18 June vs. Team Zia

The 7:00 game caught both teams a little short -- unfortunately it caught us shorter.  We started with seven to their nine, then eight to their eleven, and finished the half ten on eleven.  Our defense managed to hold them off most of the way through the first half before they had a bit of luck on a partially-blocked shot that dribbled into the goal.  We finished the first half with ten players on the pitch and a one goal deficit.  Our play was a bit disorganized due to playing very short most of the first half.  Things began settling down in the second half when we started putting some coherent passing together.  That led to offensive pressure and an obstruction call (good show, Joyce) at the top of their penalty box a few minutes into the period.  A quick restart on the indirect kick (a nice backheel to Raoul from Bill) kept Zia from organizing a wall, and, in the process, screened their keeper.  Result: a pretty goal.  Good thinking.  Unfortunately, they countered with a pretty goal of their own from a near-impossible angle about ten minutes later. Not five minutes after that, Joyce flicked a perfectly placed header up to Raoul who was pretty much by himself just past the midfield stripe. From there he dribbled the ball through a couple players and finished nicely from just inside the 18.  

We ended the match playing much improved ball -- Marina and Mary were doing well against the men the Z-oids sent down the wings, Charlie was all over the midfield and had several good runs on goal (and filled in at stopper, marking their playmaker the last few minutes [above]).  Ian had a lively night at striker 'til he pulled his groin.  Laura claimed she wasn't having a good game, but had a strong finish with some good passing at critical points late in the match.  Jonathan and Vincent spent most of the game trading off  at sweep and stopper in a solid defense.  Matt and Joe both had a good night at midfield and helped get things settled down.  This was another game that goes to our substitute keeper, Brian.  The ref gave the Z-dogs a PK with the score tied 2-2 late in the second half -- certain curtains for us, you'd think.  Somehow Brian guessed right and managed a diving, one-handed block that sent the ball out wide.  Super save.  With Brian's save and Raoul's two goals (on excellent assists from Joyce and Bill) we managed to squeak out a tie in spite of playing short.  Good effort by both teams.  Welcome back to Raoul.  Final score 2-2.

25 June vs. Team Thunder:  [commentary by Mr. Pope]

The game was pretty much dominated by the mosquitoes that plagued the pitch that night. The game started off with some nice passing by Bill, Joe, and Dante which culminated in a nice goal by Raoul(?). From there the half was pretty much controlled by us thanks to impressive play in the midfield and defensive half from Laura, Mary, Brian, Matt, Jonathan, Jason, and Marina.

Welcome back to Anna who was terrorizing the right side with amazing runs down the wing and sending nice passes into the middle all game long. All half we had countless chances to score but just couldn't seem to find the back of the net, as their keeper made save after save. Thunder's first goal came on a breakaway where their forward used some incredible speed to beat Geoff to the ball and then chipped it over his head as he tried to recover. Our second goal was the result of some nice passing between Charlie, Mary, Charlie again, and then Joe, who buried the ball top shelf.  Thunder managed an equalizer just before time on another breakaway that Geoff should have stopped! Congrats to everyone who came out; including Patti, Laura, Mary, Anna, and Marina, as they played the full time without a break. Final score: 2-2.

8 July vs. Hackers:

Well, on a positive note, the mosquitoes weren't too bad....  Unfortunately, we started off in the two-person-short mode again and let them build a 2-0 lead 4 minutes into the game.  Everyone seemed to be a bit sluggish at the start.  Gargantuan turnout from the (14) men; extreme effort by the women who played in the heat with no subs.  Play seemed to improve somewhat later in the first half when we started passing a bit and taking advantage of their offside trap.  Several one-on-ones with their keeper resulted, and could have evened the score.  Bill finally got us on the scoreboard with a nicely-finished solo effort following a great through pass from Raoul(?) at the 30-minute mark.  They got another goal in there somewhere, but at least we got 'em off the one-goal-every-2-minutes pace.  Things got off to a better start in the second half with more cohesive midfield to front line transition play (meaning: we had a few good runs on goal by our forwards and overlapping midfielders).  Charlie had a couple shots that by all rights should have gone in.  Bill set a good example by giving an all out performance over a short period, then subbing off.  He was rewarded by a second goal that looked identical to his first about midway though the second half.  Tough luck for Jason who deflected a good shot by one of their women into our goal.  Seems like there was plenty of bad luck to go around.  Ian did have an interesting end-to-end run at the end of the game that, if nothing else, ended with a second yellow card (and ejection) for Hackers' sweeper for a slide tackle in their penalty box.  (After the game he was still arguing with the ref that it wasn't a slide tackle.)  Final score: 2-6.

