Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Xtreme 98 Red Wins 2012 Bull Run Tournament

Xtreme 98 Red went 4-1-0 in the 14th Annual Bull Run Memorial Day Tournament to win the U13 age group.  Red defeated BAC Vipers in the Championship Game 2-1 in a thrilling game that went down to Penalty Kicks.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Xtreme 98 Red Wins WAGS Sportsmanship Award

We're very proud to announce that the Xtreme 98 Red squad is one of the teams that has been honored with a WAGS Sportsmanship Award for the Fall 2011 Season.

After each game all teams evaluate their opponents for sportsmanship. Players, coaches, and parents are given a score from 1-5. One is considered "Unacceptable" and Five is "Exemplary."

While the Front Office knows the Xtreme girls, coaches, and parents are among the kindest and fairest in the league, it is especially gratifying to be recognized by our peers.

We should all be proud of this accomplishment and keep our positive and friendly attitude going into the Spring season.

The WAGS award, in addition to special recognition, comes with $150. We'll put it to the girls about how they would like to spend the money, and in the meantime, they should all walk a little taller this winter, knowing that their behavior is an example to others.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Weather, Loss Make for Unpleasant Game with Arlington

Playing in a persistent, driving rain made for an ugly game when Xtreme took on neighbors and rivals Arlington Forza. It was one of those games where the weather would be a factor – slowing players down, making them cold and wet, making the ball slippery, and likely ending in a low-scoring victory for a team that wouldn't necessarily deserve it.

The first half opened with Arlington controlling the ball well for the first 10-15 minutes, and Red had trouble stringing together long strings of passes. Arlington, hoping for one of those sloppy goals early, played aggressively, with 3-4 forwards in our end. They skillfully kept themselves onsides, when Eli and the Hammer would push the Red line up.

Because of Arlington's skilled passing game, Red's mids were forced to spend a lot of time assisting the defense, which made the home team's offense slow to get started.

Taxman had a nice breakaway midway through the first half that could have resulted in a goal, but the Forza keeper challenged well and made the save.

As time in the first half was winding down, Arlington was awarded a corner. As time expired they took the corner, and the slick ball somehow squirted into the goal at the near post, the visitor was up 1-0.

During the halftime the rain picked up and the temperature dropped, but despite the unpleasant conditions and the overly physical play of some Arlington players, Red came out in the second half ready for action.

And they would deliver. At 40 minutes, Eli took a corner kick that she laid perfectly into the crowded and slippery box. Hollywood received the ball, settled it, drew two defenders and the keeper's attention, and then slotted a perfect ball to the left side to waiting Taxman, who pounded it home for the tying goal.

The game continued to rock back and forth, with Forza playing hard and attacking up the flanks. This tested the Red defense and Dani now in goal, but it also created opportunities for Red breakaways, which Space Ghost, Happy Feet, and the Taxman were fed on several times.

The physical play was escalating with White not being shy about using their hands to hold the fast breaking Red offense, and several times The Professor found herself embroiled in a shoving match with a frustrated Forza player behind the play and on Forza throw-ins, but none of the officials took note.

Sledgehammer earned the team's first ever regular season card – a yellow for a tackle that from the referee's perspective looked reckless, but was probably not worthy of an actual card. The ensuring free kick resulted in a Forza goal, but luckily, scored by an offsides player – so the score remained knotted at one.

At 61 minutes, Arlington once again put numbers in the Red penalty box and the striker did a nice job of drawing the defense and Red keeper (now Happy Feet) to the left side, she then flicked the ball right to a charging mid who was able to easily tap the ball in for a go-ahead goal. It was, frankly, the only truly earned goal in the game for either side.

Red worked hard to tie the game again, with Hollywood hitting the post and Taxman rocking the crossbar, but Arlington was disciplined and protected their lead well.

Then, as time was running out and Red was taking a corner, the player with whom the Professor had been tangling all afternoon lost her cool and actually punched the Professor in the stomach right at the edge of, or inside the box.

For some reason the referee, who had already called 6 fouls for each team and awarded a yellow card, decided not to award a free kick or a penalty kick. Instead, he had the players shake hands and made the play a drop ball. A stunning end to the game with full time running out just moments later.

