Sol 1 Freedom 0

Now that’s a little more like it.  Yeah, I know, the Freedom lost, but they finally got back to playing like they played the second month of the season when they couldn’t lose a game.  The past four weeks or so, the Freedom were essentially playing seven players back and keeping their fingers crossed that one of their personality players could eke out a goal.  It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t fun soccer to watch, it was essentially individual effort in which a single player took many shots from great distance none of which had a prayer of scoring.  This one featured a more concerted attack.  So what changed?

First, Alex Singer is back and looking fully recovered.  This allows Bompastor to move back to the midfield, which is where she has the greatest impact, and it gets Krieger off the backline.  Putting both of these players on the flanks in the midfield gives everyone else on the field more space in which to operate.  If the Freedom aren’t getting width in the midfield, they’re not getting width, because with the exception of one really good Jill Gilbeau performance, the Freedom categorically do not incorporate the outside backs into the attack.  Not even Bompastor was making much noise offensively when she was at left back.

Second, Sawa is getting into the attack more.  When the Sol were on the attack, yeah, Sawa fell back and both she and Lindsey were playing alongside each other very deep in the midfield.  But when the Freedom were on the attack, they gave up that dual defensive midfield and one, if not both, would get forward.  The Freedom had numbers forward most of the night – this was a huge improvement over the last 4-6 matches.  This led to more possession, to more connected passes, to more real chances at goal.  I keep going back to that ridiculous 0-0 match against the Red Stars in early June where the Freedom had something like 24 shots, but not even one of those shots had a chance of scoring (that wasn’t bad luck or bad finishing kids, that was a horrible offensive game plan executed poorly) and it really makes me appreciate how patient they were this evening and how they concentrated on working the ball in rather than shooting into traffic, shooting from 10 yards outside the box, and booting it 10 yards over goal.  The shots taken in this one seemed less numerous, but there were probably half a dozen that were really really good chances. 

Third change I liked: formation.  Unless you’re going for a 0-0 tie every time out, and honestly, over the past month, that’s what it seemed like the Freedom were doing, a 4-3-3 isn’t a good formation without very offensive minded outside backs.  The whole field is pinched in and the midfield and forwards have no space.  Not using the width of the field just helps the opposing defense – if everyone is in a bunch in the middle of the field, you can wrangle them like sheep, put ‘em in a pen and watch when one gets all panicky and boots the ball someplace stupid.  So, this switch to the 4-4-2 worked out well.  I like Krieger much better as a midfielder than a defender, Bompastor was back on offense, the Freedom were getting more players involved on offense and, as mentioned above, the Freedom used the width of the field well.  I know I don’t say it much re Jimmy G, but I liked this adjustment

So, all this improvement, all this good . . . why did the Freedom lose?  Because they were playing the LA Sol.  This team is just head and shoulders above the rest of the league by just about any measure imaginable.  I mean, Sauerbrunn had the game of her life, Whitehill was solid, Singer made some surprising stops, each one of them stopped Marta cold, stopped Marta better than I’ve seen Marta stopped at the international level, but STILL, Los Angeles finds a way to win.  They just never panic.  They never stop running their offense.  Sure, they took a few too many shots from outside that really were not within the flow of the offense, but it never stopped the Sol machine for long.  They are relentless.  They are poised.  They are talented.  And every single time they step out on the field, they are certain they are going to win the game.  They are simply the best and most entertaining team in the league. 

Formation

Freedom (4-4-2, back-front, left-right): GK – McLeod; D – Senty, Sauerbrunn, Whitehill, Singer; M – Bompastor, Lindsey, Sawa, Krieger; F – Wambach, DeVanna; Moros in for Krieger, Long in for DeVanna. 

Sol (4-4-2, back-front, left-right): GK – LeBlanc; D – Larkin, Shaner, Bock, Cox; M – Miyama, Boxx, Abily, Zerboni; F – Marta, Duan.  Makoski in for Shaner and here’s wishing her a speedy recovery and hoping that no one ever EVER shows her the replay on that (I mean it folks, don’t ever show her that tape).