16 July vs. Marathon:

Well, on a positive note, we had two women subs by the end of the first half.  On a negative note, we came within two minutes of forfeiting because we were short guys.  Even the old and crippled team manager had to put on a borrowed jersey (with fashionable green dress pants) so we'd have seven players to start the match. We played the game with no men subs.  Thanks to Brian for blowing off his hockey coaching clinic to help us out. 

Even playing down four players to start the game we seemed to be controlling the ball pretty well early on and both Bill and Charlie had several good runs at the goal. Charlie managed a clean breakaway and finished nicely for his first score in (he claims) a year and a half about 15 minutes into the match.  Bill had a sure goal stolen in a great, if questionable save by their keeper.  We went a man down about 10 minutes later on a yellow card, and Marathon managed to squeak one in during the power play to tie it up at the half. 

All the running, no subs, and the heat took their toll in the second half.  All our guys were pretty fried.  Marathon added a two-point woman's goal about 15 minutes into the second half on a great shot that Geoff really didn't have a chance to get.  We did have our chances, Brian, Bill, Charlie, and Patti all had good shots on goal that could have gone in.  (Charlie had one off the crossbar.)  Ian had another coast-to-coast run, exhibiting extreme skill, speed and endurance.  (He told me to say something nice other than 'interesting run', or he'd kick my ass.)  Geoff had a great, if questionable save in goal, robbing Marathon of a sure score about midway through the half.  They added a last goal on a defensive boo boo by yours truly late in the game.  Sorry 'bout that.  Great efforts and lots of running by Patti, Laura, Mary and Marina.  Maria was a frequent target in the midfield and had some nice through passes. Grazia and Jihan both were starting to get settled in as the game went along and should be great assets.  Joyce had a good match on the sidelines while recuperating from her knee surgery.  Welcome to Maria, Grazia, and Jihan in their first game.  Final score: 1-4.

23 July vs. Stingers:

Well, on a positive note, we had a women sub by the end of the first half and our male contingent showed up again.  On a negative note, we couldn't buy a goal for the longest time.  We did have the advantage of getting 11 players on the pitch sooner than they did, but both teams had a full side by 30 minutes into the game.  

We controlled practically the whole game and allowed them little in the way of offensive play.  At the other end, we had a bunch of good shots on goal, but Stingers' keeper was having a great night.  The match remained scoreless until 20 minutes in, when Dante got off a strong shot through a crowd that their keeper was in position to get, but, unlucky for him, the ball was deflected into the net by one of his defenders.  About 10 minutes later, Geoff had a bit of his own bad luck when the only decent shot Stingers had all night went off the crossbar and landed on the foot of their woman striker at the top of the goal box.  Ian evened the score just before halftime when he came up from sweep and parked himself about 20 meters out,  like Buddha, patiently waiting for an offering to pop out of the mob boiling around the goal following a corner kick.  His waist-high shot was almost a two-pointer as Patti had a chance to deflect it in from her position near the far post.  Dante got his second on the night and wrapped up the scoring about midway through the second half when Patti picked up a loose ball inside their 18 following one of our free kicks, passed it up to Dante who dribbled across the face of the goal and drilled it in.  Very pretty.

Seems our women had a particularly good night -- Marina, Mary, Laura, Patti, and Jihan were very aggressive in getting the ball out successfully in most 50-50 (and worse) situations.  Grazia had the bad luck to pull a muscle only a few minutes into the match and, even though she tried to play after that, wasn't able to operate at full speed.  Several folks had a chance to play out of their normal positions and did well: Brian (at forward and sweep), Mary (at forward), Laura (on defense), Vincent (at forward), Patti (at forward), and Jonathan (at midfield).  Charlie was the perfect midfielder -- overlapping on offense and marking up back on defense.  Bill played hard up front most of the first half and had some really good opportunities.  Raoul had his usual calming influence by quietly controlling play in the midfield.  Ian, Brian, Vincent, Matt, Laura, Jonathan and Marina gave Stingers' offense little to celebrate.  Mary and Marina probably had their best games ever.  Joe played a good game following his return from the injured reserve.  Welcome back to Todd who had a good night with some good shots and a pirouette or two at forward.  Geoff had a great game in that he really didn't have much to do.  Final score: 3-2.