Red looks forward to visiting Arlington in November to close the season out and even the score. The loss dropped Red to 3-3 on the season and wins for two other teams in the division dropped Red out of first place and into third.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Xtreme Falls to Bitter Rival McLean

Taking the pitch for their fourth game in nine days and second in just over 24 hours, Red was a depleted team. With two starters out due to injury, another player not dressing for the game, and several banged up regulars, Xtreme called on guests First Aid and Maria to help fill the gaps. And they would.

The game against McLean got off to a decent start with Xtreme opening with a six pass sequence that ended in a quality shot. But McLean is a disciplined and well-coached team and they immediately countered. The teams traded scoring chances until the 5th minute when Carson received the ball in the midfield and sent the ball ahead to Space Ghost. She laid a ball into space for the Taxman who settled the ball, took on the keeper, and scored.

McLean's fans were shocked. They were also unfamiliar with the offsides rule and protested loudly, rudely, and incorrectly when their team was called on it. They apparently failed to notice the multiple offsides calls Red received, or perhaps they assumed we earned all of those, while they were victims of an AR who didn't understand the game.

The first half saw the teams trade chances, pressure each other well, and maintain possession with passes that were targeted and not rused. Red logged 55 passes in the first half.

But with only 14 players to McLean's 17, fatigue began to set in. At 29 minutes, a McLean striker was able to get behind the defense on two missed Red tackles and tie the game with an acute angle shot to the near side when the keeper was reading "cross."

As the day wore on it got hotter and muggier, and by the time the second half got under way the Red girls were dripping with sweat. They were physically and mentally exhausted and with McLean playing technically well and very quickly and physically, Red began to lose concentration.

McLean dominated the midfield in the second half and the exhausted Red team began to play a long ball game that led to several offsides calls and a few decent scoring chances – but no goals. (They logged only 36 passes in the second half.) McLean also switched from defense to attack and switched fields faster and more proficiently than other opponents we've faced this year, which knocked Red back on their heels slightly.

While we never like to blame officiating for losses, the officiating in this game was inconsistent at best. Several non-calls of apparently flagrant fouls seemed to lead to McLean goals and losses of Red possession. For example, at 53 minutes a McLean attacker clearly fouled the Red central defender and sent the ball towards the Red goal. The Red defense, perhaps expecting a whistle were slow to jump, and the Red keeper also hesitated in challenging the surging McLean striker. It put Red off balance just enough to give the advantage to the striker, who made the chance count and scored the go-ahead goal.

But as we all know, Red doesn't give up, doesn't quit. And they surged ahead. With just ten minutes to play, Red began throwing everything at the McLean defense, penetrating the box and taking several shots. One exciting breakaway had the Taxman one-on-one with the keeper out of the goal. Taxman shot hard and the keeper saved it equally hard. The rebound hit Taxman squarely and bounced over the keeper towards the goal. Red surged forward to finish it off, but a McLean player got there first and was able to clear it.

Red stayed on attack and the nervous McLean team began fouling – one of the players earning a well-deserved yellow card – but not earning Red a PK when Taxman was pulled down in the box.

Then with time running down, McLean was pressuring a Red midfielder and clearly fouled her, sending her to the carpet yet again. The AR signaled foul and the referee, shockingly, waved him off claiming…advantage? But it had been Red's ball, stolen as a result of a foul. Anyway, McLean took the shot which the Red keeper saved, but under time pressure, stunned at the non-call, and mentally exhausted, the ensuing punt was misplayed. McLean came up with the ball and quickly lobbed a shot over the sprawling keeper to put the game out of reach, 3-1 at 68 minutes.

The game was further marred by unsportsmanlike conduct on behalf of the home team, which was noted and registered with the league. Red will rest up and host McLean on October 30 and hopefully even the score.

Despite the loss, Red still remains atop the division with 9 points and hopes to add to that total when they host Arlington Forza White on Saturday.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Xtreme Grabs Third Straight Win

We've written in this space about the better team not winning the game so many times it's almost too many to count. Well, on this overcast, warm Saturday, once again, the better team would not win the game. Fortunately, Xtreme was not the better team today.

