ball most of the first half even without the wind and allowing them only two or three legitimate shots on goal for the match.  Other than the goal they scored, I think Joe (at keeper in the second half) only touched the ball once -- maybe twice.  Brian averted danger several times by coming out of the box to police up some of their long balls, but other than that he had a quiet night in goal during the first half.  Once again, the women really came through.  Jihan had a good night at fullback, coming out aggressively and making some good passes, as did Catherine at half.  Patti got her foot on a few and made some decent passes from her spot at fullback opposite Jihan.  Lisa (who managed to keep her dinner down for the most part) and Debbie did their standard run-'em-to-death routine at mid and forward, both getting in some good shots and being quite brave when entering their weed eater-like defensive zone (I wouldn't go in there).  Bill had a good night, drawing flack, shooting, thinking, and making some really pretty passes.  Alex showed an affinity for open spaces, getting free on many occasions at midfield and forward.  No goals for him tonight, but some good runs nonetheless.  Todd, Tony, Brian and Joe played well in the midfield and were largely responsible for controlling their space, and, thus, the game.  Matt had a great night at stopper, playing the whole game and making several key...umm...stops followed by strong clearances.  Raoul anchored and directed the defense nicely, making it look easy and also making some good runs on goal from his sweeper position.  Nicely done.  Final score: 3-1.
18 March vs. Team Zia:

Hey, a full team plus both men and women's subs!  That said, it was kind of an off night on the whole.  We had plenty of chances, but maybe it was the warm weather and humidity.  Scoring got started about 17 minutes into the match when Dante fed a nice through pass to Debbie.  She took it down the right side before crossing it to a waiting Alex who was quivering with anticipation near the top of the box.  His shot went off the post and into the goal.  Well done.  All was going well until they put one in with a pretty header off a corner kick about 10 minutes later.  We came out of the halftime break in good fashion with Dante getting a good one about 12 minutes in.  He got the ball about 30 yards out, brought it in from the left side, looked the last defender off the ball with a glance at Debbie and practically walked the ball into the net.  That worked well until the Z-people evened up the score with about 15 minutes left to round out the scoring for the game.  Both teams had several chances -- it looked like Lisa was going to add another goal similar to last week's.  Charlie, Debbie, Bill and Dante all had additional good chances.  They had what looked like sure things on a couple occasions until a force field emanating from Joe Keeper's head caused their shots to veer wide.

It seemed like we were just a half-step off this time -- passes that we made routinely over the last few weeks didn't quite get through tonight.  Still, it wasn't a bad night.  Lisa had her usual good effort, but we weren't getting the ball to her as much as we had in the last few weeks.  Patti and Catherine both played their best games in recent memory.  Maria and Grazia did well filling in at fullback -- a position they hadn't played in a while. Jason, Tony, Dante, and Charlie rotated in well at midfield while Vincent, Jonathan, Matt and Charlie did a very credible job in the defense.  Joe had good night filling in at keeper, and by the end of the game was booting the ball out to the midfield line.  Welcome to Jason for his first game, and welcome back to Maria.  Final score: 2-2.
25 March vs. Marathon Madness:

Pretty miserable night.  Played with eight this time (three women short) in a cold drizzle that turned into intermittent rain about 30 minutes into the match.  At least the effect of our shortness in the numbers category was minimized by the shortness of the field.  We managed to stay with them through the first half.  They got on the board first with an own goal at about 6 minutes in -- one of their defenders had a header go awry following a corner by...who? That worked well until one of their women scored  a few minutes later.  The mad-people scored again on a long shot about 5 minutes after that putting us down 3-1.  Matt, who was pushing up from his stopper position on corners had clearly had enough.  He added two back-to-back goals -- the first with a nice spin move off a header from Raoul, and the second directly off a corner kick from Debbie that slipped through a crowd in front of the goal.  They added another in short order followed by Bill's first goal in a few games at the end of a melee in front of their goal where several shots were stopped, but not cleared effectively.  The Marathuds wound up scoring for the half, making the tally 5-4.  The second half was mostly all Madness as our folks slowly got worn down.

The midfield really worked this week, trying to make up for being short.  Brian, Jason, and Bill rotated around at mid, passing well and making some good runs at goal.  Debbie, Bill and Raoul switched around at striker and had a pretty good night of it as well -- Bill got his goal and both Debbie and Raoul had assists.  Raoul had a couple spectacular sliding misses caused by the wet conditions, both of which normally would have gone in.  Debbie spent a good part of her time being bruised, thus distracting the rest of their defense.  Vincent, Matt and Patti had a good night on defense as well, frustrating their offense most of the time, but in the second half just couldn't keep up with the number of runs they were making.  Same with Joe.  He was doing fine in goal, considering the number of shots they were getting off in the second half.  Oh well, there's always the grand finale against the Thunderholes on 14 April.  Final score 4-9.
14 April vs. Team Thunder:

It was the best of times (the first half).  It was the worst of times (the second half).  That pretty much sums it up.  Lots of regular folks out this week -- Lisa, Dante, Debbie, Raoul, Charlie, Brian, Bill, Jihan all had to be elsewhere.  We played the game outmatched in numbers with 12 suited up and only able to field 9 against 18 or 19 for the thunderheads.  In addition, both Steve and Joe came into the game injured and Matt twisted an ankle during the match.

Even with all that, we played pretty evenly through the first half, ending the first 40 minutes tied 2-2.  They opened up the scoring with a couple goals early on, but an unfortunate (for them) hand ball in the box about 25 minutes in resulted in Fran's first score with the team on the resulting PK.  Fran, Jason, Alex and Steve all had good runs on goal in the first half but couldn't get the ball in the net.  Being down in numbers and trying to score at the same time left us vulnerable to quick counterattacks in the second half.  That's exactly what happened, particularly after fatigue set in.  Thunder's quick goal at the beginning of the second half and a woman's goal following a melee in front on the goal shortly afterwards were killers.  Nobody played badly -- Geoff was pounded with a barrage of shots and their offense usually had numbers on our defense.  Vincent, Matt, Patti, Todd and Tom(!) had their work cut out on defense, and, believe me, it could have been worse.  Maria, Jason, Joe, Steve, Todd and Tony put in good performances at midfield and were able to generate several promising breakaways in both halves. Alex, Fran and Steve rotated around up front and, as mentioned earlier, all had good chances to score.  Fran and Jason won the prize for most running this time.  Welcome to Fran (yes, sooner or later everyone is a Penguin).  Final score 2-8.