Washington Freedom coach Jim Gabarra is attempting to close the floodgates on his back line by making a key change on defense.
After watching his second-place Freedom allow 11 goals in their past four games, Gabarra will start German defender Sandra Minnert centrally, move Carrie Moore to left outside back and bench Emmy Barr for today’s game against the San Jose CyberRays (4-6-0) at RFK Stadium.
Minnert, who has been with the Freedom (5-3-1) for two games after completing her German season with FFC Frankfurt, is too talented to come off the bench. This is the first time Gabarra has tinkered with his back line in two seasons.
“Sandra is so good with the ball and I think that will help solve some issues,” Gabarra said. “When you get Carrie Moore central, and her weakness is with the ball, I think by putting her wide might help her out a little bit. Sandra can hit a long ball almost as good as Jen [Grubb, central defender]. So now, you’ve got two weapons centrally that can possess and serve the ball.”
Barr, the daughter of former San Francisco Giants pitcher Jim Barr, has been the Freedom’s starting left back the past two seasons. Barr has started all nine Freedom games this season.
“Emmy’s play over the last four or five games has gone a little bit below where she was, and we still need her to be ready to push back for a starting spot,” Gabarra said. “It’s a great luxury to have five quality defenders.”
It was simply a matter of time before Minnert, 30, officially cracked the Freedom’s starting lineup. She started in the Freedom’s last match, a 3-0 road loss to the Carolina Courage, mainly because of a red-card suspension to right back Skylar Little.
Signed as an international discovery player in the offseason, the 5-foot-8 Minnert has 92 caps with the German national team and was a member of Germany’s 2000 bronze medal Olympic team and 1999 Women’s World Cup team.
“As hard as it is and as well as those four [Little, Moore, Grubb and Barr] have done, you’ve got to look at what you’ve addressed in the offseason and what you see in the training ground and games, and [Minnert has] got to be in there,” Gabarra said.
After allowing just four goals in the club’s undefeated five-game start (4-0-1), the Freedom have surrendered six goals in two games. National team duty, red cards, and nearly incessant rain have wreaked havoc with the team’s lineup and preparation. Giving away possession in their defensive third, poor marking and being psyched out by the opposition’s big-time goal scorers are other factors.
“We really don’t have any excuses,” Grubb said. “We know we need to step up and start to play well from the first 10 minutes and not let the other team get any momentum. At this point, that really is the key for us.”
Said goalkeeper Siri Mullinix: “You have to approach every game the same. … It doesn’t matter who we are playing, if it’s Carolina, Boston, or San Jose without four players, that’s when teams are their most dangerous.”
Meanwhile, German striker Jenny Meier arrived this week and started training with the club. The Freedom don’t need to make a roster move to fit in Meier.