10 June vs. Juggernauts:

Great season opener, and a great turnout with two women subs(!) and four extra guys.  First game with a ref provided by the league's new assignor, and what a treat -- a good ref with the personality of Curtis LeMay.

Electing to take the wind in the first half ended up being a good decision.  The Jugs were frustrated by their inability to get the ball out of their half which generated numerous scoring opportunities for our side.  We took a while to get settled in, but fortunately for us, the Juggernauts (never having played together before) took longer.  We were consistently taking possession of the ball at midfield and were having increasing success at finding our forwards as the half wore on.  Bill, Brian, Charlie, Matt, Lisa, Frances, Tony, Kristen, and Jason all had good shots that either went wide or were knocked down by their keeper early on.  Let's put it this way: their keeper had a workout retrieving the ball for goal kicks.  Our first goal of the season was a nice one -- a pretty through pass from Frances to Lisa who put a great move on one of their guys and dribbled around him near the end line inside the penalty box before sliding the ball over to an unattended Steve at the far corner of the goal box for the game-winner at the 20-minute mark.  Keeper never had a chance.  About 15 minutes later Lisa did it again, by drawing a crowd as she approached the goal from the right and finding Steve by himself in front of the open left side of the net for his second of the evening. 

The defense and keeper really had things well in hand, apparently easily handling everything that came through without much excitement.  The 'nauts did have a few chances with several corners late in the game when the wind conspired to keep the ball down on our end for a while.  However, Joe (at keeper) only had to hurry to get the ball a couple times the whole game.  Vincent's defense did most of the work very efficiently and managed to sweep up the few balls that did come through.  Joyce, Catherine, and Laura at wing fullbacks worked very well with the defense to midfield transition play, making good passes up to our halfbacks.  Catherine, in by far her best game ever, was unbeatable -- nobody, even their biggest, fastest guys got past her. Vincent, Jonathan, and Matt anchored the middle of the defense, swapping out at sweep and stopper.  Again, our midfield really controlled the game.  Brian and Charlie, then Jason and Tony performed superbly in the middle, with Maria, Kristen and Frances overlapping, shooting and passing well on the outside. Lisa, Bill and Steve all had a great night up front.  Steve got the goals, but Bill and Lisa both had several grood chances, along with several of the overlapping midfielders.

The ref's rather twisted substitution rules led to several difficulties since he wouldn't allow subs on the other team's goal kicks or restarts after our goals.  In the first half that meant that we went almost 20 minutes without being allowed to sub, and as a result, Matt couldn't come in for Jonathon.  He did have a great second half though with many most excellent clearances and even a shot or two.

Good game.  Welcome back to Laura and Brian, welcome to Kristen for her first regular season game, and a most reluctant goodbye to Catherine who is leaving us for her residency in Dallas.  Final score: 2-0.
17 June vs. Olympia V:

It was a weird game with an almost surreal, Apocalypse Now feel.  This was, in large part, due to the referee who was seemingly in the out-of-body-experience phase of a massive cannabis overdose.  His performance was typified by extremely slow and inconsistent calls, including the one where he thought it was okay for a player to receive his own throw-in.  The field we were scheduled to play on (Alief L4) was unplayable, so after several false starts we ended up on L1 and started about 25 minutes late. The loss of Catherine to Dallas and Lisa and Patti to travel meant that we had no women subs.

Referee and field aside, it seemed like it took us a while to get things together and start playing coherently rather than chaotically.  At the beginning of the game it seemed like nobody could get their foot squarely on the ball either to clear, or put a few passes together.  Unfortunately, during that dark period the much-improved Greeks had it together and managed to put one in.  Our play improved steadily over the half and we began keeping possession for longer periods which let us put some pressure on the Oly side.  Although we had several good chances from Jason, Steve, Charlie, Kristen, and Dante, nothing would drop into their net.  Their defense was doing a good job holding a line and their keeper made some good stops as well.  We were also frustrated by their rather obvious time-wasting gamesmanship as darkness approached, but in the figurative (and actual) twilight of the match something wonderful happened.  Frances took the ball inside Oly's penalty box, someone slid, and Frances (and several other people) went down.  After 5 minutes of wandering around in the murk (literally and figuratively), the ref finally got the PK set up.  Frances buried the ball in the left corner of the net to put us up 2-1.  The remaining time spent bumbling around in the dark was highlighted by one of Geoff's great saves in goal (he had several this time) to preserve the win.

