This was the first time I’d tried visualizing before a game. I think it gave me confidence, and maybe improved my reaction time.
I had one or two seconds of glory playing left back. There were a few moments when I could see myself clearing the ball, when I knew I was going to get my foot on it – and then I did. In one game, I could see one woman’s determination to get a shot off, and tracked her back and forth across the box until she lost the ball and it was cleared. She turned around and pushed me by the shoulders in frustration – I’d played 100% clean, hadn’t even touched her, so I take that as a major compliment.
It goes to show you – don’t show defenders your cards. In my limited experience, the best strikers are really hard to read: they have a poker face. If you can see someone really wants to get that shot off, you know they are unlikely to pass the ball. You can corner them, frustrate them, wind them up by limiting their movement. The cool headed ones won’t let you get close enough to know what’s on their mind. They’ll slide the ball into space where a teammate will pick it up, and poof, they are gone and you are looking at the back of their shirt.
Weak moments for me abounded last weekend – from being too scared to run forward and offer support to our attackers, to being so happy to block a shot that I really didn’t think I could catch that lost my focus and didn’t track the rebound – which the gal caught, and spun right into the goal. ARGH. It was a fantastic goal though, shot from nearly behind the goal’s mouth, and spun just right: it hit the ground about a foot in front of the goal line and bounced right into its target. There’s a Nike ad in which Thierry Henry does the same. At first I thought: Well, it’s an Henry-like goal, and I’m not good enough to stop a trick like that. Then I thought: I’ve seen that ad a dozen times, and I should know better – I know it’s possible, and I knew that that girl (no. 10/London Colney) had some moves. So: My bad. She's the tiny one pictured standing out of bounds.
The incident just goes to show how much attitude impacts play: If I’d approached her with more confidence, I might have attacked the ball with more force. She was stone cold ruthless, and knew she had me.
Overall our team did really well – making it into the top end of the tournament for the second day’s games. We held our own against some really tough opponents. I suspect we may have had one of the best records defensively. Alfie, our goalie was a superstar – absolutely awe-inspiring – she won keeper of the tournament in fact. Hooray!