|Chelsie Breen, Stephanie Busch and Maggie Schrader have been key to Shine defense|
“Fluke.” That’s what Spokane Shine head coach Jason Quintero said of Lisa Robertson’s goal directly off a corner in Friday night’s 1-0 win against visiting Emerald City. What is not a fluke, however, are two things the Shine are quickly becoming known for: grinding out wins and improving on previous performances.
“Seems to be our M.O.,” Quintero said of the final score. “I think this is our fourth one-nil win. We get one and we are so good in the back – and in goal as well – that we just don’t really get scored on that much.
“It’s a testament to Maggie Schrader, Chelsie Breen and Allison Jordan – and Shannon Lindsay was unavailable tonight – and then Averi Hallman. It’s just a great team effort and Stephanie Busch is just so calm; that really sets the tone for our defenders not to panic as well.”
The Shine came out and were arguably as sharp as they had been all season, owning the ball throughout the first half and most of the second. Though their own chances were not overly frequent, the visitors had very few good looks at goal and had difficulty moving the ball into the final third throughout the contest.
“We knew [possession] was key coming out in a 3-5-2. Before and after we scored; if we were gonna stay in a 3-5-2, we had to knock the ball around and make them work.
“It’s a lot of pressure if we keep giving the ball away on our back three if we do give silly turnovers here and there. We did above average. We still gave it away a few times. What I liked about when we gave it away; we went and won it back as well – as hard as we could.
“We put in young kids up top and just told them to chase, chase, chase. You only got five or ten minutes so chase, chase, chase everything. And they did really well creating pressure. Emerald City didn’t really have a lot of time to serve the long ball into the corners which we were giving up in our formation, so credit to our forwards – our first line of defense. They were playing well.”
With both teams keeping the ball on the floor playing possession, both teams were consistently making adjustments trying to find a gap to break through and challenge the goalkeepers.
“Tactically I think it’s fun to watch those games. Sometimes they’re a little bit boring for the crowd, but the intricacies of our formation versus their formation – we both want to possess the same ball. That’s fun to watch that chess match, and I am proud of the way our girls played because the first time we played Emerald City I would say they had 70 percent of the possession. I don’t know if we had 70 percent of the ball today, but I think we had our share over 50.”
And that brings things around to the Shine’s forte – getting a better result the second time out against an opponent. With only the Oregon Rush, whom they beat in Bend 5-2, left to play, the Shine have claimed victories against each of their opponents after giving up points in the first meeting.
It all started in their second week of the season. After playing Issaquah to a 1-1 draw at home, they traveled to the west side a week later and nabbed a 1-0 win. A day later they played Emerald City to a 0-0 draw, which they bested Friday with a 1-0 win. The EC draw was followed by a 2-0 home loss to the Portland Rain which they avenged last Sunday on the road – a 1-0 decision again – after posting a 1-0 home win versus Eugene Metro FC two nights earlier at home, making up for a 2-0 season opening road loss.
“I think that’s a testament to improving throughout the season,” said Quintero of the trend. “Knowing that we played them once and we knew their strengths and weaknesses and came out prepared for that in terms of what we want to do offensively and defensively.
“And it’s a testament to the girls not giving up early on when things weren’t kinda going our way. We were getting a lot of unlucky bounces and things that were both out of our control and silly mental mistakes. We fixed those mental mistakes and now the ball is starting to bounce our way. So when those two things happen you ‘re gonna finish the second half of the season strong.
“Last year was kinda the same thing where we finished the season strong; so if we could just start how we finish, we would be a lot better off and not have to wait for Issaquah on Sunday.”
Before they track the events out of Seattle though, they have to keep their eyes on Oregon. Quintero was not concerned with improving on their previous result, but on making sure they got the right one.
“Don’t overlook ‘em,” he said he was going to tell his players. “Remember Bend was 2-2 fifty minutes in, something like that with us - so no reason to overlook them. I know [the players] know they lost two games eight-nil, ten-nil so we just gotta make sure we don’t get complacent and think the game is already won because games aren’t played on paper.
“So we need to come in tomorrow and just focus to do a job and hopefully enjoy doing it; and hopefully put on a show for the fans and score a few goals.”
While a draw would keep the Shine alive as they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with Issaquah, a victory would put the Shine atop the table and force Issaquah to get a win in the Battle For Seattle.
From there, everything rides on an Emerald City side that are coming off a hard-fought narrow loss in Spokane that eliminated them from postseason contention. The question now is whether or not the anger from that disappointment will help intensify what is already a good rivalry, or will the team or some of its players call it a day and mentally check out for their finale.
“That’s always a concern, but I think the players they got – they got good players, they’re competitive players. I don’t think they are just gonna fold up shop by any means,” Quintero replied to the idea that Emerald City might not be up for the final game. “And I think that rivaly; that derby that they have with Issaquah - that’s a pride game no matter what the standings are and who’s in first and who’s in last. That’s still a pride game when you are playing your cross-town rivals. So hopefully that will get them juiced, and I honestly, sincerely wish them luck.”
|Robertson and Marbury leave the pitch victorious|
And as for the fluke - the former Scottish youth international seemed defiantly proud of the goal.
“Yes the goal may have been a fluke, but you make your own luck,” she said. “We worked hard and thought we deserved the win. Every player on the park was fighting for each other and that just shows how good our team spirit is.”
Quintero, on the other hand, seemed to give more credit to his young forward Kara Marbury for being honest enough to say that nobody got a touch on it, including herself.
“I don’t think they had anybody on the back post and Lisa whizzed it in there; and it just kinda went through some bodies. I didn’t exactly see what happened and they credited it to Kara… but Kara didn’t lie about not touching it, so they gave it to Lisa.”
That puts Robertson, who had not scored since playing the Rush, in a tie for the team lead in scoring for the season – a whopping two goals. With a figure like that and Oregon having allowed 11 players to tally multi-goal games, including a pair of hat-tricks and a four-goal outing, everything could quite well change Saturday afternoon in that regard.