Great credit goes to everyone on the team for never giving up and trying hard up to the end against this very large, aggressive team.  We were fortunate to pull this one out because of the extra effort.  Brian, Charlie, Dante, Joe, and Tony all rotated in at center mid, with Kristen and Maria playing on the left and right sides, respectively.  Frances, Steve, Jason and Alex played up front and Bill, Matt, Jonathon and Vincent swapped off in the center defender slots while Laura and Joyce guarded the wings.  Unfortunately, due to the late start and darkness the game was shortened substantially.  This meant that several folks, notably Steve and Alex among others, didn't get enough playing time since the game only went about 60 minutes.  We'll make up the difference next match.  Welcome back to Dante.  Final score: 2-1.
1 July vs. Stingers:

No joy in Mudville this time -- no miracles at the last minute like the last game.  Mixed turnout with seven guy subs, but short one woman.  Once again, kudos to the women who had to play the whole game with no subs in heat and humidity that had to be cut with a machete.  

This was another surreal sort of game, not unlike the last one, with a certain Felliniesque quality to boot.  Very chaotic, etc., etc.  Decent referee this time (much improved over the specimen from last match).  In short, we never seemed to get into a rhythm where we maintained possession for significant periods of time.  We did a pretty good job of controlling the game in their territory most of the first half, but our game was typified by bringing the ball down close to scoring range, losing possession before shooting, then getting it back around midfield, and so on.  We had several balls that went across the face of their goal, but being a player short, no one was there to put it away.  Kristen probably had the best chances -- her PK attempt went just over the bar, and she hit the crossbar with a sweet, dipping shot in the second half.  Bad luck both times.  Vincent's shot late in the second half on an overlapping run would have gone in if not for a great save by the Stingaree's keeper. Bummer there too.  Joyce had a wonderful game at fullback and worked a lot of combinations with Laura to make the transition from defense to mid.  The defense had things well under control most of the game, and except for the two breakaways that led to their goals, Geoff really didn't have much to do.  Their first goal looked at first like a great one-on-one save for Geoff until the ball popped free, not unlike Brazil's first goal in the previous day's World Cup final. He really didn't have much of a chance at the second one about midway through the second half.

Jason, Steve, Alex, and Bob all did a lot of work up front, but couldn't get off the winning shot on goal.  Charlie put in his usual 10-mile running effort (and fast too) along with Brian, Laura, Joe, Anthony, Matt, and Kristen at midfield.   Bill, Vincent, Patti, Joyce, Matt, Steve, and Todd all did yeoman duty in the defense, and, except for the two breakaways, seemed to dominate.  Hopefully we've used up all our bad luck, and have stored up some goals to let loose next week (save Frances' PK in the last match, we haven't scored in two games).  Welcome back to Bob, eh?  Final score: 0-2
8 July vs. Mirage:

Wellll...all I can say is that we must be accumulating good karma at a record pace.  Another frustrating night to say the least, but at least it was against a decent team.  We started down a woman with five guy subs.  Patti made it a full team about 15 minutes into play. 

I don't know what it was, but we couldn't put two passes together to save our lives -- not that i could do any better, mind you. Everybody was working hard, but it just wasn't working.  Geoff had a great night -- one of his best ever.  Three good shots did get in, but he made spectacular saves on at least four other certain goals.  We're playing essentially the same people as last season, with a few good additions.  We're playing the same lineup (the ol' 4-4-2).  Very frustrating.  Moving some folks around to different positions tonight didn't seem to help, although Geoff's keeping did keep us in the game 'til about 15 minutes into the second half when they added two more goals.  Hey, I'm open to suggestions -- drop me an email if you have any ideas.

Steve, Alex, Jason, Bill, and Patti played up at forward with Kristen moving into the middle late in the game.  Kristen, Brian, Charlie, Joe, Dante, Maria, and Tony worked the middle, while Vincent, Joyce, Bill, Laura, Brian, Steve, and Jason worked the defensive line at one time or another.  Hopefully this is just a brief dry spell and we can finish up the season on a more...umm...winning note.  Final score 0-4.
21 July vs. Marathon Madness:

Much better results this time -- not so much in the score as in the quality of play.  The score kind of took care of itself.  Once again the women really came through even though we were one short.  Patti and Kristen both came to the match from women's league games in the afternoon.

Other than a few Marathon breakaways, we seemed to control most of the game this time.  The key seemed to be pretty good defense-to-midfield transition play.  Even though we were one short it seemed that people were finding the open player...and people were getting open.  On top of everyone else's good play, Geoff had another great day in goal with a couple great saves, and one impossible stop.  That was the one he trapped with his feet while falling the other direction.  Kristen got our goal on a PK about 5 minutes into the second half.  Nobody seemed to know what the foul was that triggered the penalty kick, but Kristen buried a low ball into the right side of the net to put us up 2-0.  Madness managed to get a goal about 15 minutes later on a great shot to finish a breakaway.  Not much to be done about that.