30 July vs. Team Thunder:

Great turnout -- multiple subs for both men and women.  Sympathies to Team Thunder who could only field eight players.  It's tough playing with a three person disadvantage.  Scoring: took a few minutes to get warmed up, but about 7 minutes into the match Brian took the ball down the right side and crossed a shoulder high ball into the center just inside the goal box where Bill arrived to head it in.  Textbook.  Just a short time later, in a nearly identical scenario, Laura was at the far post when another cross came in from the right.  She managed to stop it and tap it in for her first Los Pinguinos' goal.  Minutes afterward, Charlie took the ball in from the left side and did such a good job of slipping it into the left side of the net that those of us on the sideline didn't realize he'd scored.  Lisa was next up with a pretty goal from about 12 yards out that she lofted over the keeper as he came out to cut her angle.  Steve finished up the scoring for the first half about 2 minutes after he came on the field by beating the keeper, once again on the left side.  Brian wrapped up the game for us, scoring a very pretty goal on a volley from a strong cross back from the end line by Charlie about 10 minutes into the second half.  Thunder managed to salvage a couple goals  -- one of which was on a corner kick that bent itself into the net.

Everyone played well.  Emphasis for much of the game was in the passing game which was fairly wide open due to the mismatch in numbers, and fatigue on Thunder's side.  Raoul, Maria, Lisa, Charlie, Brian, Jihan, Jonathan, and Joe all had no worries at midfield.  (Half of the night's goals came from overlapping midfielders.)  Ian (who managed to contain most of his activities to the defensive end of the pitch this time) had a great night against a pair of skilled attackers.  Mary, who also played up front, had a good night at defense.  Marina, in a continuation of her great game last week, also did very well against one of their male forwards on her side of the field.  Patti played an aggressive game, and only got caught once when she took down one of their forwards with a kamikaze attack that left both of then dazed.  Vincent stopped most everything that came his way at stopper (thus, the name...), and had several good runs on goal from the defense.  Jonathan also played well at stopper, and at mid, with some clutch plays and solid passing.  Geoff had another night without much to do, which should be a keeper's dream game.  Both of their goals came from shots that he had no real play on.  Final score: 8-2

5 August vs. Hackers:

Well played, and made more so by playing a good team.  (Interesting story there -- Hackers hadn't lost a game since last fall.  But, they didn't win a game that season.  Go figure.)  Great mix of folks at the game -- a couple women subs and a manageable number of guy subs.  Hottest day of the summer to date, and the high of 101 f. tied the record for 5 August.  

Having enough folks at the field early enough to start with a full team obviously makes a difference.  We started very strong, with several great shots on goal in the first few minutes.  Charlie had one from about 25 out that went off the post and Lisa took a couple from outside the penalty box that may have nicked the crossbar.  All had their keeper beat, and forced him to stay close to home the rest of the game.  This game was characterized by shifting momentum from one team to the other as the game went along.  We dominated the first ten minutes, which culminated in Bill's well-placed, high, long ball taken from outside the left side of the box -- ending up over the keeper and in the corner of the net.  Our score whipped Hackers into a frenzy that led to an assault on our defense and many shots on goal.  Fortunately, they were either well off target, or Geoff was there to make some most excellent saves.  After what seemed like an eternity of being bombarded, one of their men got a yellow card and was sent off for ten minutes.  That shifted the momentum back our way and Bill, Matt, Dante, Charlie and Lisa all had more good chances on goal.  Matt's actually went in, but a very late, bizarre offsides whistle called it back.  Things started going Hacker's way again after they got back to full strength, and they evened the score shortly before the end of the half. The second half started pretty much the same way -- lots of to and fro.  We had many really good chances to score with extreme numbers advantages (like three on one and four on two), including a nice one by Dante that just wouldn't go in.  They also had many decent chances, but, like us, couldn't buy a goal.  We went back and forth like that for some time before Bill, in his second goal of the night, got another breakaway and put a low ball past their keeper from the left side.  Raoul and Lisa also had good tries that just missed.

