Fuego Get Inspiring Win in Loudoun
October 5, LEESBURG - It was hot. Subs were in very short supply. Half the team spent four hours taking the SAT tests earlier that day. Yet somehow the Fuego managed to shrug all that off and pull out an exhausting but gutsy 2-0 victory against a surprisingly tough Loudoun Black.
Starting with only 11 players, the Fuego jumped on the ball early and pushed into the Loudoun end of the field. Kristin got several great looks at an open net, but the ball skidded wide of the net. Amanda, Kristin (K-Tran), Julia, Rhi and Kennia also had chances, but none found the mark.
Rhi, playing left back, intercepted several clearing passes and slid the ball into Karina along the left side. Karina worked with Julia to line Kristen up for several more shots.
Likewise, Beverly and Sarah intercepted most clearing attempts and fed the ball into K-Tran, who found Nina wide on the right side. Nina continually worked the ball into the zone and crossed back to the middle for shots by K-Tran, Amanda and Julia.
Ellie arrived about midway through the first half and made an immediate impact as she got off a couple of quick shots on goal and helped the Fuego continue the pressure.
Then Sarah went down after taking a wicked shot to the head from a clearing pass. The blow left Sarah with a swollen eye and a concussion. Ellie slid back to right back and did a terrific job helping transition the ball up to the attack, especially with her throw-ins (more on those later).
Despite the early pressure, the heat began to cause fatigue among the Fuego players, and Loudoun took advantage by pressing the attack. Aby made several terrific saves, including swatting a sure goal over the crossbar, and kept Loudoun off the scoreboard. As the half wore on, the play continued to swing back and forth, but ended scoreless.
The Fuego got back on track in the second half and got off a couple of quick shots by Sabrine, Julia and K-Tran. Then Aby, now playing left back, intercepted a clearing pass and slid it into Amanda. Amanda found Karina on the right. Karina cut inside and slid the ball into Kristen in front of the goal. Kristen did the rest, firing the ball low and into the corner of the net to give the Fuego the lead, 1-0.
But moments later, Julia went down with an ankle injury that sidelined her for the rest of the game. That left the Fuego once more without any more subs and nearly half a game to play.
But the Fuego players hung tough, especially the defense. Kennia and Beverly were terrific in the middle. Beverly denied every attacker any space at all, at times body-checking them off the ball. Kennia was her usual amazing self, covering the back line, pressing up to intercept clearing passes, and pressing deep on the attack when she could. Aby was Aby, meaning she was cool, smooth and very, very effective, intercepting ball after ball and sending them back into the Loudoun zone.
The Fuego continued to press up the sides, with Nina on the left using her foot skills to create space and find open players in the middle (although one attempt resulted in a spectacular wipe-out), but the Loudoun defense was strong on that side, so the Fuego changed tactics and attacked the right. Ellie continually found Sabrine with clearing passes, and Sabrine found herself on a series of breakaways that put increasing pressure on the Loudoun defenders.
On one such play, Sabrine got behind the defender, but her crossing pass was blocked, and the defender cleared the ball out of bounds. Ellie, who’s amazing throw-ins changed the game, fired a bullet into the box. Sabrine got the pass, slipped around a Loudoun defender and found Amanda in front of the goal. Amanda slid the ball over to K-Tran, who was wide open and unmarked, and she passed the ball neatly into the corner of the net to give the Fuego a 2-0 lead.
From there the Fuego fought off several determined attacks by the Loudoun team. Rhi, who faced a couple of tough shots in goal, did a great job keeping Loudoun off the scoreboard.
Amanda, who dropped into the space right in front of the defense, did an excellent job of cutting off most clearing passes and redirecting the ball wide, where Sabrine and Nina continued to channel the ball into the Loudoun end. Kristin had a breakaway that just missed, Karina had great shot on goal that deflected off the crossbar, and K-Tran had two more break aways that ended up in the goalies’ hands.
But the heat took its toll. With each stoppage in play, Fuego players could be seen bent over, gasping for air, and willing themselves to continue. When the final whistle sounded, the players were completely spent.
The fact that the Fuego players managed to even complete the game is a huge achievement, given the circumstances. But they found a way to win, which says a lot about their character. Nobody quit, nobody let up for a minute, and everybody supported each other. It was a total team victory, and it earned the entire team the Frankenball award this week.
Well done Fuego.