Andres Iniesta - Best player at Euro 2012 [HD]

Brady to Welker.  Montana to Rice.  Stockton to Malone.  How about Iniesta to Messi?

It is worth pointing out that while Lionel Messi is a goal scoring machine, he cannot, I repeat CANNOT, ever do it without the two greatest midfielders on the planet in his own backfield.  Here is a video on one of those superstars, Andres Iniesta.

Lionel Messi - Soccer's newest scoring legend


On December 9th, 2012 Lionel Messi scored his 85th and 86th goals of the calendar year, making him the greatest scoring machine of all time.

Congrats to Leo.  Go Barca!

Fall 2012 Season - Game 10

Division Champions!

The effort in yesterday's game was about as good as it gets this for this Fall season.  They came out of the starting block by setting the tempo of the game, never looked back and won the finale by a score of 9-2. 

The win also secured 1st place for the boys in the division!!  Not bad for a bunch of rookies.

Recapping the highlights:

  • The boys displayed by far one of their best passing games all season.  This is the style of game I hope to further develop.  It allowed them to control the game and attack the goal at will.  The midfielders were solid today.
  • Defensively, they were in lock down mode.  For most of the game, the boys were solid in limiting the opposing offense to very few good looks on goal.  In the first 30 minutes, the boys allowed just one shot on goal.  This is another area where the boys saved their best effort for the final game.
  • The strikers also played great.  They took what the defense allowed and really capitalized on some very good shot opportunities. 

My favorite part of the game was how the boys looked often to change the point of attack on the field (like we worked on in practice).  It is an advanced skill to show, but the boys really demonstrated that they understood its purpose. 

This was a very fun season.  I am so pleased with how much the boys have grown since we started.  Just think about this, these boys are only 5 months removed from playing their final park district soccer game.  To go from that level of competition to one of the better teams in U8 TRAVEL soccer says a lot about the character of these boys.  It also speaks volumes on how great you all are as parents.  You all have been great to me with your support of this program.  It has been especially nice to get to know all of you better.  This environment surrounding the field has been very positive for these boys.  That is one of the primary reasons for all the success in their development. 

Again, thank you all for being there.

The boys played like champions this season.  Let them be proud.  They worked hard for this moment.  Enjoy the off-season.


Fall Season 2012 - Game 9

Playing a team like Pegasus should remind us all that every team will be gunning for our boys.  Teams are going to bring their best to the game in an attempt to claim the victory that both sides covet.  Our sons did a great job this past Saturday.  They started the game strong, took the lead early and played strong defense to protect it while continuing to transition aggressively on the counter-attacks.

This was definitely not one of their finer performances, but they still did enough to taste the sweet nectar of victory by a score of 4-2.  Give credit to Pegasus for disrupting the boys game plan. Their record does not indicate the quality of talent that those boys display.  They are a team that is very close to being very good. 

Let's look at the highlights:

- The passing game continues to improve.  I really like how most of the boys are playing their positions and are staying in their positions.  They are more patient on the field and wait for the ball to come to them as opposed to chasing the ball down. 
- The midfielders supported great on defense.  They continued to defend high up the field and challenged every opposing possession.
- My favorite part was how the boys really tightened up their coverage on their goal kicks.  That coverage created real problems for Pegasus. 

Up next, we conclude the season against the Wings in a rematch from a September game.  It is the last game of the season.  The boys should go into this game holding nothing back and firing on all cylinders.  Game time is at 9:00 AM, please have the boys at the field and ready to go by 8:30 AM.  The uniform colors will be black jerseys/white shorts/white socks with the black Kelme logo.

See you all then. 

Fall Season 2012 - Game 8

Today's game can be summed up on one word.....DUDE!!!

The lineup took a little bit of a shift today because the team was short three midfielders due to injuries or other commitments.  To overcome the deficit in the middle, several of the boys stepped their games up in a BIG way and carried the team to a solid 7-2 victory over a very talented and well coached Skomor team.  They had a very good offense. 

Let's look at the highlights:

  • Ben....AWESOME!  You were a big reason as to why the defense pitched a shutout in the 2nd half.
  • The midfielders and forwards did a better job of working together today.  they showed a lot of trust in completing passes to each other.  This is important because in my offense, the point of attack can come from either wing position just as much as from the striker. 
  • The forwards were very effective and staying up and attacking their defense up the middle.  3 of the 7 goals came from the strikers today.
  • Offensively there were at least 6 crosses into the middle for shot attempts.  At the start of the season, those crosses rarely existed.  