Everyone played really well.  We often (but not always) play better individually against good teams and this was no exception.  Saying that the game probably belongs to Geoff for many saves and Bill for his goals is both accurate and misleading.  Everyone played well to get Bill the ball in scoring position, and to force Hackers' attackers to shoot under pressure, making Geoff's job easier.  The women as a group had another great game.  Lisa had several shots that should have gone in and the women at mid and defense swarmed Hacker's offense.  Mary, Laura and Marina had a good night at fullback while Patti and Maria were both aggressive in the midfield.  Lisa was everywhere, and usually in the right place.  She and Charlie probably did the most running.  Raoul, as usual, was a calming influence, directing play  at midfield and stopper.  Vincent, Jonathan and Ian both saved the day many times against a skilled and determined attack.  Joe, who had his best game in memory, teamed with Brian and Charlie to round out the middle of a particularly strong midfield.  Final score: 2-1

13 August vs. Team Zia:

This Monday was a nice, brisk, breezy summer day with temperatures down in the low 90s for a change.  Seems like we got off to a slow start in spite of having a large numbers advantage at first (Zia was down a woman for a while).  Next to last week's game, this was probably the toughest of the season.  The first half of the first half was pretty ugly passing-wise and consequently we spent most of the time being outplayed, on our half, trying to keep them from scoring.  Finally, near the 20 minute mark Steve got a nice through pass and had a good run down the middle, flanked by Charlie and Brian.  After forcing their sweeper to commit, Steve sent a sweet pass to Brian who got past one last defender and blasted the ball by a keeper probably suffering from sensory overload due to our numbers advantage on the play.  Offensively that was pretty much it for the half, except that Debbie (welcome back from injured reserve) had a nice shot from the right side that went just wide.  

The second half was a bit better, probably because we were wearing them down, thus making passing a bit easier.  Also, they seemed to have one defender or another hanging back a bit, keeping our offense onside on several breakaways that ordinarily would have been whistled back. Bill kinda lit up the field in the second half, getting a hat trick, a diving almost-goal, and engineering a teeing-up exercise for Vincent about 6 meters out of the goal mouth (didn't work, unfortunately) -- all in about 20 minutes playing time.  Two of his goals and one near miss came on largely solo efforts where he made the break close to the center stripe, either outran their defense (and the rest of our offense) or finessed their sweeper, forced the keeper to commit, and slotted the ball into the net.  (Makes me tired just reading about it.)  Charlie had several good runs on goal from midfield, one of which ended up with his second score in three games following another sweeper-baiting assist by Steve.  Steve crossed the ball back into the middle after the last defender committed, to a spot inside the 18 where Charlie finished it on a well-timed overlap from midfield.  A bad bounce while swinging at the ball on the rough pitch foiled what would have been a sure goal for him earlier in the match.  Debbie also had another great shot on goal from the right side that we all thought was going in, but unfortunately it also went wide, just missing the far post.  

Actually, the score of this game is a bit misleading.  Zia kept pressure on throughout the whole game.  Most of our goals came on quick counterattacks, while much of the time our defense was pretty well occupied with a steady, determined Zia offense that had good scoring opportunities all through the game.  Either good stops by our defense and keeper, or old fashioned bad luck for the Z-people kept the ball out of our net most of the night.  Grazia was back from her injured leg and had several good stops while marking one of their big guys on defense. Jihan spent much of her time doing a lot of work running with Maria and Patti (both of whom had good steals and were passing well, particularly in the second half) at midfield.  Laura also had a good night both at forward and fullback where she's turning into someone who can play anywhere on the field.  Mary and Marina both had solid performances in the defense, staying busy and doing a great job of slowing down or stopping their attackers.  For the guys, Raoul had another great night directing midfield play, making nice through passes to the strikers, and making a few good runs on goal as well.  Steve's assists were crucial to two goals by overlapping midfielders.  Dante had a couple good shots and provided Debbie with the through passes for both her shots on goal.  Jonathan and Ian traded off at sweeper (both stopping many scoring opportunities and frustrating Zia's strikers), and Vincent and Matt swapped at stopper, saving a few of their own in the process.  Geoff had his second busy game in a row with a solid performance, allowing only one goal in what could have been a three or four goal night for the Z-team.  Nice work, and a decent end to a fun season.  Final score: 5-1