USA Freedom versus Canadian Northern Lights

Treats from Oz

It was obvious before the game that the Freedom were flat. The spark that was there before the games against Australia and PNG was missing. Later review had some comment that the recovery session in the surf made them more tired than normal, a few players had colds exacerbated by Sydney's wet weather, little injuries were niggling, and we'd been on the road for 10 days. Whatever it was, the Freedom didn't start well. And Canada did. A goal within 30 seconds against the wind was a dream start for them. To follow that up a few minutes later was a nightmare for the Freedom.

There was no panic from the Freedom coaches' box but there were some shuffles. In a surprising move Emily Riehl moved out of the midfield to the wing, and Susie Ohle was given a tagging role on the Light's dangerous Lyndsay Smith. Ohle did a good job of running with Smith, constantly harassing, tackling and pushing the ball upfield.

The second quarter resembled the PNG game with free flowing ball-movement proving difficult. The ball traveled from pack to pack of players with every now and then one or the other side being able to break free and move the ball downfield. Quarter was neither asked nor given with some solid collisions and strong tackles on both sides. The Northern Lights made sure their tackles stuck. The Freedom were constantly dispossessed, and the ball was quickly fed to the Light's outside runners. Even the reliable Judith Stein and Jessie Hazen were unable to bust free and were uncharacteristically pulled to ground.

The Freedom kept Canada scoreless, but could only register a single behind themselves.

After half-time coach Barnes moved Hazen to centre half-forward and Eileen Geoghagen in to the middle. Ruck rotations with Hallie Adrian Lee, Tracy Corwin and Lizzy Even were made to combat the Light's under-sized, but over-performing Loughnane. The Freedom sparked in to action and dominated the third quarter. Monica Rasocha, Siobhan McHale and Jess Estrada were busy in the forward line. Lindsay Kastanek took several telling marks. Stein found space, Geoghagen hacked the ball quickly forward and Courtney Church provided drive along the wing. But the goals wouldn't come. Four consecutive points had the Freedom edge closer to the Canadians, but they could not overtake them. Finally, a quick snap from Geoghagen broke the goal drought, and the Freedom were within 2 points

Disaster then struck when confusion between several Freedom players saw the Canadian Smith slip free and score a goal against the tide. This would prove to be the turning point of the match, as scoring after that became almost impossible. The Freedom defence proved impassable for the next 20 minutes. Becky Kraft played intelligently, rushing behinds or kicking off the ground when outnumbered, clearing quickly when she could. Lara Porter and Drea Castillas were strong overhead, and Karen Stablein hit the packs hard. Helen Spinks ran hard and Janell Meyers, Marie Lavictorie and Nikki Peoples gave strong support to Porter.

But the ball could not get past the Canadian mid-field or half-back line and was constantly driven in to the Freedom defensive zone. All this despite the strong work of Lee around the ground who attacked the ball and the Canadians with a fury.

A goal to the Canadians at the death inflated the margin as there really was only a couple of goals in this game, albeit the ball spending proportionally more time in the Canadian forward line. The two early goals by Canada proved costly.

The Freedom play the Ireland Banshees on Wednesday. A win will have us in contention for the final, which would also be against the already qualified Ireland. Go Freedom!

Final Score: Canadian Northern Lights 4.5 (29) def USA Freedom 1.5 (11)
USA: Geoghegan

Best Players
USA: Kraft, Geoghegan, Ohle, Church, Stein, Rosocha

What else happend?

Lizzy Even proved in-depends-able. Or she should have. Had to stop the bus for a toilet break.
Becky Kraft kicked her first goal for the tournament. Albeit for Canada. Nice kick though.

It would take a tractor to drag Judith Stein off the ground. Or at least that's how it seemed against PNG when Bob almost had to pick her up and carry her off the ground. And then in this game, she hurts her pinky finger and rushed screaming from the ground. Well to be fair, she wasn't really screaming and her finger was badly dislocated.

If you've got the ball and can't hear your teammates then calling out to them is the right thing to do. Of course if you're one of the tallest women on the ground, and you hold the ball up high and cry "Help me, help me. Somebody help me" as a couple of Canadians swing around your waist, then you can understand Tracy Corwin getting a mention here.

And then there was the talent show.

What is it with the older Golden Gate players. Their only talent seems to be an ability to nude up. Although Troy did look good in Jess's bra, and who would have thought he could fit in to Jen and Amy's shorts. Well, one leg anyway.

And it's not just the boys. Amy loaned Troy her shorts, but then spent at least 15 minutes running around in her underwear.

Robin Bishop and Nikki Peoples with a heavy entourage spat out the Freedom Rap:
 (All)       Freedom - aha, aha, aha, aha (x4)
(Both)    In the USA where we're born and raised
              The footy field is where we kick our days
(Robin) But don't be fooled we got our shwag
              With our hair all did and our dope rags
(Nikki)  We started in 5th with no respect
             But Australia and PNG they got checked
 (All)      Freedom - aha, aha, aha, aha (x4)
(Both)   We lost to Canada today
             But those crazy bitches are gonna pay
(Robin) Those lame arse maple leafs are so whack
(Nikki)  But don't trip Freedom we'll get 'em back
(Both)  With Lady Liberty its our duty
             To whip that Irish Banshee Bootie!

Robin also gave some pointers to Becky on shotgunning cans 'It just involves relaxing the throat'.

Milli lead the Barnsey shuffle 'it's a step, step cross and a step, step cross' and there were several other impersonations of Barnsey, Troy and Milli, which at least shows people pay attention. And that the coaches also need some new material as it's obviously being repeated too much.

The bar staff at O'Malleys were excited to have around 20 Freedom players tearing up their bar. They weren't so happy with Troy dancing on their tables. The ladies were happy with Barnsey playing chaperone and moving on any unwarranted advances from the locals.

A few sleepy and sore heads on the bus to ANZ stadium on Sunday morning - even with Barnsey making everyone wait 40 minutes for him to make himself beautiful. The boys came out strong against Sth. Africa and outplayed them across the ground. The plan was to restrict their run and keep it a tight game. This worked to perfection, and obviously unsettled the Lions who tried some physical actions of their own. Bryan Dragus was too big and too quick up forward and he got strong support from Justin Valley among others. Saleh Tyebjee took several telling marks and Mel Chen offered some typical dash.
The Revos now play PNG on Wednesday for shot at the Final. Ireland play New Zealand for the remaining spot.

We also got to walk around ANZ Stadium in a parade of nations. A fantastic experience. The crowd were chanting "USA, USA" (and maybe some other countries as well) and the kids all wanted high fives across the fence. A few guys got random kisses from girls in the crowd (or they may have known them, who knows). And a couple of girls made some young guys day by giving him kisses.Typically, you could hear 'Barnsey, Barnsey' as we walked past and someone Barnsey coached in 1987 (and hasn't seen since) runs to the fence and hugs him.

The Freedom were popular with the crowd. Many young girls looked up to them and wanted photos to inspire them on their way to sporting glory. Marie Lavictorie will definitely be up on the odd wall around Sydney as she appeared in more photo shots than Elle Macpherson. 

Tom Harley knows that Quirk kid didn't die. There were rumours of drug-taking, alcohol binges and late night experiments of which he denies all knowledge. He believes Quirk left Adelaide to backpack through Asia and he heard of sightings in Bangkok, Hong Kong and Manila. Tom hasn't bothered to follow up. 

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