PRACTICE #16 – TIKI TAKA

The main challenge after 4 years coaching is to create engaging and at the same time productive drills. For me the basic thing to be a good team is passing and to have good passing, we need to be extremely confident trapping the ball and conducting it without having to look down all the time.

With that on mind, first I did a sequence of drills where the players have to “comb” the ball and speeding up with the ball as close as to your feet. We only have more two practices and I know nobody will learn anything new but with practice we can improve and we MUST improve. Unfortunately we had only one hour of practice so I could not spend too much time on that.

After this drill, was about passing, sprinting and trapping the ball, calculating the steps so you would not lose speed. Then came the fun drill. I moved the small goals to the field and they became “defenders”. I would pass (then later Inês), close to the defender and the players had, with one simple touch, take it off the “defender” and with two more touches, shot at a goal with a very narrow space. The dribble was great, most of the players managed to do but the shot at goal was a disaster. I think only one or two players got the shot perfectly.

To close the practice, we had a different scrimmage. Considering I did not have Bella, Suh-Young and Tehillah (all sick) The ball must be on the ground at all times and we could only score goals in the SMALL box so passing was key. If the ball was two palm of ground, would be a free kick. I have to say that Inês suffered a bit on that. :) I felt it was EXTREMELY productive, forcing us to really focus on passing constantly. My dream is to have our team passing like the Spanish National Team where they have almost 80% of the ball possession. We have the basic skills. Now we need to have the nerves of steel and confidence to do it.

On the worrisome note, seems that Kyra still is not 100% of her left leg. I’ve notice on her shots that was not full power. Hope it’s nothing serious. Anyway, two more practices to the last tournament ever in China and probably my last tournament as a coach too. Time to face other challenges in life and sincerely, after those four years coaching the perfect team, what else could I coach?

PRACTICE #15 – THE ONE WE LOST OUR GOALIE

Practice today was supposed to be tactics and then a light scrimmage. We started with basic drills of passing and running in a triangle. Took me a while just to lay down the cones since we had so many people to practice (Julia and MartaMessi were extras there today). We did that for long, around 10-15 minutes.

Then we practice A LOT corner kicks. After all, we scored two goals against SMIC through corner kicks. We had to practice 5 from each side with Kyra and 5 with Inês. After that, time for a scrimmage.

Screenshot 2014-04-16 19.53.20

Then, things started getting wrong. I’ve noticed my already pale Swedish Black Spider even paler. Worst, she was not shouting. Bella not shouting, something is wrong. I’ve asked if it was all ok, she said she was feeling dizzy and wanted to throw up. I told her to step out of the field and rest a little. She almost fainted on the grass behind the goal. I decided to move her to the nurse, where she could stay laying down more comfortably.

Practice followed up. Marta, playing for the red team, was driving the defenders crazy, specially Phoebe but she was not scoring so Phoebe was actually doing her job right. It was definitely a productive practice. It was great to see our Happy Viking playing well as a center midfield. At the same time the dynamic between Inês and Franziska is getting better and better.

After practice, the extremely kind and polite Bonhommes gave me and Bella a ride, so I could help her to get home. I am glad to know that Bella is feeling much better and maybe she can return to practice on Friday.

SISAC TOURNAMENT – MATCH #3 FINALS Vs DULWICH

So here we are. The best from the west vs the best from the east. Both teams undefeated in the league and in the tournament. While we came from a good match against BISS Pudong (1 x 0), Dulwich tied against BISS Puxi and went to Penalty kicks. Last year we faced them at ACAMIS twice and we tied twice (on the semifinals, we won on the extra time). I’ve watched the first half of them playing against the French School and I’ve felt they were good but not unbeatable. The French School gave them a hard time. It was a challenge but we could beat them and if we really wanted to be the best team in Shanghai, that’s what we needed to do.

We started the match with our traditional starting line up with Bella, Mikayla and Tehillah, Inês as center midfield, Alice on the right and Kyra on the left and Franziska as our striker. The game started well balanced and we actually had the first shot at goal with a slow shot from Franziska at the 2nd minute of the game. Dulwich attacked and unfortunately our Wonder Alice got hurt, hitting her head against an attacker from Dulwich but still Kyra was able to pull a counter-attack where Franziska was one-on-one against a defender and unfortunately shot the ball out. I had to call my Happy Swedish Alva to come in and actually that was great for the team, as you will see soon.

The next 10 minutes was stressful with no team actually dominating the match. We had some chances, they had some. I have to say that this was the first game that someone actually shot a ball towards Bella. We had good chances also with a beautiful shot from far away from Kyra.

Then on the 20th minute what never happened this season, ended up happened. On a side throw, Alva deflected a ball to the middle, their player 14 shot a ball, Tehillah jumped and hit her foot, changing the trajectory of the ball and fooling our Swedish Black Spider. 1 X 0 Dulwich. Seems that the only way to score on Bella is if the ball hits one of our players. It was like that last year during ACAMIS and happened again here. Before that, the only goal we suffered this season was from a Penalty kick.