Freedom Players

McLeod – Have I mentioned that having her on this team just makes me happy . . . I think I have . . . I think I will continue to do so until the end of the season . . . bad first month of the season . . . bad bad first month . . .  Anyway, fairly solid outing, although her defenders saved two off the line for her and the post helped as well.  I like that she’s in complete command out there.  No panic after those near misses.  She shies from nothing, and when the best player on the planet scores on her, she doesn’t get rattled, slump her shoulders or give the opposition any reason to believe that they can get one cheap.  They weren’t going to shut out LA.  Marta just needs half a step, she got it and scored with a sharp ball across the face of the goal. Not much McLeod could do there.  That said, my favorite thing she did all night though has very little to do with her being a goalkeeper – it has to do with her being a leader and her desire to win.  It was at the very end of the game, about a minute left in stoppage time, ball goes out over the sideline and she, showing poise, leadership and savvy, is the one who ran to the ball and took the throw in. The goalkeeper took the throw in – I wish the rest of her teammates had her sense of urgency in the waning seconds, because if I’m a defender and if my goalkeeper is running hard all the way out of her net to the sideline to take a throw in, I’m sure as heck booting that ball into the other end instead of passing it around the back for 30 seconds like the Freedom did.  Yeah, I loved their patience all night, but when you have less than a minute and are down one goal, a direct ball flighted up top might be the way to go.  Anyway, solid, but relatively uneventful outing.

Senty – I think I need to see another outing or two.  I was surprised that the Sol weren’t picking on her more, but they were coming up through the center of the field and toward Singer more often.  I think part of it is that Bompastor was a presence in front of Senty and they had to get through her if they were going up the Freedom left side.  I thought she was relatively solid, Sauerbrunn had her covered a few times.  I would have liked her to cut inside to help Whitehill and Sauerbrunn out a bit once the pass came inside and/or Zerboni made her cut in.  Zerboni was incredibly active, but wasn’t keeping width well most of the game.  Once she cut inside, she wasn’t looking to go out wide again.  Senty could have gone in to clog up the lanes a bit with Bompastor going back to cover.  I’m not sure she has the chemistry with her linemates or with Bompastor yet to do this.  It might come.  That sort of thing came very naturally when Sauerbrunn and Singer played next to each other.  The highlight of her game is that save off the line on the corner near the end of the game (so long as that was her and not Whitehill).  Good reflexes.  Most of my comments here are quibbling though.  She was solid.  She did nothing to hurt  and not a whole lot dangerous came off the Sol right.

Sauerbrunn – Outstanding game.  For my money, the best central defender in the league and there is no one I would rather have anchoring my backline.  She is fundamentally sound, she reads the game extraordinarily well and is brilliant at keeping her body between the ball and the goal.  How many balls did she block today?  How many passes did she disrupt?  How many balls did she win in the air?  How many balls did she save off the line with a flying half scissor kick?  Goodness, she was incredible – she ran down Marta on a dead sprint and poked the ball away – Becky Sauerbrunn has no business running down Marta like that!  Great fun to watch – everything you want your central defender to be.  The only thing I can think to nitpick is that she should have screamed at Whitehill that she was right behind her on the Marta goal.  I think if Cat knew that Sauerbrunn and another defender (was it Senty?) were right there, she might have closed that space between herself and Marta to try to disrupt that shot a bit.  And that’s all I’ve got, easily my player of the match.  Great game, great season, great defender and she has quickly become one of my favorite players. 

Whitehill – Great game.  I really thought that the central defenders and Singer did a heck of a job with Marta, Abily and Miyama running at them the whole game.  Sauerbrunn mops up more defensively than anyone else on the backline, but Whitehill brings so much more than just defending to the table.  Her leg is a tremendous weapon, and but for a nice stop by the post, she would have netted one.  Great free kick, just about an inch wide.  She also almost scored an opportunistic one on the corner kick – the LA backline just played that brilliantly and caught about three Freedom players offside on that rebound.  I would like to see her take command and make the decision that if a direct ball is going to be played to Abby, it will come off her foot.  Singer sent several direct balls forward in this one and I’d much rather see Whitehill launch those balls.  As for the Marta goal, if she didn’t know Sauerbrunn and another defender were behind her, then she played that one right.  If she’d stepped up, Marta would have taken it right around her.  She had the ball on her left foot, she can shoot, or she can take a step around and go straight to goal.  That seemed to be a failure in communication more than anything – I would imagine that if Cat knew that she was covered, she’d have made Marta make that step around.  Live and learn – these are split second decisions and whichever way you go with Marta, she’s got a way to get the ball in the back of the net.  They really did do a great job on her most of the night and Cat was a huge part of that with double teams and forcing attacking players to change directions – strong outing.

