By Steve Hunt
Contributor to USYouthSoccer.org
FRISCO, Texas (March 20, 2009) - In the first half of their match with Maryland, California South wasn't getting many offensive chances. However, a formation switch at the break paid big dividends as California South scored twice to emerge with a 2-0 win in their first match of the 1992 Girls age group of the 2009 US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (US Youth Soccer ODP) Championships at Pizza Hut Park.
California South got their first goal about 10 minutes into the second frame when Allie Harrison connected from about 15-16 yards from the Maryland goal. Maryland keeper Lyndse Hokanson made a play on the ball, but Harrison's shot popped free and trickled over the end line.
There was some controversy from the Maryland bench about whether or not it was indeed a goal. But for California South coach Michelle Myers, there was no doubt.
"As soon as it went off her (the goalkeeper's) hands and back, it was over," Myers said. "As soon as I saw it, I screamed 'linesman' and was glad that he was there. To me, it was clearly over. I thought it was a great call by the linesman."
Myers' team added another tally in the second minute of stoppage time to secure the win. The play started when Hokanson came up to take a free kick for Maryland. Her effort deflected out to California South's Tawni Martino. Martino then dashed up the left flank with Hokanson in close proximity. Martino finally took her shot about 25 yards from goal and with the net empty, her effort landed just inside the left post to give her side a 2-0 lead.
For the California South coach, the goal boiled down to one simple thing. "That's the hardest thing for a forward when you have that many yards in front of you and a goal with no keeper in it," Myers said. "You're afraid if you shoot too soon, the ball might not go in or if you try and run too much, they might catch you. She did a good job of finding the right in-between. She held out as long as she could and then was able to place it. It was a good individual effort."
However, the match didn't start so well for the side from the West Coast. Maryland controlled the run of play for much of the opening half. In the 24th, they nearly took an early lead when Kayla Clarke took a free kick from about 30 yards out. Clarke's bending blast nearly landed in the right side of the net but California South keeper Chelsea Morales dashed over to make the save and keep things scoreless.
So at the break, Myers opted to switch from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 formation, a shift that would hopefully produce more flank play.
"I think we started out a little slow," she said. "We started with a 4-3-3. They were also in a 4-3-3 and it seemed like a battle of wits in there. We weren't playing and weren't moving. So we switched to a 4-4-2 to try and open up the width a little more. I think that helped us a bit. It got us to play a little bit more and gave us more control of the ball."
Myers also went to her bench to begin the second 45 minutes. "It was a team effort because in the second half, we brought on almost all of the players who didn't play in the first half and they stepped it up for us," she said.
"That first goal resulted from hard work and we let them run around for a bit before bringing the other guys back on,' Myers said. ""So we're just coming off our high school seasons and have only had two practices together. We're still trying to find that rhythm. It's not quite there yet but we've got a lot of good players individually. We're just trying to work at being a cohesive team. It got better as we went to that 4-4-2."
California South will now play for the 1992 Girls title on Sunday morning at 10 a.m. Myers wants to see her team do a few things differently for that match. "I'd like them to come out with a little more effort, poise and possession," she said. "We want to try and move it around rather than battle head-to-head."