Now was a moment that I made me proud. My captain Inês went to the goal, picked up the ball, and calmly walked to the center of the field, repeating the gesture of Didi, the captain of the Brazilian team in the final of the World Cup of 1958 against Sweden. This calmed down out team and gave us time to cool down and get our minds into the game. I knew with two more minutes in that half, there was not much that it could be done but just avoid them scoring another goal. I normally don’t brag about myself but I have to say something here. At that moment, Dulwich had a corner kick and I called Franziska to talk to her, already preparing for the 2nd half. if you pay attention on the audio of the video, at 20:45, you will hear me saying: “Take your time, it’s gonna be your match”. I have to say that our German Panzer is being almost a perfect striker this season. She runs, fights for the ball, is fast and the only flaw she had last year, she improved a lot this one, which was the precision in her shots. It’s been awesome! When she needs to rest, Hail Gribble! comes in and shows why she is also one of our best athlete in all sports.

On the last minute, a scary moment. We were attacking and a ball was deflected to our defensive side. Tehillah trapped it nicely and went to dribble their #14. The #14 stole the ball from Tehillah, who fell straight on her face. Normally I would not worry about my Indestructible Dutch but this time, she was limping. At the same time, our solid defender Mikayla was able to brilliantly slow the Dulwich counter attack, giving time to other players to come back. I decided to take Tehillah out, for the first time in the tournament, so she could rest and I could access the damage. Greta got in under an immense pressure, in a final match against a strong team with us losing. It’s not an easy task at all. First half was over. Time to talk to my team.

I’ve told them to simply calm down. I’ve told them that we are the current champions, we are the team with best record. They should be the ones afraid. All we needed was one goal. I was sure if we went to penalty kicks we would win. Just calm down and play our game. That’s all we needed. Be well positioned defensively and push forward. We have to have a presence at the attack so we could hold them off.

The first five minutes was only Hongqiao pressuring. Franziska had three shots already at their goal. At the 8th minute was Kyra’s turn to have a nice shot from the left side. It was almost a replay of our semi-final against the same Dulwich last year during ACAMIS when she scored the winning goal.

Franziska-Impossible-GoalAfter that, something very weird, which I never saw in my four years of coaching here in Shanghai happened. They subbed their goalie for another player that was already in the field! This spent around 3-4 minutes doing that. Luckily we had a very good referee that actually added this injury time later, which made ALL the difference as you will see. Almost also as a punishment for that, at the 11th minute of the second half, our German Panzer scored the impossible goal. After fighting for the ball between three Dulwich players, from almost the sideline on the right side,  she shot a ball on the extreme opposite angle of the crossbar and pole. Not even Roberto Carlos would do that. Take a look on this picture to see where Franziska was. It’s insane! 1 x 1.

From that moment on, I knew that the match was ours. Our spirits were high and we started to press Dulwich back even more. Kyra had a great shot saved by the goalie and Franziska shot more two great balls at their goal. Even if ended tied, I was feeling that this SISAC was ours.

With 8 minutes and a half to end the match, I took Kyra and Franziska out and put Suh-Young and Hailey in the match. The idea was to inject fresh blood and also to rest both my Glass Head and German Panzer for our penalty kicks. I was planning on having them back in the game with 3-2 minutes to end for exactly that purpose. Then something wonderful happened. Alva just deflected a ball on our defensive system. After less than a minute she was already close to their goal box and guess what? Their defenders deflected a ball that hit Suh-Young and fell on her lethal right foot. I guess her Viking blood from her ancestors have her enough energy to drive such a powerful shot that made impossible to their goalie to stop. You have to understand, this girl was on fire! Running everywhere, defending and attacking non-stop since she got in the field. From now on Alva is my Happy Viking. Way to go girl!

So, what we need to do in a final match, with 7 minutes to end, winning 2 x 1? We have to position ourselves very solid defensively. Like, almost everybody back. I mean, REALLY back. Guess what happened? They scored right after the free kick. Their #21 passed through Alva on the left side and was able to pass by Tehillah, crossed and by such unlucky situation, Suh-Young tried  to deflect and scored an own goal. No blame on her at all. The ball hit her knee and died inside our net. Seems that Bella is cursed with that since last year she also suffered only own goals against Dulwich. 2 x 2

Then the coach from Dulwich said something that shook me to the core. She shouted to their girls : “Come on girls! You are undefeated”. Wait a second. WE are the undefeated team. We don’t lose since April 14th 2012. I have players in my team for two years that don’t know what is to lose an official match. Besides that, we were 2 x 2. I was still confident that we would win at least on the penalty kicks. But silly me. I don’t have a team, I have a squadron. I have a group of fierce Amazon Warriors who never gives up. Instead of being shaken up what did we do? Attack.