Singer – Ran down Marta on the sideline.  I tell ya, she and Sauerbrunn must have eaten their Wheaties this morning because if you’d have asked me pregame how they were going to stop Marta, running her down on the sideline at a dead sprint wouldn’t have made my top 10 list.  Great stuff.  It was great to see Singer back.  She’s not the most athletic defender, but she anticipates the attack brilliantly.  She keeps players in front of her very well, she’s not afraid of the physical play and she doesn’t give away silly corners. I think she is a much better option on the backline than Krieger.  Yes, Krieger is probably the better athlete, but she can’t keep attackers in front of her.  Singer just reads the game much better.  She doesn’t chase as much because she sees what’s coming and is able to direct it where she wants it.  That’s it, I’m very happy she’s back and I like the combination of her and Krieger on that right side.

Bompastor – I was certainly happy to see her off the defensive line.  She was OK back there, but I think she has a greater impact when she plays on offense.  She wasn’t as involved in the offense as I would have liked, but just by having her playing out wide, she pulls defenders away from the forwards and central midfielders.  The defense is stretched because someone has to go outside and guard her and if the ball actually floats out there, a second someone has got to close on the play because 1 v. 1 against most defenders in the league, Bompastor is going to break free.  What I’d like to see, once they get their timing back, is when that second defender goes out, a nice ball to Abby’s head goes in.  A little less possessing the ball and a little more quick passing.  Pull out that last US v. Canada game for the damage quick one touch passing can do v. dribbling and dribbling and dribbling.  Anyway, solid, yet quiet outing.  I hope she makes a bit more noise in the next one.

Lindsey – She was holding down the fort in the defensive midfield.  She is tactically as sound and savvy a player as the Freedom have.  She switched fields nicely, she helped out on defense nicely and in a switch from the past few games, the entire midfield was supporting the attack nicely.  She had one really nice crack at goal in the early going that was just a little off.  She’s just a solid all around performer.  I think her demeanor and poise on the pitch are a tremendous asset to the team.  One quibble, at times, I think size hurts her winning 50-50 balls from that holding midfield position, but she goes in strong for everything and you can’t ever fault the effort.  Going in strong against Shannon Boxx though, Boxx is going to come out the winner more often than not.  She reads passing lanes well and made plenty of takeaways on the ground.  Just a steady performance, as has become her norm. 

Sawa – She started the game brilliantly.  She put DeVanna through, she lobbed one up to Wambach, she was running forward, getting back on defense, winning balls in the air, on the ground, sending balls out wide and playing the way I expected when she was initially allocated to the Freedom.  She was playing deep alongside Lindsey when the Sol were attacking, but she was getting forward and trying to orchestrate the attack when the Freedom had the ball.  Very high workrate. I think it necessarily tailed off a bit in the second half.  She was playing in a more defensive role for long stretches as the game wore on.  She’s a very tough player, not afraid of contact and is a great ball winner in the air.  I would have liked to see her get the ball wide a tad more and I think the Freedom need some consistency as to who is going to take that attacking midfield role.  There were several instances where Sawa put the ball through and no one ran on to it, or she put the ball wide and the flank midfielder was already tracking back.  Midfielders all have their own style. Sawa is different from Lindsey is different from Long is different from Bompastor is different from Moros.  A decision as to who was going to be running this offense should have been made long ago and the team should have stuck with it.  When it was Lindsey, the team was humming along, then somehow Long got the keys to the car. Not humming so well.  Now we’re trying Sawa.  Stop tinkering and give it a few more games.  Let’s see what develops here. The first half was fantastic. Freedom lost the game, but they played as well as they have in about 4-6 games. They have got to give it a chance to work against other opponents. 