Once again, we didn't score a goal from the field, but not for lack of trying.  Marathon's keeper had a pretty good workout from shots by Charlie, Alex, Kristen, Bill, Steve, Joe, Brian and others.  Brian and Steve get the chameleon award for playing in the defense, at midfield and forward.  Joyce and Patti both had particularly good aggressive games on defense by coming out and stopping Madness' offensive probes before they got started and then making key passes up into the midfield.  Kristen and Maria also had great games in the midfield by being open for both passes up from the defense, and also passes back from the offense.  Alex, Steve, and Bill kept the Mad-people's defense hopping with their work on the front line with help from overlapping midfielders.  Bill had what looked like a certain goal slip away when he stepped on the ball  in surprise after seeing how open the goal was.  Joe, Charlie, Tony, Steve, and Brian swapped off in the center midfield slots, with Brian and Todd playing stopper.  Todd had a couple key stops by sacrificing his torso to block a Mach 3 shot from their striker, and then stabbing the ball loose from the same guy on a would-be breakaway.  The center of the defensive line was held up by Steve, Bill and Raoul.  Alex did a good job covering for overlapping defenders.  All things considered, a much better effort this week.  Welcome back to Raoul.  Final score: 2-1
29 July vs. Stingers:

Great game typified by solid ball control, particularly at midfield and defense.  Not a bad offensive showing either with 12 shots on goal to the Stingeree's 4.  Unfortunately, none of ours went in.  Fortunately, none of theirs did either.  Good turnout this week -- three extra guys and even a woman sub!

Once again, other than a few breakaways, we dominated the game.  Credit for saving the day goes to the defense and Geoff in goal to notch their second shutout of the season.  Particular credit goes to the sweeper/stopper pair for tenaciously harassing their most excellent ringer Stinger striker and keeping him from getting off a good shot most of the time.  The few times he broke free Geoff was up to the challenge once again with now-commonplace spectacular saves, including a game-saving stop late in the second half almost as awesome as the one in last week's game.  The midfield was having a great evening too, making good, accurate passes amongst themselves and the front line.  The offense had plenty of chances, but, unfortunately, most of them were from outside the 18 and were handled by Stinger's keeper.  We had trouble getting into the middle of their defense inside the penalty box to finish several good scoring opportunities.  We seemed to exploit the outside spaces in their defense very well, but many of our high crosses were picked up by the keeper.  Attempts to drive the ball in low were thwarted by Stingers' packed, bunker defense.

Vincent had another great night, swapping off at sweeper and stopper (and taking several shots on goal early in the match) as did Matt who also overlapped to take some shots from his stopper slot.  Steve and Bill also did a fine job anchoring the center of the defense in the first half.  Marina, Patti, Laura all did well too, swapping out at wing fullback.  Marina had a particularly good steal from one of their better guys late in the game. The midfield controlled most of the game and made it look easy.  Brian, Kristen, Maria, Joyce, Joe, Tony, and Bill all ran their butts off while rotating in at mid.  Jason, Steve, Kristen, Joyce and Bill all did turns on the front line, and, once again, had plenty of opportunities, but no joy.  Bill wins the jack-of-all-trades award this week for playing fullback, midfield and striker.

This game was the last for Laura and Brian (allegedly moving back to Atlanta), and Jason (headed back to school at LSU).  Thanks for all the hard work and fun -- we'll see you again. Welcome back to Marina.  Final score: 0-0.
19 August vs. Team Zia (revised):

Wow!  Great finish.  One of our best comebacks in many seasons.  Pretty scary start with barely11 players (but with a full side of women).  We ended up with three men subs but no relief for the women.  Both teams seemed pretty evenly matched at times although we had the edge in one-on-ones with the keeper.  Oh...and Alex got a hat trick, pretty much ending our five-game, non-PK goal drought.

Alex got things started very early (at the two minute mark) with a really pretty goal following a perfect through pass from Dante.  Very quick and efficient -- a pass behind their center defender with Alex running on, then one-on-one with the keeper and swift finish.  He actually had a near-identical chance a few minutes later that went just wide right.  They evened things up a few minutes after that with a good shot from the left side.  Momentum went back and forth until the Zeeoids were, in a bizarre turn of events, given the gift of a penalty kick in the 22nd minute.  Geoff came out to intercept a player inside the box when they both arrived at the ball at the same time.  Both went down, and they came up with a PK.  Bad call.  In an equally bizarre turn, Zia elected to have a guy take the shot rather than one of their very strong women.  Go figure.  [Their team rep later said that she couldn't understand why they did that either.]  Bill very nearly evened things up following the restart.  He began a run back in the defense before play started, hit the midfield stripe just as the ball was touched, and was passing the last defender when someone blasted the ball through, putting him alone with the keeper.  Unfortunately, the keeper made a great save.  We hung in and carried the 2-1 deficit into halftime.  The second half started off with lots of back and forth.  Marina saved what was probably a sure goal by clearing the ball from inside the goal box following a quick counterattack.  They added another goal about midway through the half, making the score 3-1.  It was getting dark, the women were known to be knackered with no subs in sight, and we were down two goals.  Bad stuff, you'd think, eh?  Well, Joe(?) got the ball and pushed it through to Alex, who had just re-entered the match with a tight hamstring.  From where we were standing it looked like he kinda half volleyed it into the net from about 15 meters out.  Sweet.  The equalizer came during the same favorable momentum swing when Maria brought the ball down and put another great pass through to Alex on the left side.  He drew the keeper way out, then pushed the ball past him and watched it roll slowly into the goal for number three on the night.  Geoff, who had many nice saves through the match, really stepped up late in the game -- making several good ones after it got too dark to see well.  Must be nice to be young enough to have some night vision.