And it was only us. Attack vs defence. With 4 minutes left on the clock, Kyra and Franziska went back and my German Panzer was impossible. She wanted this match more than anything. with three minutes to end the match she forced Dulwich goalie to make an awesome save. With the official time over, you can hear me shouting in Portuguese to Inês :”It’s over! It’s over! Let’s get the ball and push forward”. I sincerely just wanted to keep the ball away from Bella but I guess Franziska had a different idea. In the injury time (23rd minute of the second half), Kyra passes to Inês, our Portuguese Brain finds our German Panzer sprinting to the attacking field. She sees with the corner of her eyes the goalie coming out of the goal and with a gorgeous little touch, takes it out from her hands. 3 x 2 SCIS! Our German Panzer, with her surgical accuracy, saved the day from penalty kicks. After that, only one more minute and then voilá! Twice in a row SISAC Champions.

So now here I am, happy as a coach can be. With no voice whatsoever and extremely proud of my 14 Amazon Warriors. Special thanks also to our “veterans” Katy Ni and Marta Casanovas who came to support and help us a lot! Lily Briggs who filmed many matches and was there today to support by taking wonderful pictures of our team. Above all, thanks to the parents who were there constantly supporting the whole team. I am forever grateful for allowing me to train your daughters. There is no question that you raised them amazingly well and your support for the “wonderful game” made them champions.

I definitely deserve a sip of a delicious Port Wine from a harvest of 1972 that I’ve been saving. For my girls, here is what I have to say; enjoy this achievement. We won EVERY SINGLE MATCH IN SHANGHAI. There is no question who rules this city. Shanghai belongs to the Amazon Warriors. Shanghai is ours… again!

BELLATORUM INVICTUM!

Goals:  Alva, Franziska (2)
Assists:  Inês
MVP of the match: Franziska

SISAC TOURNAMENT MATCH # 2 – VS BISS Pudong

One more time BISS Pudong. If there is a team that has my utmost respect is this one. They have players that knows the game and loves the game. According to my memory, we faced them six times before. We lost twice (ACAMIS 2011), we tied one (ACAMIS 2012 during the round robin) and we won four times (SISAC Semifinals 2012, ACAMIS Finals 2012 and two matches ACAMIS 2013). Once more we would face them in the semifinals of SISAC tournament.

They lost, if I am not mistaken, around 4 players (graduated) and they are going through a reformulation in their team. We also lost four players but we found great replacements, keeping the team spirit and way of playing this game. Due to the last results we had against them, I was concerned they would come with extra motivation to beat us. Well, I was not wrong but I was prepared.

Once more, our Swedish Black Spider could not be black. She had to to switch her uniform to the gray one because BISS was playing with their black uniform, even though the brackets clearly said they should play with white. Anyway, it was easier to Bella to change her uniform than BISS change the whole team’s gear.

I’ve started the match with Bella, Tehillah, Mikayla, Inês, Suh-Young on the left and Alice on the right with Franziska as striker. Alva was totally recovered but I was not so sure yet about Kyra so I decided to keep her out in the beginning to feel the match first and check how she felt. Well, did not last too long to me to have a problem. With less than two minutes in the match, Alice crashed onto a BISS Pudong player and was not feeling well so it was time to Alva to go in. By that time, BISS Pudong was “enjoying the game”. Their #16 (one of the remaining players from that match from 2011) and their #30 were exchanging passes and had already shot twice at our goal. To counter-balance, right after our Viking Alva pushed the ball forward and took a shot at their goal and the best came right after. With 6 minutes in the match, our quiet Zen Defender Mikayla, deflected a ball accidentally connecting a counter-attack with Franziska. Our German panzer, in the middle of two BISS defenders, fought for the ball and gave an awesome pass to our Portuguese Brain that just had to shoot, on the ground, away from their goalie. 1 x 0 SCIS.

Seemed that our goal shaken their team. We started dominating and not even a minute later Franziska almost had a shot at their goal. My goal was to keep the pressure so they would not have chance to attack but at the same time, asking Suh-Young on the left to stay a little back to cover the hole in the midfield that Inês would leave whenever she went up.

Our German Panzer was driving their defenders crazy. They left two on her constantly. So if Franziska was under pressure, she would quickly pass to Alva and start a play on the right, having Inês on the center helping organizing everything. For 15 minutes we only attacked, without BISS shooting any ball at our goal.  On the 16th minute our Unbreakable Dutch dribbled in our defensive system, brought it up to the midfield, passed to Franziska, that once more dribbled two but passed too strong for Alva that was sprinting to the middle. But if our Viking did not get this chance, on the 18th minute she simply dribbled two BISS defenders and shot but their goalie got it, unfortunately.