Red, the visiting team, got off to a quick start – immediately pressuring PWSI Courage 98 Black and moving the ball well. Just three minutes into the game, Big Foot would challenge a Courage player in the midfield and come away with the ball. She'd fake a long shot and nudge the ball to the outside and lope up field, gaining 20 yards before finding Happy Feet inside the penalty box. She'd take on two defenders and draw the keeper to her, then perfectly slide the ball to the Taxman, angling into the box from the left side. The keeper didn't have a chance.

The teams then traded several good scoring opportunities until the 22nd minute when Sunshine connected with Hollywood in the midfield. She'd send a ball ahead into the penalty box where Space Ghost, the Taxman, and Happy Feet had created a numerical advantage for the Red team. The Courage keeper made the initial save on Space Ghost, but the ball got away from her. Taxman pounced on it and shot, but another Courage player deflected it. As the keeper scrambled to get control of the ball, Happy Feet emerged from the pile and pounded the ball home. An ugly play, but a great example of how the Red now doesn't quit and keeps moving forward until they hear that whistle.

Courage, trailing 2-0 then tested Sharky in goal with several well-engineered plays that got them behind the Red defense. Sharky stood tall and the Courage strikers shot wide several times, keeping the score 2-0 for the visitors.

At 33 minutes, some sloppy passes from both teams in the midfield resulted in a ping pong game. Courage began to break through their own active zone and had numbers on Red when The Hammer made her presence known, stealing the ball and freeing the Red offense that transitioned more quickly than the Courage could. In the ensuring, jailbreak Happy Feet, Taxman, Hollywood, and Sunshine charged at and through three defenders. Happy Feet got a beautiful shot off and the keeper made a stunning save, but she couldn't hang onto the ball and it landed at Taxman's feet. She drove it into the back of the net, but the STAR's flag was waving – he called her offsides.

One minute later, Red then framed the free kick that the Courage keeper took, and Taxman plucked it out of the air. She settled it down and blasted it over the keeper before she could get settled again, it was 3-0 for the visitors.

The second half was a very Courage half. They moved the ball well, stringing together several 7+ pass sequences, and controlling the pace of the game, making Red chase and putting Sharky to the test several times.

Although Red had difficulty stringing together long passing sequences, what they did do well was position themselves. Courage would start a long play in the back of the right side, work the ball through the midfield, and try an attack from the left side. But the Red Defenders consistently "made like wall" and shut down the attack.

At 65 minutes the home team would get behind the defense and penetrate the penalty box. Sharky made a sprawling save – her 12th of the game, but the rebound was hard to control. A Courage player was in the right place at the right time and she was able to blast the ball to the far post. It was 3-1.

On the following kick-off, Red quickly lost the ball to the now surging Courage who could smell another quick goal. But The Hammer would have none of it – she chopped the ball away from the attacker and made a short pass to Hollywood on the far side. Clearly angry the shut out had gotten away from them, Hollywood charged the length of the field, taking on and beating player after player. With support flying in from the near side, she split the defense, and carried the ball into the box all alone. She beat the last defender and ripped a laser at the near post. The keeper dove, but the ball sailed past her and hit the back of the net crisply, making that sound that strikers and fans love to hear.

The fans rose to their feet, but Hollywood did not celebrate and the referee was indicating a goal kick. As the Red fans were preparing to light their chairs on fire and toss them onto the field (there were more than a few questionable offsides calls that went against Red), we learned that there was a hole in the side of the net and the ball had entered the net through the side. Hollywood confirmed it – no goal.

Time ran out soon after that and Red stole the win, 3-1, to claim sole possession of first place in the division.

Red notched 87 passes in the game and only linked four or more passes together twice. They were awarded three corner kicks and surrendered 10. They committed four fouls and suffered five.

Make no mistake, Red played hard for the entire game, and if anyone deserved to steal a win it was them. They showed aggression and hunger, and this formerly sleepy team that never put up big goal numbers now has the most goals (13) and best goal differential (+9) amongst all 36 teams in the four WAGS Division 5s. But cross-county rival McLean waits in the wings; Xtreme travels to Linway Terrace on Sunday. The last time the teams met, McLean won convincingly. We'll see.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Red Wins Back-to-Back Games, Outscoring Opponents 10-1

It was a perfect fall weekend with crisp, cool air, lower temperatures, and cloudy skies diffusing the sun as Xtreme played the first of two double-header weekends.