Overall, the boys played a complete game and the coaching points from past practices are showing up in games.  My favorite part from today was how well the boys rebounded the shot deflections from the keeper or the post.  They even capitalized on this with the 3rd goal of the game by Tommy.  Great work. 

The Hawks gained 6 points this weekend from both wins, when the score is posted, the boys will be in 2nd place with two games to go.  The boys control their own destiny.  If they win out, they win the Fall division crown. 

Looking good! 

Up next, we will practice on Thursday to start getting ready for next Saturday's rematch with Pegasus (kick -off at 3:30 PM). START TIME FOR PRACTICE HAS BEEN PUSHED UP TO 5:30PM.  Coaching points will focus on better ball clearing from the defensive third as well as continuing the effort to build that midfielder/forward relationship.

See you all on Thursday. 

Fall Season 2012 - Game 7

The boys delivered a gem today.

They apparently like playing on the longer field.  That is something to keep in mind for the Spring season when the field gets redesigned.  The bigger field really plays to our strengths.

The boys did a lot of good things today.  The wing midfielders stayed wide and were VERY aggressive today on the offense.  4 of the 5 goals in the 2nd half today were scored by a wing midfielder.  The forwards stayed up and waited for the ball to be delivered to them and were extremely good at transitioning to offense.  In my opinion, the key to today's victory was how the defense kicked into a higher gear and went into shut down mode in the 2nd half and allowed just one shot on goal in the final 38 minutes of the game.  They were an immovable object today.

I especially liked how more of the boys paid attention to the game and really focused on how they could get involved. I will never get upset if the boys stay in their positions or do not make a good pass.  That tells me they are mentally in the game, which is a BIG part of playing.

We could fine tune some things.   I still would like to see more lead passes from the midfield to the forwards to create more scoring chances.  The strikers are made up of boys with a ton of speed, strength and great ball handling skills.  Building the relationship between the midfielders and forwards may be just a matter of time.  

Up next, we are back at the practice field tomorrow to get ready for Skomor.  The coaching points will be mostly around building that trust between the forwards and midfielders, but ultimately, just keeping them at the top of their game.  Practice will be shorter than usual.  We will finish up at 5:15 PM. 

I feel good about today's effort.  We have seen considerable amount of improvement with the team game.

Fall Season 2012 - Game 6

First off, how cool was it to see that big hawk buzz the field during the 1st half of today's game.  Welcome home, mascot!!

Even though the boys needed yesterday's humbling experience, they also needed today's game to remind them that they do have what it takes to compete against other great soccer teams in the division. 

They played their best game today.  Here is how:

- The teamwork today was the best I have seen.  The passing game was effective.  Most of the boys kept to their positions and trusted that their teammates was going to get their job done.
- The defense really is very underrated.   We have had a lot of success in the 1-3-2 formation.   Tyler, Alex and Noah did an outstanding job of defending against Leon's transition offense, and the midfielders all have done a great, great job of getting back to support.
- Speaking of the midfielders, in recent weeks my focus has been on getting these boys comfortable with their positions as well as their roles on the the field. They are responding well.  These kids are smart.
- They do not fear taking shots on goal.  Having the confidence to unload a shot on goal when in the area is a good thing.  Sure they miss a lot of shots, but over time those misses will get adjusted. 

My favorite part is that more of the boys are starting to drink my kool-aid.  The majority of the team is starting to understand the basics to my philosophy of playing soccer.  They hustle to every loose ball.  They defend most opponent's possessions regardless of where they are on the field and they are starting to figure out how to work together in moving the ball up the field.  (They know that the midfielders are extremely important in this movement).  There was a lot less bee-hiving today.  All of this contributed largely to today's success. 

Great win today!!!

Fall Season 2012 - Game 5

The boys needed a game like today.  Results like today show the boys where they are and what they can become.  The Magic is a program that focuses hardcore on advancing their boys in the game of soccer way beyond expectations anyone typically has at this age.  Sure it would have been great to deliver a winning result against that level of competition, but there is so much more to gain from what we saw today.  After all, it is about developing these boys into future greatness, not be the greatest today. 

It is a shame that we do not get the opportunity to play the Magic again this season.

