By Steve Hunt, special contributor to USYouthSoccer.org
Sometimes in soccer, wins and losses boil down to the quality of chances, not the quantity. The Southern California Blues-Lippens took that philosophy to heart in a 3-1 win over second-seeded Dallas Texans Red 92 in the Girls Under-16 division of the U.S. Youth Soccer National League at Ross Stewart Soccer Complex.
"The few chances that we got, I think we put them away nicely," Blues head coach Martin Lippens said. "I told them to take some shots from way out there in the second half and that's what they did. We got the breaks and the win. That was big for us."
The No. 6 Blues clearly had fewer scoring chances than the Texans but thanks to a goal just before halftime and a pair of scores in the second half off set pieces, the underdogs clearly did a better job of capitalizing on their opportunities.
It all started when not 30 seconds before the end of the first half when Nicole Stavro had possession for the Blues on the left flank. She noticed some room on the opposite side of the pitch and sent a long ball across the field. Megan Perry won a footrace with a Texans defender and put it into the near side of the net to make it 1-0. Perry didn't even realize she had scored until her teammates started mobbing her in celebration.
"I didn't know that I had scored until I was running back," Perry said. "It was very exciting to get the goal right before the half. I was galloping to get the ball. I saw the defender, the goalie and then the ground."
That's how it stayed until the 54th minute when the Blues' Shelby Chambers-Garcia netted the first of her two second half goals off set pieces. Chambers-Garcia lined up to take a free kick just inches into the attacking third and hit an absolute bomb that bounced about six yards from the goal and then floated into the upper 90 to make it 2-0.
"That was a shocker," Chambers-Garcia said. "I just wanted to try and get it far post. With the conditions, the wind and the wetness, it just kind of took it and it floated on in there."
Texans got on the board in the 66th minute when Brittney Morgan scored after receiving a dead-on cross from Shelby Redman. The play started when Redman dashed up the right flank and saw Morgan rushing into the box. Redman found her and Morgan finished perfectly to cut the deficit to just a goal.
But in the 74th minute, Chambers-Garcia struck again off a free kick to put this one out of reach. She took a free kick about 10 yards from the Texans box on the left side of the field and again aimed for the far post. Once again, her aim was perfect as the ball went into the back of the net just inches from the goalkeeper's fingertips.
After the game, Lippens had great things to say about Chambers-Garcia's performance.
"She's just really dangerous and super fast," he said. "I like to get her up front and play against teams that lime to push up because she can get behind them. She has a great shot and can finish really well."
For much of the second half, the Blues were under almost-constant pressure from the Texans attack but except for the goal in the 66th minute, their back line hung tough.
"We expected them to come," Lippens said. "They were pretty angry out there. They came after us, especially after they were down 2-0. They tried everything but my girls held well against them and it was nice to see that."
Chambers-Garcia also wanted to heap some praise on the Blues defense for their outstanding effort. "Our defense did an amazing job of shutting them down," she said.
Admittedly, Lippens couldn't find much wrong with how his team performed in the win. "It was a good performance overall and I am very happy," he said. "The girls made the right decisions out there. Shelby (Chambers-Garcia) hit some dangerous balls in there. We practice those (set pieces) a lot and it showed today. I told her at halftime that this was the time to take those kinds of shots."
Chambers-Garcia agreed. "I think we did amazing," she said. "We played a good game. We knew that this would probably be our toughest competition this weekend. We just wanted to give it our all and show them what we were made of. I think we did that pretty well."
The Blues take the field again tomorrow, when they will face Hurricane FC 92 Shubert at 7:00 PM on Field No. 3. Texans Red will have a few days off before facing Eclipse Select 91-92 on Sunday at 10:00 AM with that match being held on Field No. 1.