Obviously Alex had a decent night up front.  Kristen also had a good one up there as well with several good breakaways and good crosses.  Bill and Steve also did time in the front -- both drawing several defenders, thus keeping Zia's defense honest.  Joyce and Maria did nonstop duty at the wing halfback spots.  Maria had the assist on the second goal and Joyce was everywhere.  Joe, Dante, Raoul, and Bill all played center mid at one time or another and in short order figured out that the quick through ball to the front line was the way to go.  Joe came up a little lame late in the second half -- hopefully just a minor problem.  Vincent, Raoul, Steve and Bill anchored the middle of the defense, trading off at sweeper and stopper as needed.  They had a good night against a determined offense by managing to keep most of Zia's offenders away from the goal most of the time, and managing to chase down most of those who did get through most of the time.  Marina had one of her better games at outside fullback with the aforementioned save and general disruption of the Zia's forward play.  Likewise, on the other side, Patti stayed with her mark the whole game.

This one could have been written off after they went up by two goals late in the game.  Pulling out a tie like this pointed out the value of never quitting and showed lots of heart.  Great effort.  Final score: 3-3.
26 August vs. Orange Crush:

Great lineup.  Everyone was there early.  We even had a woman sub and two extra guys.  After some initial confusion regarding which field we'd be on, we ended up with one of the lighted variety -- a good thing.  We really controlled the game pretty well through the first half, particularly at midfield.  It seemed that we usually had free people in the middle.  Free, as in really open.  We usually were pretty good about finding them with the ball too.  Having lots of time at mid helped generate plenty of good scoring opportunities, but things conspired to keep the ball out of their net.  Kristen alone had lots of most excellent crosses (like at least six) in front of the goal while overlapping from midfield.  Unfortunately, with Kristen running the west side of the field and the lateness of the day, her crosses in the first half came screaming out of the sun for the folks manning (personing?) scoring positions in front of the goal.  For example, Joe personally shanked two headers within 6 meters of the goal mouth in the first half alone that ordinarily he would have put away.  Extraordinarily good defensive play and some luck on the Orangepeople's part didn't help us either.  They had a woman sweeper who did a good enough job patrolling the middle of the field that it freed up one of their guys to dog Frances or Kristen most of the game.  Even still, if we weren't half a step off at finishing, we could easily have had half a dozen goals.  Vincent barely missed one just off the left pole in the first few minutes.  Alex had several that just missed or were sucked up by the keeper, as did Anthony.  Frances, Charlie, and Joe also had some good crosses and chips at the goal that just wouldn't go in.  Very frustrating considering the solid play up front.

We have usually tended to push up into the offensive half of the field in games like this when we've controlled the midfield, but this time it jumped up and bit us a bit because it left us vulnerable to the counterattack.  Virtually all of Orange Pop's goals came on quick counters by their very fast center forward.  The score at the half was 0-2 on a couple of his breakaways.  At the time, that didn't seem like a hideous deficit considering the likelihood of Kristen, Alex, Frances and/or Steve putting a couple away based on the way the first half went.

Unfortunately, things went the other way in the second half.  Oddly, we still seemed to control the ball well, but weren't able to solve the breakaway problem with their forwards.  Charlie, Joe, Kristen, Joyce, Maria, Anthony, Bill, and Steve really held their own at midfield, but Orange Cush was having more luck clearing the ball over our (and their) halfbacks to their forwards in the second half.  Geoff never really had much of a chance at the three that went in during the last half...or any of them, for that matter.  Vincent, Bill, Patti, Marina, Maria, Joyce, and Steve all played on the back line at one time or another and had a full evening of it.  Nobody played badly, but it was really tough keeping up with their young, fleet forwards.  For what it's worth, I just got an email from their manager saying that they're losing five or six of their best players next season (including the guys who scored their goals).  Guess we showed them, eh?

This was a friendly game that just didn't go our way.  We could have done better, and it could have been worse too.  I can think of some things we might do differently next season that I'd like to discuss -- there'll be lots of new teams to try stuff on.  Not a bad season with something like a 50-50 split (3-3-2).  Welcome back to Frances of Colorado.  Final score 0-5.