Aug. 14, 2001
by Dean Caparaz
Clinching a home playoff game couldn't have come at a better time for Brandi Chastain.
The Bay Area's 1-0 win over New York on Aug. 5 assured the CyberRays of a home postseason game and perhaps assured the Bay Area captain of some much needed rest before the playoffs begin.
A pair of injuries -- a sprained left knee and a sprained right foot -- have hobbled Chastain in recent weeks. A Boston player stepped on Chastain's right foot in a 2-0 CyberRays' win over the Breakers on July 15. Four days later, the unlucky Chastain sprained her left knee in a 1-1 tie at Atlanta.
Coach Ian Sawyers took Chastain out of the Aug. 2 win over the Philadelphia Charge when the pain in her foot proved too much to bear. But she played 90 minutes in the win over the Power Sunday.
While her knee is almost healed, Chastain's foot still hurts. Exactly what the problem is, whether the foot is just sprained or if there is a different injury, remains to be seen.
"We haven't quite figured out what it is yet," Chastain said. "We've done some X-rays and they haven't shown anything."
Ann Cook replaced Chastain at left back against Philly and got the call Thursday as Sawyers rested Chastain in the regular-season finale in Atlanta. Lisa Nanez, who has played in central defense, at left back and as a defensive midfielder, is another potential replacement.
Sawyers wants to make sure all of his players are rested for the playoffs.
"I keep asking them, 'How are you doing? Do you want some rest?'" he said. "They want to go, go, go. Sometimes that's good for you as an athlete, just to keep going, because it'd just be the same as training. What I want to do is get them refreshed for two or three days so people can get their pace back, their explosiveness. That's usually what will deteriorate during the course of fatigue."
Chastain definitely needs a break. She does not have the same spring in her step that she had at the beginning of the season and indeed does not attack out of her left back position as much as she did then.
But before she got a breather against the Charge, a win that clinched a playoff berth, Chastain wanted to make sure she helped her team earn home-field advantage for Aug. 18.
"We've been battling all season," she said. "We finally got to a point where we're in charge of our own destiny. To play at home is nice. You sleep in your own bed, you eat the food you're used to, and you train at your own ground. You feel rested and you feel relaxed, so I think it's important to have that home-field advantage."
Chastain is proud of the CyberRays' rise from almost worst to first.
"We were pretty darn close [to being the worst club], weren't we?" she said. "To be honest with you, it's great to see your team's name atop the standings.
"But I think what's even more satisfying is the fact that we're playing better soccer. Since teams are always battling for their lives, it's not always a pretty game, but you'd like to play a little bit better than what I think we showed in the first half [of the season]. I think we played well in the second half. Sometimes the game predicts things, and you have to go with that. We're doing a better job of realizing what's happening in the game and playing to the game."