First up, a Loudoun team that had struggled last season but turned in decent tournament performances through the 2010-11 season, added some quality players to their roster, and comes from a strong club program.

Red simply outplayed the visitors in every aspect of the game. Faster, and with more proficient passing, pressuring, and tackling, Red dominated the game from start to finish.

Through the summer, Xtreme had been working on pressuring the Active Zone and using pinpoint passing to create numerical advantages, and hence better opportunities.

It could not have been better demonstrated than at 7 minutes when Red loaded the forward zone with players. Taxman and Hollywood threaded passes through the defense, going all the way from the right side of the box to the left, where Space Ghost was waiting to tap in the first goal of the game, and once again Xtreme's first goal of the season.

Just three minutes later, Hollywood would again be pressuring the Loudoun keeper and lay a ball back beautifully for the Professor who was steamrolling her way into the zone. The keeper didn't have a chance and it was 2-0.

At 20 minutes Carson would fake a shot and with great precision, play a ball to space, just ahead of the Taxman, who would bury her first of the season into the back of the net.

The Red defenders and midfielders worked hard to keep the team on the attack, switching sides of the field quicker than the Loudoun defense could react, and transitioning from defense to offense with lightning speed.

One such play as the half was winding down resulted in the fourth goal of the game. Big Foot would stand up a Loudoun attacker and quickly send the ball over the midfield. Before Loudoun's attackers and mids could transition back to defense, Dani had received the ball and pushed it across to a surging Happy Feet. She would take on, and beat, her defender and send a brilliant cross to Hollywood who, under double coverage, slid the ball backwards to Sunshine who was charging in. She'd blast the ball home at 31 minutes.

The second half would see more scoring from two new Xtreme members. Eli would take a booming corner at 47 minutes that found Lindsey in just the right spot in the box – she'd notch her first of her travel career.

Three minutes later, as Loudoun was trying to get out of their end one of their players committed a hand ball in the center. The referee was moving the whistle to his mouth, but The Hammer picked up the oddly bouncing ball and fed Eli, who would fire in the team's sixth and final goal of the game.

It was a game in which Red was able to put into play the many things they've been practicing and show off their skills. Every single Red player made a contribution, and every single player tallied some statistic.

The team notched 121 passes and was awarded 8 corner kicks while surrendering none.

Fourteen players recorded 48 shots – 65% of them on target – while Red's keepers faced no shots on goal. Six different Xtreme players scored goals and eight players recorded assists, with Hollywood earning three.

"The Red team exhibited improved positioning," said Coach Lance. "Red made the field small when the other team had the ball, and they made it wide when they had the ball."

FPYC Visits

The second game of the double-header pitted Xtreme against a team new to WAGS, the FPYC Dynamite. Dynamite had actually worked out with the Flying Monkeys and Xtreme this summer during scrimmages. In fact, FPYC Coach Jim had even spent time in goal for Xtreme during one of the scrimmages when we found ourselves short numbers.

Xtreme got off to a slow start, lulled into playing a slower style that Dynamite were more comfortable with playing. However, the ball rarely got out of the visitors' end and Red continued to probe the defense.

"Here they come again!" shouted an FPYC fan, over and over again as he watched in horror as Red shirts swarmed past him, enveloping and devouring his midfielders.

At 22 minutes, with a goal keeper already slightly shell-shocked and badly out of position, the Taxman was able to break the scoreless tie.

But just 5 minutes later, Dynamite would answer on a long ball to their fastest player, Toni. She'd take on the Red defense, and with her long, loping strides she'd get just far enough behind the defense to take on the Red keeper by herself. She settled the ball very well, and took a well-placed shot that would beat the keeper to the far post – it was the first shot a Red keeper had faced in more than 100 minutes of soccer.

In the second half, the visitors switched to the Italian Catennacio ("door bolt") System. They put nine players behind the ball, tightly packing the penalty box, likely in hopes of preventing more Red goals, while creating opportunities for another fast break goal that is a specialty of Toni's.