On the 22nd minute, a moment of fear. In a quick distraction of our defensive system, on a throw in from the left side, their #16 found the #30 alone. To our advantage she was not able to completely trap the ball and our Zen Defender came as a torpedo and shot this ball out. The problem was that their #30 kicked Mikayla’s leg and both fell on the ground and the referee gave a free kick to BISS and it was fairly close to our box. Their #16 got the shot and… out. Uff! And that was the end of the first half.

The problem of scoring a goal early in the game is that this automatically forces the other team to come chasing us, pressuring as much as possible to score a goal and if this happens, they will have the upper hand of the match while our team will feel trapped. So what I wanted was to the girls be calm, pass more the ball and enjoy the game, stressing BISS with a passing game. I started the second half with Bella, Mikayla and Tehillah defending, Inês center midfield, Kyra on the left, Alice on the right and Hailey as the striker. With two minutes Hailey almost score a “knee shot” on a well rehearsed corner kick taken from Inês, passing to Kyra who passed back to Inês. We are practicing this a lot, I have to say.

We kept pressuring in the attack. Kyra took a long distance shot and Hailey was pressuring non-stop there. BISS had the first shot, from far away and Bella got it with no major problem. Then ANOTHER free kick, very close to our goal box from the right side. This time Hailey, on the wall, saved the day. Hailey was AWESOME this match. Her constant movement at the attack made BISS allocate at least one player always close to her. As s natural athlete, she has the stamina of running non-stop, exhausting their players.

With 5 minutes to end the match, I had Franziska to substitute Hailey as striker and from that moment on, it was just matter of let the clock run and save energy for the final. Of course Franziska was thinking differently. She wanted to score her goal. After all, until that moment she had scored a goal in every match. The problem of SISAC and ACAMIS tournaments is the fact you have many short matches in one day so it’s a dilemma if you rest a player or let her play full matches. I decide to rest and rotate as much as possible the players. Anyway, we managed to beat our former arch-nemesis. It seems that now we are totally able to face BISS Pudong without fearing them. Now it’s about resting and prepare ourselves to our fourth SISAC tournament final in a row! As a matter of a fact this group of girls had gone to every final possible from every tournament that we were involved in the last four years. I have nothing but respect for my Amazon Warriors!

Goals:  Inês
Assists: Franziska
MVP of the match: Hailey

BELLATORUM INVICTUM!

SISAC TOURNAMENT MATCH #1 – Vs SMIC

Horrible day. Rainy, gray, boring. The perfect day for our Glass Head to play football, according to her. The SISAC tournament this year will be hosted at SAS Puxi and a new thing (the first time in my four years coaching) boys and girls will play at the same school, which is cool so we can cheer for both teams.

Our first game of the day was scheduled to 10AM but since the boys had to play at 9AM, we had to be at school at 7:35AM so we could catch the bus. For me it was really good because I wanted to watch Dulwich play. It was the first time they were part of the SISAC tournament. Last year their were invited to ACAMIS at BISS Pudong because one of the original schools dropped out. I was also worried about the rain and how the field (real grass) would react to it. If you remember correctly, we had our match against SAS Puxi cancelled because of the rain, with the argument that there were too many puddles on it. I was extremely pleased with the quality of the field. It was supporting really well the rain and at least in the fields we played there was no puddle at all.

We were the first team that arrived at SAS. While most of my team went to watch the boys match, I went with some players to watch Dulwich playing against French School. It was interesting to see them facing a school with such a strong and physical game like the French School. I could notice that Dulwich could pass but nothing better than what we did. They seemed a bit faster though. Still, the French school was pressuring them constantly and Dulwich scored on a free kick.

Anyway, let’s talk about our match. We would play the 4th place of the East league, SMIC. First problem was the fact they played with the black uniform so our Swedish Black Spider had to change her uniform to the ugly gray one. Our starting lineup for this match: Bella, Mikayla, Tehillah, Inês, Alice, Kyra and Franziska.

I was stressed because if you lose the first match, all the chances from being champions are gone. Also, as crazy as I am, I really wanted us to complete two years without losing an official match. Last time was April 14th 2012. Besides that, there is always the pressure of the opening match. Well, if there was a pressure, Franziska solved it in the first minute. Under an annoying rain, after the kick-off we had a corner kick. Kyra took the corner, Franziska slightly changed the trajectory of the ball and goal! 1 x 0 SCIS .

Having 1 x 0 in the scoreboard gave all the calmness we need for this match. SMIC had one good player, their #9 who knew how to pass and had a good idea of the game. Wonder Alice was there taking care of her. We had right after another good corner kick that Kyra took and it was a good alternation between her and Inês.