Krieger – Well, I like her better in the midfield than I do on defense.  She was getting killed as a defender.  She doesn’t anticipate the attack very well and teams were running right at her.  Maybe she’s not 100%, but whatever the case, Rapinoe in the Chicago game and Kelly Smith against Boston just had their way with her from start to finish.  It doesn’t matter how good an athlete you are, if you can’t read the attack, you’ll be chasing all night, and that’s what she was doing in those earlier games.  That said, she was not only providing width and nice service to the attack in this game, she was playing much better defense as a midfielder than she had been as a defender.  When Singer followed Marta inside, Krieger fell back and helped out on the flank and made some really nice defensive plays.  Offensively, she sent some nice balls forward and showed she has some foot skills by taking the ball in herself.  I don’t recall any great crosses from either flank in this one.  Now that they’ve shown that they strategically want to stretch the field, both she and Bompastor have got to make some more noise out there and send some balls in to Abby. Falk wasn’t playing in this one, Abby really would have had a height advantage, so I’m not sure why the crosses weren’t more plentiful.  I thought this was easily her best game for the Freedom to date and I really would rather see her stay in the midfield than go back on defense (although, I have a sneaking suspicion, that if the Freedom stick with this 4-4-2, Long is going to get that right flank and Krieger is going to go back on defense as soon as Long is healthy – not sure how I feel about that, I’ll let you know after I see it). 

DeVanna – She’s growing on me.  She plays with great energy when she’s on the pitch and she’s managing to stay out there longer than I thought she would.  She had some really nice 1 v. 1 attacks at goal which earned some corners, received the ball really well from Sawa, Lindsey and Bompastor and she and Wambach have developed a nice chemistry.  Tactically, I still think she makes some bad decisions at times.  She doesn’t see the give and go.  There was one instance where she had her back to goal, gave the ball back to Sawa, but she didn’t take off – Sawa put a great ball into space that she just didn’t capitalize on.  She needs to read that play and trust Sawa to give her that ball back.  There was another instance where she again had her back to goal, one defender on her, another closing, she had nowhere to go and a wide open Krieger was standing right there waiting to bail her out – was right in her line of sight and everything, but instead of leaving that ball off for her, she just tried to dribble into two defenders and turned that ball right over.  We’re two thirds of the way into the season, she has got to be looking to combine better with her teammates than that.  If she’s going to drop back into the midfield, she’s got to play with her head up and make better decisions with the ball.  Anyway, nice outing, she’s a lot of fun to watch, just needs to share the ball more with her teammates when she’s in the midfield and trust that they’re going to share it back when she’s close to goal.

Wambach – She looked great in the first half.  She was combining well with her teammates and getting behind the defense.  She had a high workrate and was as mobile as she’s been in a while.  I’d like to see her used more as a target in the box though.  I know Gabarra’s style is possession based and he likes to keep the ball on the ground.  And that’s a great style.  It’s fun to watch when everyone’s clicking.  And if the players are patient and don’t take silly shots from 25 yards out, they create really great chances near goal.  That said, there’s playing a style and a system, and then there’s slavish devotion to it beyond all common sense.  The point at which you’re not utilizing one of your greatest weapons because it requires the occasional direct ball flighted in is just being obstinate.  There were very few crosses off the flank into the box.  We know Bompastor can deliver a beautiful one.  There were very few non-set piece balls off Cat Whitehill’s foot looking for Wambach.  Singer did send a few direct balls up, and they were good enough ideas to mix things up a bit, but honestly, if a defender is going direct with the ball, it should be Whitehill.  She’s got a powerful, accurate leg and Abby has got a height advantage on just about everyone.  Her ups have been a tad in question coming off her injury, she hasn’t looked right on that count a lot of the season, but she looked righter in the first half of this one than she has in a while and I would have liked to see how high she could go up and what she could get.  I don’t understand why those balls weren’t coming in off the flank.  Especially with Falk out . . . especially with Boxx playing fairly aggressively offensively and not always back deep to help with Abby.  It’s great to have width, pull defenders out, but unless the width starts doing something dangerous, like getting balls into the big girl, teams aren’t going to let their defense get stretched.  If those crossing balls don’t come in, the defense can wait for the flank midfielder to dribble it in.  That works great sometimes, Bompastor is a tremendous 1 v. 1 player, but if that’s what you do every time down the field, it really defeats the purpose of having width to start with.  The defense won’t go out wide, they’ll just wait for the flank midfielder to come to them.  Anyway, nice outing for Abby, but she did seem to lose a little steam in the second half.

