To reach the postseason, the Shine would most likely need to win its final four games and get some assistance along the way. They finish the season the following weekend with a pair of home games Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, but first they must take one more road trip Sunday to play the Portland Rain, who were victorious, 2-0, in Spokane two weeks ago.
“Pretty excited about our chance here - we are not in control of our destiny like we would like to be; we still need help,” said head coach Jason Quintero after training Thursday night, knowing that the Shine also need Issaquah SC to drop three more points in their final three games, two of which are against their local rival Emerald City FC. “I like the fact that we still have a shot. And I like the fact that we are in kind of a midseason stride, I think; even though we didn’t play so well in our last game.
|Quintero observes training Thursday|
The team certainly needs to come out differently than their last outing versus the Rain two weeks ago in which they came out and struggled against a team that had played less than 24 hours prior back in Portland. It was a loss that left the team in a huge hole to climb out of for the playoff chase, and left the coach disappointed and welcoming to an idle weekend to allow the ladies to relax a little.
“We did get some rest. We are still fighting injuries,” he said of the past two weeks. “But I think mentally we rebounded, more than anything, which is good for us. I think we went from being really frustrated about that loss to putting it behind us, but not completely where we are to the point we forget why we lost.”
Part of keeping that loss in the picture was a rare video session last week in place of one of the team’s usual three nights of training, examining the performance against Portland.
“It was the first one we’ve done this year. I thought the girls physically needed a break and could use some benefit from watching themselves. Obviously it is a tool that is used a lot in college programs, and stuff like that, but we don’t really have access to those type of facilities. So the chance we had to do it, we really took advantage of it. And I think seeing the game from above and not through the eyes of the player is invaluable in terms of learning.”
The rest may prove to be a critical element as the team heads into the weekend slightly short-handed with several players out of the picture for personal commitments in addition to standout midfielder Tseng Shu-O, who’s been on the sideline for training this week, being out at least for Friday night due to injury.
“She is thinking about Sunday… but it’s a calf injury and she thought it was getting better, but sounds like it is gonna take a little while,” he said unconvincingly of her potential availability.
“It’s a tough, tough weekend too. At least we do get a day to relax, which is good. But then Sunday morning we’re up early and we’re playing Sunday afternoon, and we’re back Sunday night. It’s a challenge for the girls, but hopefully we respond and come out of the weekend with six points.”
Eugene came into that first meeting with season-opening Spokane having already played twice, though they were shutout losses the weekend before on the road against Issaquah and Emerald City. Tahne Apo gave EMFC the advantage 28 minutes in with Shine defender Maggie Schrader having the best chance to equalize with a header going off the post in the 70th. It proved a critical denial as Caitlyn Jobanek scored nine minutes later to cap the match for Eugene on the First of June.
“They are committed to tackling; they are committed to work rate,” Quintero said of what to expect from Friday night’s opponent. “I think that’s two reasons that they beat us the first time we played. I think they show more passion to win the ball, to earn the ball, and not give up the ball like we did.
“This time of season right now, we are a little bit different team. We aren’t trying to find ourselves like we were in that first game of the season; find our roles and stuff like that. I am excited for the game because I think they are expecting a very different team than we really are.”
Second chances certainly are at hand for the Shine, and they need to convert to keep their postseason hopes alive. The good news is they won’t really need to worry about scoreboard watching this weekend with Issaquah playing host Friday to the winless Oregon Rush, whom they crushed 7-0 in Bend two weeks ago. Third-place Emerald City should also stay firmly in the playoff picture with a Saturday evening contest against the Rush, who have been outscored 27-5 for the season, 17-0 in their last three games.
That leaves the focus squarely on the teams in front of the Shine, and making amends for the errors of the past that have put them in their current situation.
“It’s pretty much… revenge is the theme of the weekend,” said Quintero after pausing mid-thought. “Because that’s two games that we feel we should not have lost either of those, but we need to prove it on the field. And so I think the girls have a good opportunity to do just that and I think the girls think that we did deserve to lose, but I don’t think they feel like we were being outclassed by another team. And I think we know that we just had poor games and they are looking to set the record straight.”