But Red made their own second half adjustment, playing faster, keeping the ball for longer stretches, and switching sides quickly and efficiently. They'd also attack down the flanks instead of trying to attack that densely packed middle.

It would pay off. At 41 minutes, Carson would take a long throw in to Sunshine who would slide a ball to Sharky attacking on the right side. She settled the bouncing ball with her head, and then hammered in her first goal of the season.

Ten minutes later, Sunshine would do her impersonation of Eli or Big Foot, striking in a long-range bomb that cleared the outstretched keeper's arms.

And two minutes later, Big Foot would put a ball into space for the Taxman who, with a goal already this game, fed her generous, three-assist teammate, Hollywood, with her own teed up ball. Hollywood would not shoot high or wide – she drilled the back of the net to make the game 4-1, putting it out of reach for the visitor.

Red turned in a strong performance, with 99 passes, eight corner kicks, and again surrendering none. However, Red will need to work on playing their game at their speed – not that of their opponents. They'll also need to show greater patience in their attack, maintaining possession and switching sides as opposed to forcing bad shots or passes. Another thing Coach Lance would like to see is a spread out team that keeps balls on the carpet, as opposed to sending high bouncing balls that are difficult to control and give opponents more time to react.

All told, a great soccer weekend for Xtreme, and while confidence is rightly high, make no mistake, the tougher part of the Xtreme schedule is ahead. Another double-header is on for next week with two seasoned opponents – PWSI and McLean. Red will be ready.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Xtreme Opens Season with Home Loss

With so many WAGS games rained out this weekend thanks to the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee, it was exciting that the Red squad would get to play their home opener on September 11. Defending the full Mason District for the first time, Red got off to a rocky start against the visiting ASA Arundel Attack. Much of the first half saw Red on defense, and Happy Feet, in goal for the first time in months, was brilliant, turning away all 15 (fifteen!!) shots she faced.

Red settled down, and though they had trouble getting their precision passing game going, they did generate some good offensive chances. The first official Shot on Goal of the season belonged to Big Foot, who took the deflection from a Sunshine corner kick and put the visiting keeper to the test. A test she was up to – making a great sprawling save.

Red generated a few more quality scoring chances in the first half, but it would end knotted at nil, thanks in no small part to The Hammer who was a shot blocking machine all day.

The second half began with the tables turned and Red found itself on the attack for most of the half. The girls had found their passing game – for a time anyway. Happy Feet, sprung from the goal, showed just how fast she is, beating two Attack players consistently down the right side and bringing the fans to their feet as she tested the Attack keeper with three quality scoring chances. The Taxman added several exciting scoring chances; Sunshine, the Professor, and Hollywood also added SOGs in the second half, but then Hollywood left the game after taking a nasty knock to the head inside the box.

Eli provided the most exciting moment of the game for Red fans when she lobbed a long, high ball in towards the goal from close to the center line – her trademark ICBM. Eli has seen so many keepers misplay that ball – and it is easy to misplay – but the Attack keeper did a great job tracking it and jumping at just the right time to catch the ball. But it was close.

Then at 56 minutes there was a Red defensive breakdown, Attack had numbers in the box and a shot was deflected off a Red arm, taking a weird bounce. Before the referee could blow his whistle however, an Attack player found the rebound at her feet and was able to slide it past the Red keeper. The goal was awarded.

But Red has fought back against the Attack before, and the girls were determined to tie it up quickly.

Red pressed, but then a freak play at 72 minutes sealed the game for the visitors. Attack, with at least one player in an offsides position, took a strong shot on goal. The shot sailed high, hitting the football portion of the goal, which should render the ball dead. A goal kick was in order, but the ball returned to the field of play, and the referee kept his whistle in his pocket. A confused Red pulled up just long enough for an Attack player to finish the play, and the visitors went up 2-0.

And that is how it would end.

Red was definitely off their game for much of the match, but they did show sparks of brilliance, and we're fully expecting them to bounce back quickly and put their formidable skills and soccer smarts to work. They head into next weekend with an at home double header, hosting Loudon on Saturday and a new FPYC team on Sunday.