July 7, 2003
CARY, N.C. - By Karyn Lush
Danielle Slaton is locked into a pattern, which has been evolving and picking up pace as the season has worn on.
"As my knee feels better, I can start to play better and get more confidence," she said. "As I get more confidence, my knee starts to feel better. It's kind of a cycle."
The cycle was spinning viciously on the Fourth of July. After proving during the first half against the Atlanta Beat that she was a threat -- slapping a loose ball off Briana Scurry, flicking a header just over the crossbar and attacking up the left flank -- she made sure her presence was felt in the second half.
Just two minutes after the break, Slaton was involved in a scrum in front of the Beat goal following a Courage corner kick. After taking a few stabs at the ball only to have it ricochet off players in Atlanta's white road uniforms, Slaton knocked it into the goal to knot the score at 1-1.
"I think we got a hand on it, a foot on it and a body on it," said Beat head coach Tom Stone. "It's our fault for not clearing it and it's a good play by Danielle. We know D is good in the box -- physical presence, real aggressive, loves to go find the ball."
After Venus James gave the Courage a 2-1 advantage, Slaton made another of her trademark runs up the field. Turning the corner on the Beat defense, she cut into the box and danced along the endline before finding Birgit Prinz for the tap-in in front of the goal.
"I just saw a little bit of space and kept running and kept running. There were so many people in there that I don't know. It was kind of crazy," Slaton laughed. "I didn't know I could do that."
According to Carolina head coach Jay Entlich, Slaton was due for her one goal, one assist performance.
"I think D has been waiting all year to unleash herself," said Entlich. "We just had to be patient with her all year with her injury, but she's getting better and better as the games go on."
The injury is listed as a right knee effusion, the side effect of off-season surgery required for an articular cartilage defect.
After going the full 90 in two of the Courage's first four games, Slaton's right knee flared up. During the next six games for which she was available, she played at most a half, coming on after halftime in five of those matches.
Last Saturday, in a 3-3 tie at New York, Slaton was back in the starting lineup for the first time in over a month. Friday night she started again, went 69 minutes and picked up her first points of the season.
Slaton's strong performance against the Beat provides more fuel for the cycle. She received another dose of confidence when Courage captain Tiff Roberts pulled her aside after the game.
"I told her she looked amazing out there," said Roberts. "She looked strong and fit. Defensively, she was going in. She tackles, wins a ball, gets right up and starts attacking. She was missing a little bit of that in the beginning of the season because of her injury and getting back in shape and her strength in her legs. She's really coming back and it helps us tremendously."