Moros – She has been really hit or miss with me this season.  Her workrate is always great, it’s just that some games she seems to be playing within the offense and other games she seems to be on a different page.  She really didn’t seem to make much of an impact in this one.  She wasn’t maintaining width as well as Krieger had been, but admittedly, the Freedom’s offensive shape had deteriorated by the time she entered the game.  The Freedom were hanging on for dear life on the defensive end and they had gone off script offensively.  Individuals were scrambling trying whatever they could to try to net one.  Like I said, can’t blame the effort, but contrasting the Freedom’s second half with the Sol’s, you see what a lot of confidence and a lot of poise can do.  The Sol never scrambled, they never went off script.  They just patiently ran their offense waiting for that half a step of space to make their move.  And I just went way off script there too – this was supposed to be Moros’s section.  She worked hard out there, but didn’t have much impact.  She generally does more for me as a starter than a sub, but she had a solid enough game.

Long – I’m not a fan of how she’s been used this season.  I was a fan when she was in college but she’s being used very differently on the Freedom than she was at UNC and it doesn’t suit her at all.  I think Gabarra’s assessment of her game, as it was conveyed by the television commentators, is more wishful than real.  If she’s one of the best 1 v. 1 players the Freedom have, the Freedom are in trouble simply because she won’t take on defenders.  She doesn’t like contact and is very easily pushed off the ball when she makes a forward attack.  She also is a player who doesn’t play with her head up.  She doesn’t see the pass – not the one coming to her, not the one she should be making.  That’s why she took so many ridiculously pointless shots in that Chicago game I mentioned earlier.  I think she had something like 8 or 9 shots and probably only 1 wasn’t ill advised.  The others generally followed a not so subtle shrug, and then her booting the ball right to the keeper from 20+ yards out.  Long is an end user, someone has got to put her in, got to get her the ball in the exact right place and she has got to be committed to running hard to a spot that someone else decides is the right place for her to be.  Left to her own devices, she makes a bad choice more often than not.  She just seems like she has no clue what she’s supposed to be doing out there at times.  Maybe when she’s fully recovered from her injury (and I realize she’s not) she’ll show an improved workrate and nose for goal.  I’m still waiting and hoping . . .

It really was a well played game by the Freedom, at least through about the first 55-60 minutes.  For the Sol, however, it was a well played game for 90+ . . . it usually is.  I’m going to go through the Sol players quickly – sorry Sol fans, I just don’t have time to go as in depth as I’d like. 

Sol Players

LeBlanc – She made some nice stops.  She combines well with her defense and handles set pieces well although she did have a whole lot of help from the post and Shaner saving the ball off the line.  I’m not a huge fan of her moon ball punts.  Sky them that high and you give the defense time to not just get back, but to drink a cup of coffee and play a game of cards as well.  That said, I’ve got to say, I’m having trouble remembering her game because the lasting image of her I had after this one was her crouched down on the field for 10 minutes holding Christie Shaner’s hands.  There are all kinds of ways to be a leader and to show character, and maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but watching Karina LeBlanc in the aftermath of that hit, tells me all I need to know about who she is and who I’d want as a teammate.

Larkin – Look at my girl Katie Larkin playing defense.  I LOVE it.  This kid is just a soccer player.  It doesn’t matter where you put her, she’s going to play hard, play smart, find a way to aggravate the defense and goalkeeper.  And now we discover she can frustrate attacking players by reading passing lanes and intercepting balls, going in hard for tackles and otherwise finding herself a couple of steps ahead of her competition.  I think she provides great support to the offense from the defensive wing and I thought she filled out that left flank nicely when Miyama was otherwise occupied.  Nice outing, I’m glad Rogers is finding a way to get her on the field.

Shaner – I keep finding these defenders I’d either forgotten about or didn’t know and they keep getting hurt.  Kandace Wilson was going to get my Favorite Player I’d Never Heard Of Award and Shaner was well on her way to the Player Making The Most Of Being Traded To The Best Team In The League Award (I don’t get a vote for the real awards so I make up my own).  Fantastic save off the line – saved one of the Freedom’s best chances of the night.  Very tough defender, not intimidated or afraid of anything.  She doesn’t have great speed, but she covered a lot of ground and has a great workrate.  Just a rock solid central defender.  I wish her the best and hope she recovers as soon as humanly possible.

