by Marissa Peña
Second day of the tournament. It’s a great day for playing. The weather is just right. Not hot, a little cold and overcast, makes it for a perfect soccer day! So the teams have been divided into two groups; Champions were the top 8 teams are and Europe where the bottom 8 are. We are on the bottom 8. But our group rivals, except for one, are in the top 4!! Little did we know, we would end up in the group of death.
Our first game is against the Swedes Hammerby FC. We kick off and immediately fall back into our old habits. The habits and game play that got us in the Europa Group. Have we not learned our lesson yet? Again we force the play to begin from the back, creating a very dangerous one on one with the goalie as the ball is habitually intercepted. The shot goes past the side net. No goal. The Strikers are just not finding our rhythm and Hammerby take full advantage by finding every available space to push forward. Another shot on goal and this time it goes right in for a 0-1 Hammerby. The now possession game of the Swedes creates a play from the middle to create a great opportunity for a shot. Again the gods of soccer spare the Strikers as the shot goes off the post. Next play, and our #15 is taken down with a concussion, as Andrea goes in hard to save an advantage attack. Andrea #15 has to be taken off the field, even though her bravery and commitment to the team, tried to convince the staff that she was okay. Clearly she was not.
Next goal for the Swedes comes off another defensive mistake as our center defender leaves the ball for the goalie and the goalie gets to the ball too late for a 2 -0 lead for Hammerby. Our lack of organization and lack of clear instructions for a defensive style of play makes it simple for the Swedes to attack again without any resistance from the Americans. Unbelievable! 3-0 lead for the Swedes. Our #15, is back in, who immediately creates pressure on top but it's too little too late as a simple interception from Hammerby and a mishap from the defense as players are caught watching and interfering amongst themselves, create another successful shot on goal for the Hammerby FC. Much to our chagrin, the Swedes are now leading by 4 goals. Needless to say, the midfield shone for its absence in this game and the defense was completely off, as never before. So much for our possibilities of coming home with the Europa Trophy.
Another missed open shot on goal by the Swedes, but alas the shot goes astray. Lucky for us. At this time and space, it will be imperative for the staff to change their tactical game, their formation and above all, the mentality needed to instruct in a tournament where 25 minutes of high pressure and defensive attacking are absolutely essential to stay in the game. Our pass backs, our soft touches, our intent to play possession fútbol has to be a thing of the past.
Sunday Game 2 Vs. Basel FC (Switzerland)
This time, our Coaching Staff has come to the realization that a change must be enforced, in every aspect of the game: formation, style of play, instructions, plan of attack, mentality. Can we do it? Can we change our style of play and mental game this late in the game? We press this time. First time, these words are heard from our bench. Push up, ball up, now we are playing more defensively, without regard for physical conservation. This is what we needed from day one. Fearlessness, aggressiveness, total commitment of mind and body. First shot on goal is saved by our goalie Arizbeth. First 5 minutes of the game is all Strikers. We have hope. We get to every ball, we attack every ball, we send every ball up. No more stopping, or hesitating. Arizbeth saves 2 amazing shots on goal as this club from Switzerland is a pro Club with plenty of experience. Along with two, super good forwards with legs to shoot from any distance. The defense is finally involved correctly as Ashley #19 passes a great ball all the way to the top to find forward Andrea who passes it perfect on a first touch to Adriana who comes up short of a stretch to put in the ball in front of the goal. Adriana gets yet another chance, and this time the ball goes wide. But our mental game is different.
A corner for us develops into a foul in the box for Basel FC. Amazingly enough the goalie saves it, the girls do not protect the rebound and nearby Basel player puts it in for a 1-0 lead. The scoreboard will stay this way as the Strikers battle through high pressure, not allowing for any more mistakes or goals scored on. Great Job Ladies!
Sunday Game 3 vs Racing Strasbourg (France)
Last game of the tournament for the Strikers. The mentality of the last game is definitely still there. We take the first shot on goal by a hard drive from the midfielder Sam #7. Our defensive line looks more in sync with their line as Bri #11, weakens several attacks from the right side. An unfortunate foul in the box by Stefanie #2 and the French waste no time taking a perfect goal. 1-0 Racing. But the Strikers have been doing all the work and we believe it's just a matter of minutes before we even the score.
Goalie Tiny, stops a clear breakaway for Racing and the bench stands up in sheer delight! A series of good defensive plays and counter attacks continue to get the ball up to our scoring position. But we just cannot score! A chance by Fátima #18 with an indirect kick goes absolutely nowhere. Tiny hand swipes another ball off her line to bring on the opponent's corner. A great play from Olivia #9 to Ximena #21, who masterfully pivots it to Andrea who take the shot, goes again off the post!!
Their next indirect kick caused by another foul at 30 meters out makes it straight into the top left corner for a 2-0 lead for Racing. Nevertheless, we continue to possess through high pressure and first to the ball attitude. This new way of playing for the girls will come with a cost, but as I always say, "it's better to make a mistake, than to not try at all!"
We have learned and therefore all is not lost.
The Awards Ceremony begins immediately after and the winners PSG, Olympique Lyon, Zurich FC and Alberweiler, in that order gave us much to deal with during the tournament. But most of all, we left with great memories, great friendships, and winning the hearts of all who saw our team go from passive to aggressive defensive players in half a day. This I hope will continue to be the norm back home.
The lesson cannot be lost and this experience has brought the team face to face with hard decisions that have to be made.
Tag(s): 2019 Alsace Cup