We kept pressuring. Franziska fought for a ball on the right side of the field and made a nice cross to Kyra but she fumbled and actually even fell trying to shoot the ball (things that only happens to Kyra). Besides that, there was not much worthy of comment during first half. A couple of times SMIC had a counter-attack, arriving at our defensive system 2 or 3 against 2 but they were never able to shoot, thanks to the wall Mikayla+Tehillah.

The second half on the other hand, was full of scary moments. With 3 minutes, a SMIC defensive player shot a ball on Alva’s face (“thanks” Elliot for being in front of the camera so we cannot see) and her nose started to bleed. Then I did the most ridiculous thing; normally I alternate Alice and Alva on the same position. This time I had both on the field but wanting to find a replacement to Alva, I started shouting “Alice! Alice! Alice!” and getting angry because I could not find her on the bench. Of course not, she was already in the field! Kyra came to the rescue. I was happy to know later that was not any major problem with Alva.

At the 9th minute we missed an incredible chance. Wonder Alice from the right gives an amazing pass to Franziska. With only the goalie in front of her, she does not get a nice shot so the goalie deflects, on the rebound Inês but their goalie jumped like a cat on her feet. Then Franziska had another incredible chance 3 minutes later. She was all by herself, pushing forward with two defenders chasing her but she shot on the goalie.

With 18 minutes in the second half, the other spooky moment. Right after I asked Kyra if she was ok, she traps a ball and shoots outside and starts crying saying she can’t breath. This is something new, that never happened to our Headband Girl. She is simply gasping for air and cannot speak and cannot stop crying. Phoebe goes in and I ask Kyra to lay down on the grass and relax, calm down, to think about those beautiful equations from Math HL. That seemed to do the trick and she started to calm down.

With two minutes to end the match, another corner taken by Inês from the right, this time, Phoebe very smart gets a bad deflecting from SMIC defenders and pushed the ball into the goal. I am amazed how Phoebe gets into the game and always performs well! Against German school was a wonderful pass, now a goal. Wow, girl! 2 x 0 SCIS.  After that, I’ve substituted Inês, so she could rest and also because I wanted Franziska to work as center midfield. I am scared if (knock on wood) something happens to our Portuguese Brain, we don’t have another player for that spot.

I am happy because we kept the tradition of never losing the first match at a SISAC tournament. Now another tradition to be maintained; we always go to the finals of SISAC. The problem is, to achieve that, we need to beat our arch nemesis BISS Pudong. They won against YCIS Puxi 3 x 1 and will be our adversaries at the semifinals.

Goals:  Franziska, Phoebe
Assists:
MVP of the match: This match all the girls were on the same level but for her wonderful pass to Franziska and her combative spirit, our not-so-little Wonder Alice.

PRACTICE #14 – THE MEETING

Day before SISAC. Here I am at 1:47AM writing this post. Ok, being sincere, I still suffering from jetlag so I took a 2 hours power-nap before but still super focused on the competition tomorrow.

Today we had a 45 minutes about how the tournament will be, explaining the format and the brackets, specially to the newcomers (Alva, Emma, Greta, Alice, Mikayla & Tehillah). Our first match will be against SMIC. We actually played once against them two SISACs ago and we won 2 x 0. They were 4th place on the East site of the river so technically we have the odds in our favour but we know how those short tournaments works, right? Not going so far back, last year YCIS Puxi had a very strong team but lost to SMIC if I am not mistaken on the penalty kicks.

Screenshot 2014-04-12 01.46.29There is no question that the pressure is on us. We are the undefeated team. We are the current champions. As a matter of a fact, there are few players in the current league that can tell that they defeated the Amazon Warriors. But you know what? We can handle this pressure. We are mature enough, we are well prepared for it. We just have to control the match and play our game.

Let’s make Saturday, April 12th, a day to be remembered. BELLATORUM INVICTUM!

PRACTICE #13 – THE DEADLY SERIOUS ONE

I was not in the mood of being playful today. Our below average (by my insane standards) performance against German school trigger the alert in me that we may be accommodating, relying upon our past laurels. Ok, I am being a bit overdramatic. Let’s recap how was it.

We had two illustrious participations in this practice. One from our Defensive Rock Katy Ni and from our one and only MartaMessi. We started with basic passing drills using the inside of the foot and trapping the ball. While the team was doing that, I’ve practice with Franziska shooting some balls at a specific spot at the goal. Franziska is shooting extremely well and the whole team rely upon her skill as a striker whenever she is in the field.

After the passing drill, I asked them to do the changing directions drill. they sprint to a cone, have to immediately change direction to another cone, change direction again and shoot at the goal. THIS is our weakness now, in my opinion, we take too long to change direction and to actually shoot at the goal.