Bock – This is another player playing out of position but who can make anything work.  This is one of the things that makes this Sol team so dangerous.  You just don’t know from where it’s going to come. You’ve got a brilliant forward at left back and one of the savviest collegiate offensive midfielders of the past 5 years in your central defense.  She can pick apart a defense as an attacker and she can read what’s coming at her as a defender.  Anticipates the attack beautifully and is rarely out of position.  She doesn’t chase much because she sees what’s coming.  The Freedom did earn way too many corners, but I think that’s due more to a lack of communication on the backline than any individual play.  They’ve had a few changes back there and at times I was wondering who was in control.  Anyway, solid game and the Sol get a whole lot more offensive support from their central defense than most other teams in the league.

Cox – You know, she is a rock solid defender.  Always has been.  She makes the most of her abilities, isn’t terribly fleet of foot, but reads the game very well.  She put a couple over the endline I was surprised she didn’t turn and put over the sideline, but DeVanna’s speed was probably a lot for her to take at times.  And one thing I didn’t see, that I’d love to see from Cox, is for her to use that brilliant cross of hers.  This isn’t really a team that has an offensive player they use as a target in the air, but Cox has one of the best crosses in the women’s game and I wish I got to see it when this LA team comes to town (like they need more offensive fire power . . . but still). 

Miyama – This is one of the better games I’ve seen her play.  She is definitely combining better with Marta than she was early in the season.  The goal was fantastic.  A beautiful ball from Bock from the far side of the field, went out to Miyama who put it in to Marta in the exact right spot.  Half a step and goal.  Great job by all involved.  Miyama was creating for her teammates all night.  Tireless workrate as well.  She was creating for others and centering the ball, but she was also running at the defense herself.  She makes a lot of off ball runs as well.  Makes sure Marta and the gang have options when the ball is on the other side of the field.  The Sol really do involve everyone in their offense and are just moving all the time.  It’s very fluid and Miyama is a key cog.  Nice game.

Boxx – She is all over the field.  Early in the game she was really getting forward into the attack and making a nuisance of herself.  At other times she was sitting right on top of the defense forcing the Freedom attack out of the center of the field.  As always, she earned more than her share of 50-50 balls, intercepted some passes and even found time to do some square dancing with Homare Sawa (hook your partner and swing ‘em on around! – three times, she got away with that three times before that card finally came – that’s why she got the card even though Sawa initiated that last one, Boxx had hooked her like that twice earlier so the ref was waiting for it).  Typical Boxx outing – that this level of play is what you can call “typical” for her goes a long way toward explaining LA’s record.

Abily – Most games she takes a lot of pressure off Marta.  Can’t double a defender off her to track and close on the superstar without paying a price.  She has scored a lot of goals against teams preoccupied with Marta.  She has great skill on the ball, she combines well with her teammates.  Plays with her head up and is as adept at making the pass as she is bringing the ball in and/or getting behind the defense herself.  She and Miyama kind of take turns being the engine that makes the offense run.  One will be the engine and set the stage and the other gets to run at goal, make off ball runs and serve as a target.  It really is a luxury having two such creative midfielders on the field at once.  Combine that with one of the most offensively creative defensive midfielders in Boxx, and this really is a tough midfield with which to contend.  Only complaint, she’s a little too cute with the ball at times.  In the first half, some of those little back heel passes and cute little touches with the outside of the foot were a little too . . .  I don’t know . . . just seemed a tad condescending.  They didn’t seem like they were taking the Freedom seriously.  Sauerbrunn quickly disabused them of the notion that they were going to roll right over the Freedom defense and they quit that nonsense, but I’m not a fan of the cute little touch.  Usually, the first time you see that in a game it works, the rest of the time, it’s a turnover.  It ain’t college, it ain’t the W-League, it’s professional soccer and you’re just wasting possession with those silly little touches more often than not.  Those tricky little touches really are not how the Sol destroy everyone.  That said, I really do enjoy watching Abily play – solid game.

