Finishing Strong



May 26, Haymarket, VA - The Fuego closed out their collective soccer careers with a strong showing in the 2014 Bull Run, playing four games over Memorial Day weekend, reaching the finals and nearly pulling off an upset.

The Fuego, with guests Katie Roberts in goal and former Fuegan Sara Padilla, opened the tournament Friday night against a very, very good VSA Heat team.  Though the Fuego had chances, the fast, quick-passing Heat took the opener, 4-0.

The Fuego shook it off the next day when they faced the Reston Bobcats.  The Fuego, playing with a very short bench (all weekend, in fact) took charge early by keeping the ball in the Reston end almost the entire first half.  Strong play by the outside defenders, Rhi, Sara and Beverly helped pin the Bobcats deep.  Despite the pressure, the Fuego could not find a clear path to the goal.  Then, about midway through the first half, Karina (playing up top in place of the absent Jazz), got a pass from Sabrine in the middle and lofted the ball over the goalie’s head and into the net for the 1-0 lead. 

About ten minutes later, Karina collected a pass from Julia at midfield, raced up the right side, cut across in front of the defender, and fired a left-footed blast into the corner of the net, giving the Fuego a 2-0 lead going into the half. 

The Bobcats fought back in the second half and got a quick goal to cut the lead in half.  They also put up a very stingy defense that the Fuego tried to penetrate with repeated runs by Nina along the left side, with support from Beverly, Kennia, Amanda and Karina, but with little success.  Similarly, Caroline worked the right side with Sara, Julia Aby, Rhi and Amanda, also, with limited results.

Because of the limited bench, the Fuego began to tire, and despite spectacular play in goal by Katie (all weekend in fact) the Bobcats got a late goal to tie the game.  The Fuego knew they needed a strong outing on Sunday, and a little help, if they wanted to reach the finals.

The Fuego delivered with a dominating 2-1 win against the Inferno that was more lopsided than the final score indicated.  Cheered on by Scott, who showed up to support the Fuego and also, no doubt, to avoid an embarrassing haircut, the Fuego took the lead on a Julia penalty kick after Jazz got flattened in the box. 

The Inferno got one back early in the second half, but then Jazz got a ball from Nina and slid it inside the far post to give the Fuego the 2-1 lead.  They held on for the rest of the game, spearheaded once again by the outstanding play of Katie in goal, and the defense led as always by Kennia, with lots of help from Morgan, Aby, Sara and Beverly.  The victory, combined with a 5-0 loss by the Bobcats to the Heat, put the Fuego into the finals.

Facing a rematch with the fast, quick-passing Heat meant that the Fuego would need to employ new tactics.  Using three defenders – Sara, Kennia and Karina, with help from Sarah Palmer, six midfielders – Rhi, Amanda, Kristen, Nina, Sabrine, Aby, with help from Caroline, Beverly and Julia, and one striker (Jazz), the Fuego clogged the middle of the field, marking the Heat players very tightly and forced the Heat defenders to hold the ball or make high-risk passes to generate any offense. 

The strategy paid off remarkably well when about five minutes in, Julia intercepted a pass and slid a perfect through-pass to Jazz, who raced around a Heat defender and banked the ball in off the far post to give the Fuego the lead, 1-0.

Realizing the Heat would ramp up the pressure, the Fuego focused on keeping their shape, communicating, and making sure they had numbers behind the ball, denying the Heat any sustained attack and frustrating their quick-strike passing game.  Any players who did get through on goal were shut down by Katie, who had a spectacular day in goal, earning her Frankenball as tournament MVP (as voted by her teammates). 

As the game wore on, and the first half became the second half with the Fuego clinging to a one-goal lead and the Heat frustrations mounting, it looked like the Fuego might actually pull off a miracle.  However, the Heat took advantage of a scramble in front of the goal midway through the second half to knot the score at one.

About five minutes later Jazz got loose on another breakaway on a great pass from Kristen.  Jazz make a point-blank shot, but the Heat goalie read the play and got in the way of Jazz’s shot just in time to deflect it out of bounds.

Then with about four minutes to go, a Heat player worked her way across the front of the Fuego defense.  From 20 yards out, she drilled a ball into the upper corner of the goal that Katie had no chance to stop, and the Heat took the lead. 

But the Fuego fought back and had several more chances, the last coming with less than a minute to play when Kristen found Beverly in front.  Beverly’s shot just skidded wide of the net.  Seconds later, the whistle sounded, ending the game.

It was an exciting finish to the tournament, the season, and the Fuego as a team. 

This marked the third time in the past five tournaments (four not counting the rain-shortened Sun Cup) that the Fuego made it to the finals. 

Afterwards, the players were all smiles during the awards ceremony, but there were a few tears as well.   It has been a long, happy journey for this team, and everyone was happy that it ended the way it did.


Congratulations Fuego, Well done!




And thanks for the memories…



The Fuego display their Bull Run finalist medals, May 26, 2014


 To see the full schedule and game results, click on the logo above.