The last drill was the funnest to watch. It was one-on-one. One attacker against one defender. The attacker has to dribble the defender and the defender has to avoid the attacker to shoot at the goal. Actually the previous drill of changing directions would be of great usage here. If you are able to quickly change directions, you will drive the defender insane and the defender must avoid the striker to reach the middle to shoot at the goal. To make things more interesting, I put Marta against Mikayla and Tehillah. If you can stop Marta, you probably can stop anybody else. It was an excellent drill for both defenders and forwarders.

For the following 90 minutes we had a scrimmage. We played a match of two 20 minutes halves, like what we will face during SISAC. For a long time it was 1 x 1 until by the end, Marta scored 2 goals for the Red team. We played one more segment of 20 minutes and this time the yellow team won, 1 x 0. It was important to see how hard it’s to score when you have the time pressure that SISAC can impose us.

Screenshot 2014-04-11 13.19.08Finally, we practice penalty kicks. Each one of the girls shot 4 times to Bella and 2 times to Mikayla. I have to say I was super impressed with the performance. Most of them were shooting really well. Considering that probably the goalies from the other teams will not be as good as Bella nor Mikayla, I think we are pretty much well set on penalties but we must work hard not to allow a match to go to penalty kicks. Now there is not much we can practice or do to SISAC. All that we could practice or learn for Saturday is done. Now it’s just step onto the field at SAS and show why we are the undefeated Amazon Warriors and show Shanghai the  ”jogo bonito”.

MATCH #7 Vs German School Away [UPDATED]

Last match of the season. We already champions of the league so why was I so nervous and anxious for that match? We are coming back from the break. We had only one official practice before this match. I was scared our team would be a bit rusty and besides that, if you had me as a coach for years, you know how I always create insane little goals to achieve in the season. I create these goals because it’s a way that we can always keep ourselves motivated. We are athletes, we already achieved a certain success with this football team. So why do we keep trying? What does keep our team always trying hard? We want to be the best always. We want to be able to look back and see that no matter what were the odds, we were always trying our hard to play the beautiful game in away that we will be proud of.

Our last match of the league meant nothing in terms of position. We were already champions since we “won” against BISS Puxi, second place on the west league. That gave me the real chance of trying out a possible team for next year. With that, the only Senior to start the match was Bella. Our defenders were Mikayla and Tehillah, center midfield Kyra, Sinead on the left with Alice on the right and Hailey as a striker. It’s important to say that we never played like this before so it was indeed risky. I will not be here next year so it’s completely up to the future coach to decide the best team but I want the girls to have a least a taste of possible positions. The only one that I am quite sure was mispositioned would be Mikayla. She is an awesome goalie so I guess it will be inevitable to see her inheriting the gloves from Bella next year. Another highlight of this match was the massive support of our parents. It was the first time I saw so many parents coming to support us in an away match. It was awesome. Specially for the fresh oranges for the players during the break. PERFECT!

Let’s get to the match per se. The first half we failed miserably to play our regular jogo bonito. Ball was always in the air and sometimes seemed to be a pinball game with both teams kicking the ball wherever the nose pointed, not passing and distributing the game. Took us almost five minutes to actually start passing the ball Hongqiao style. Kyra passed the ball to the left and our pseudo-Irish Sinead took a good shot but the German goalie defended. The German field is VERY small. It’s almost a perfect square but with a small area so almost every ball reached Bella and the German goalie fairly frequent. Other problem was that almost every punt from Bella ended up in the German goal box which made the match boring to watch and hard to play. We had another good chance only around the eighth minute with Hailey shooting a ball that the German goalie defended. Our Wonder Alice, one minute later,  beautifully dribbled nicely a German player but her shot was too weak and their goalie got it.

After many substitutions, the game became extremely boring. To have an idea, Bella and the German goalie exchanged three balls in a row, without any other player touching it. And we had comical moments when for example Franziska tried to trap the ball and ended up sitting on top of it (23rd minute). With our Happy Swedish (Alva) in the field, we started to have more cadence in your gameplay. Still, we were not shooting at goal.

Nothing was happening at the match until we did something that always drives me insane; it’s what we call in Portuguese ” Let me leave the ball for you to leave it” (deixa que eu deixo) where a player stops expecting the other player to get the ball and at the end none of them got it. Well, Inês and Mikayla did that in the midfield and I had to release a guttural, primal scream to see if the team would wake up. It seemed to work because when everything was pointing out to finish the first half with a 0 x 0 on the scoreboard, our Portuguese Brain founded Franziska in the box but she tripped, lucky for us our Happy Swedish was there. The funny aspect of this was that Alva shot the ball and…. Franziska deflected it with her butt! Not happy with this, Alva took another shot , this time on the extreme right of the goal and scored our first goal of the match! My question now is; should we consider Franziska butt-pass as an assist? Anyway, that seemed to waken up our Amazon Warriors. Right after, Alva once more fought for a ball on the corner and passed to Inês. With a power drive shot on the ground, the goalie deflected and Franziska shot on the crossbar. Our Happy Swedish was able to calm the team and make the ball run on the “grass”, instead of having it flying around non-stop.