Zerboni – It’s got to be tough – this offense is 5 international superstars . . . and McCall Zerboni.  But you know, she’s got a workrate that is unmatched, she’s not shy about getting forward into the attack and bringing the ball into the attacking third herself and she doesn’t seem intimidated out there at all.  She was a little impatient and took a few too many ill advised shots rather than making some nice passes, but she definitely does more good than bad.  She reads passing lanes well and isn’t afraid of physical play.  Won the ball often and doesn’t get pushed off the ball by defenders.  She really had a lot of touches on the ball.  I was quite impressed with what she brings to this offense.  It’s tough playing with that many international stars, but she fits in quite nicely. 

Duan – She’s been a bit of an enigma this season, no?  There are moments she looks great, but overall, in this one at least, Zerboni was actually making more noise on the right side of the field than she was.  She was playing all over the place, but she was making a lot of runs and spending a lot of time wide right.  She did cut inside through the box and was a lot more effective pinched in and playing in close proximity to Marta and/or Miyama.  I didn’t notice that she was combining particularly well with Abily though.  I just don’t know where to go here to be quite honest.  She runs a lot, she’s very active, but she just seems to be playing a different game at times – not on the same page with most of her teammates.  Of six midfielders and forwards, she seems to just be a little more lost in the ether than the rest.  I’ve seen Sol games where she was much more integrated in the attack, and I’ve seen Sol games where I’ve gotten the exact same feeling watching her I had in this one. Don’t know what to make of it – don’t know if there’s anything to make since the Sol seem to be doing just fine.

Marta – Heh heh – I just forgot to include Marta in my match report.  Oops.  I really need this to be finished.  Anyway, to state the obvious: she’s a great goal scorer.  She has got the quickest trigger in the women’s game and more confidence than anyone out there . . . than any 20 people out there . . .combined . . . and doubled.  And honestly, that’s a huge part of the explanation of how she does it.  She doesn’t question herself, she gets half a step and sure footedly slams it in.  Doesn’t get too far under the ball, doesn’t shoot wide, doesn’t take a little stutter step to get a perfect touch, she just sees and opening and puts the ball on frame.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, she’s also got ridiculous skill with the ball at her feet, great speed with the ball at her feet, great field awareness, plays with her head up, blah blah blah, but honestly, watching the women’s game for years and years and years, and how many shots are over goal, weak and straight at the keeper, slammed into defenders, and tentatively taken, the confidence factor really and truly does set her apart . . . along with all that other stuff.  And all that said, all praise to Marta, queen of the soccer pitch, the Freedom really did do a fantastic job on her most of the night.  Singer had her out wide and right central, Whitehill helped and Sauerbrunn made some amazing plays covering.  Everyone kept a body between the ball and the goal and managed to toe poke the ball away the few times it looked like Marta was going to get by.  Half a step is all it took – if Whitehill didn’t know two of her teammates were behind her, and I don’t think she did, then she played that ball right.  And Marta still scored.  There’s nothing you can do about that but watch and enjoy. 

Makoski – She was pretty active when she got in the game.  I don’t recall much that she did, but I do remember that she was reading the passing lanes well and made some nice decisions with those intercepted balls.  That’s about it.  I’ll have more on her if she’s starting the next time I see the Sol.  This is a player who I’ve always liked a lot.

And that is it.  Best game I’ve seen the Freedom play in awhile.  And the Sol, as always, were sublime.  There is no shame in losing to the Sol by one goal and as a Freedom fan, I hope they take all the positives they can from this one and try out this formation with this personnel against a more reasonable opponent.  As for the Sol, the danger now is over confidence and what has to be the wackiest schedule in the league.  I’m left wondering, with this playoff format and the fact that the Sol have played several more games than everyone else, exactly how sharp and played in are they actually going to be when the WPS final rolls around.  They have to sit through two rounds of playoffs and a light last month of the regular season.  I’m not sure how well that’s going to work out for them.  They’re clearly the best team in the league and it’s not even close.  If they don’t win it all, then I’d look real real close at a playoff format that essentially ices the #1 ranked team for two weeks before they have to play a final match (NFL Wild Card teams have had a ton of success in recent years . . . beating the teams that had byes and had been resting their players the last few games of the regular season . . . I’m just sayin’).  Anyway – fun match, and, as always, I’m looking forward to the next one.

Beulah

RIP Air McNair