Second half I’ve started with Greta defending with Mikayla, so we had a lefty there to help passing specially to the other lefty of the team, Kyra whenever both were in the field. Anyway, the second half started as boring as the first half. At least until the 10th minute of the 2nd half, when Franziska, as a real German Panzer, fought for a ball and passed to Inês, who meticulously shot a ball away from the reach of the goalie. 2 x 0 SCIS.

Then at the 27th minute the unthinkable happened. The clouds darkened, the time moved slower, the voice ran way from my throat. Penalty for the German school. A throw in from our left side into our goal box caused havoc and Tehillah and Suh-Young, trying to deflect the ball, ended up hitting Suh-Young’s left arm. We had a penalty against us if I am not mistaken against SAS Puxi but their player shot out. We had in our favor our amazing Swedish Black Spider but the gods of football decided that our Amazon Warriors could not have it all. Goal from German school. 2 x 1. It was the first goal we conceded in the whole season, counting friendlies and official matches. This is way more than the dream season of 2013 where we conceded 8 goals until SISAC tournament. After that goal, you could see our girls all with head down and Bella looking at me as saying: “I am sorry, I couldn’t had done anything”. Suh-Young was the portrait of frustration. What we cannot forget is that we are Amazon Warriors. We are natural fighters. We may take a blow but we will stand up and fight back.

Five minutes after the “unmentionable-moment”, our German Panzer, right after substituting Hailey, got a precious pass from our Portuguese Brain. You should know by now, if you let our German Panzer traps the ball on her right foot, she kills. No chance for their goalie. 3 x 1 SCIS. 100% Franziska, scoring in every single match (official and friendly) in the league. First athlete to achieve this incredible mark.

We still had time to one more amazing play. Phoebe, almost like proving to me that she still the Disciplined Midfielder from last year, passed a ball to Franziska that I should use in every single football lecture about passing. It was a sugary ball that Franziska could not do anything else but to score another goal. If I were Franziska, I would give 70% of this goal to Phoebe. What a pass! 4 x 1.

League is already over. It’s already in the past. Now we have 10 more matches to go in two incredibly tough competitions. We will be the target. We will be the team to be defeated. After four years, we had built a reputation. Our jersey is feared. Our jersey is respected. Our 14 Amazon Warriors bear it with pride and must be ready for every match, every battle.

Bella pointed out that lately I am shouting less and less from the sidelines and I was pondering why this is happening. I came to the conclusion that there are two basic reasons for that. One is that the team is more and more playing the way I want so I don’t actually need to shout every single play. the other, more philosophical one is the fact that more and more the end of a cycle is a reality for me. Part of me wants to simply enjoy seeing my Amazon Warriors playing and not just shouting instructions. I want to see the great evolution from the players that are with me for years. I want to enjoy the quality of the freshmen that just joined the team. It IS a team. We PLAY as team and we are WINNING as a team. 10 more matches. That’s all I ask. Let’s give it all in those 10 more challenges.2014-04-09 17.22.26

Goals:  Alva, Inês, Franziska (2)
Assists:  Inês, Franziska
MVP of the match: Alva

[UPDATE] I cannot forget to comment on the fact of our illustrious guest, the Defensive Rock Katy Ni, helping with the filming and bringing happiness to the team. It’s awesome to have our former stars showing up. We had Louise some weeks ago, now Katy and soon Marta.The fact we have our former athletes coming back to play with us fills my heart with joy because shows that they love the game and they love the team. Once an Amazon Warrior, always an Amazon Warrior!

BELLATORUM INVICTUM!

PRACTICE #13 – THE ONE OF FUTSAL

I love futsal, also known as indoor football. You play with a smaller ball that is a little heavier and does not bounce. It’s a much faster and dynamic than a regular match. Forces also the players to pass faster and trap the ball more accurately.

2014-04-07 17.15.39The practice was simple, 4 teams of 4 playing against each other. The goal was to score two goals in 10 minutes and the winning team would stay and a new team would come into the court. We had a VERY special guest, our Defensive Rock Katy Ni was here to help us out.

There was a team that was unbeatable and they stayed in the court for four matches in a row. The highlight was the Unbreakable Dutch, Tehillah! She was awesome! I love her bubbly personality always happy but at the same time super focused on the match.

There is no question that futsal is a very intense workout. I was completely exhausted after it, specially after the spring break. It was a nice way to get the girls geared up to our last match in the league against the German School. We have only more 15 days of this season and I want this season to be the Season to Rule them All. Our numbers are close to perfection and I can see in each of my Amazon Warriors the desire to keep improving and besting themselves. One more match to achieve League Perfection. I am sure we can do it. BELLATORUM INVICTUM!

MATCH # 6 – Vs Suzhou Away

Going to Suzhou it’s always a pain in the neck, considering the almost two hours trip back and forth. It would be very frustrating to go there and come back with a defeat. Besides that, this match was kind of important to us considering that if we won, we would be champions of the West League two years in a row even with one match left in the season.

The day started with the bad news that Wonder Alice was sick so she would not be at school today. Five minutes before catching the bus, Greta tells me that she had to be at the strings’ concert. On top of that, Mr. Reimer told me that there was a problem with the busses. I just told him that we cannot lose a match because of that but he was on it and managed to solve the situation brilliantly. We had a very tiny bus but with a great driver. At least he knew how to arrive there and we arrived fairly early (3:30PM).

We started with Bella, Mikayla and Tehillah, Suh-Young (she was great on the practice the day before), Inês, Kyra and Franziska as striker. From Suzhou, the whole team was new and during the warm up, I could notice that their goalie was fairly good. Besides that, they had two tall and strong players, stronger than the French players we faced first match. Beautiful weather to play ball with a nice sun. I even said during my prematch speech that the football Gods were blessing our match with the beautiful weather so would be a great day to be champions.

But we are focused and we want to win. Unfortunately, we were so focused that we forgot to film the first five minutes of the match. Without our camerawoman Lily Briggs, we are nothing. Don’t fool yourselves, in those five minutes we missed a goal! Inês assisted our German Panzer and boom! 1 x 0 SCIS Hongqiao. What made me very happy on this goal was not only Franziska keeping her amazing mark of scoring a goal every match but Inês happiness to assist Franziska. She ran toward us saying “My assist! My assist!” that’s what every coach dreams about; a team that players are worried about doing well their jobs, not only scoring goals.


Soaking Wet

With 13 minutes, started down pouring. To coach under a weather like that, it’s … wet. I gave my jacket to protect the camera and I was soaking wet.

The kept the full control of the match, pushing forward. Their field is very unique. There is no small box and the goal box is huge. It’s short but very wide and with a very big and dangerous hole on one of the sides. With 22 minutes. Franziska fought for a ball on the right side of attack, passed to Inês who shot a ball full of curve and fooled the goalie. 2 x 0. Inês and Franziska were unstoppable this match! I guess it’s the fact IB Mock Exams were over, they were much lighter to play.

With 5 minutes to end the first half, Hailey (as a striker) shot a ball and the goalie deflected it but Inês was there and she got one of her crazy shots that the ball does a parabola out of the reach of the goalie. It’s her trademark considered she scored a goal like that 4 years ago during ACAMIS finals. So, 3 x 0 Hongqiao and end of the first half. We had one of our hands on the trophy already and all the Amazon Warriors had time on the pitch, showing how strong this team is.

The second half, when you could expect us to slow down and hold the score, Franziska was thinking differently. She kept pressuring and with 3 minutes already shot two or three balls at the goal. There were moments we were with four attackers against three. I was testing Phoebe as the right wing (her position last year) and Hailey as the left with Franziska as striker. While Phoebe was very comfortable on the right, Hailey was suffering to play on the left (it was her first time). Still she manage to get a volley shot that was super cool. But cool was the next goal. With 50 minutes into the match, Hailey deflected a ball, that ended up with Franziska on the center midfield. She passed to Inês and started sprinting to the right of the field. Our Portuguese brain, with one surgically precise pass, assisted Franziska face-to-face with the goalie. Our German Panzer instead of shooting a cannonball, softly touched out of reach, on the ground by the right side of the goalie. 4 x 0 SCIS. This dynamic duo was on fire! It’s the goal of the match. Exactly what we practiced the day before. I’ve watched this goal already 5 times here while writing this post. So proud!

After that, it was time to experiment many things, one of them was Mikayla as midfield and defending Emma and Tehillah. Poor Mikayla was completely lost. I am extremely amazed how solid Mikayla is as the first defender. She antecipates perfectly and is working very well with Tehillah.

If you think that the match was over, well, you forgot to tell our German Panzer. On the last minute, Tehillah deflect the ball from our own goalie box and Franziska got the ball alone on the center midfield. Alone, in the middle of three defenders, she shot, the ball ricocheted from one of them and … GOAL! Hat trick to our German Panzer, the leader of our blitzkrieg on Suzhou’s defensive system. 5 x 0 and end of the match.

Sushi

So my Amazon Warriors, the Gods wanted you to have 10 days to celebrate our first title of the season. We still have two to conquer and we will have to fight even harder. This season we are even better than the last one, if that’s possible. Congratulations to us all! As for me, I decided to celebrate with a nice Haiku banquet, with enough rolls to feed me for a week!

BELLATORUM INVICTUM! Literally.

Goals:  Inês (2), Franziska (3)
Assists:  Inês (2), Franziska
MVP of the match: Franziska