We could talk about areas of improvement (forwards staying up, midfielders staying in their positions, finding those passing lanes).  I want to focus on the positives today.  I could not be more proud of the way the boys played in the 2nd half today.  They settled into their positions better and really put some good offensive pressure on the Magic's stellar defense.  Defensively, they really did a good job of keeping the ball out of the middle and minimizing their number of shots on goal.

I have not seen the boys play a better 30 minutes than what we witnessed in the second half today.  I was told afterwards that the 2nd half score was 2-2.  The effort they gave is really something they can build from. 

The good news is that we have another game tomorrow and today could not have been a better way to get the boys ready.  Game time is at 3:30 PM, please at the field ready to go by 3:00 PM.  (Black jerseys, white shorts, white socks with the black logos).  Our opponent is another team that parallels the Magic to some degree in terms of experience as a team and in their ability to control the ball. 

See you all tomorrow. 

Fall Season 2012 - Mid-Season Recap

No games this past week. 

The boys have four games under their belts.  These next games are going to be exciting as we get to watch our sons mature as much on the field as off it.

It is still impressive to watch how these boys respond in a moment of adversity during a game.  In three of the games played, they have trailed on the scoreboard well into the second half and come back to salvage either the win or the tie.  These boys do not quit.  I cannot wait to see what these boys do the rest of the season.

While my interests remain to teach these boys as much about soccer as I can, it is still important for them to have fun playing regardless of the final score.  I cannot emphasize that more.  Win or lose, there is so much that the boys can learn from the experience of this game.  They learn self-confidence, leadership, how to trust one another, and the ability to learn from a short-coming.  When things go well, they learn how to celebrate with dignity and pride.  Even at 6-8 year olds, those positive messages are remembered for life.

For me, success is measured by the boys' eagerness to learn more and finish U8 soccer wanting to play U9 next Fall.  

Fall 2012 Season - Game 4

Today's game was the biggest test of adversity the boys have faced all season.  Pegasus is a team that executes the fundamentals of soccer VERY well.  I now understand why they have been competitive in every game they have played thus far.  To come away with a tie against a team like that says a lot about the athleticism and perseverance that these boys have. 

Once again, we should all be proud of these boys for their effort and their refusal to lose today.  That sequence late in the game that ultimately set up Graham's break away goal was awesome.  Not only did the Hawks score the tying goal, but they believed that they could have won the game if there was just a few more minutes on the clock.  Believing in their abilities is a great sign of confidence. 

Games like the one we played today can be a great measuring stick as to where the team really is and shows us the opportunities for where we can improve.

The exciting part about our schedule is that the Hawks get to face Pegasus again on our home field in week 9. 

Up next, we are back on the practice field to start prepping for the Chicago Magic.  The coaching points will focus on the basics to playing positions, defensive clearing without panic, lead passing from the midfield and field awareness.  Developing the passing game remains top priority.  Upcoming practices will appear to be unorthodox compared to recent weeks.  The boys have the athletic instincts to play the game.  I want to give them more knowledge to go with those instincts. 

Like many of you have said, these boys are inches away from becoming a great team.

Have a great week.  

Fall 2012 Season - Game 3

It is not how they start, but how they finish. 

Games like the one the boys played yesterday can teach them so much about how to deal with adversity.  For the first 30 minutes, both teams did their thing to prevent the other from scoring.  After the Wings broke the scoreless tie early in the 2nd half, the Hawks offense came alive.  They played the game they are accustomed to playing and lit the lamp five times in a 21 minute stretch.  Defensively, the team closed down the shooting lanes and had a good number of defensive stops, holding the opponents to just three shots on goal all game (compared to the 20 taken by our boys).  Our keepers were not challenged too much, but they stood their ground when needed. They demonstrated great poise in the goal area and did not flinch on the shot attempts. 

My favorite stat from yesterday was how the boys controlled the ball for over 38 minutes of the game (unofficial stat I kept on my stop watch).  This is a tribute to the solid performance by our six midfielders and their ability to control the ball in the middle third of the field.  They found a lot of success in defending high and creating several scoring chances in transition.

And WOW!  These forwards are fast!!

There was a very good reason as to why we were held scoreless in the first half.  The Wings performed admirably on defense and did a great job of forcing our forwards into less than favorable shot selections. The closest opportunity we had was a shot that hit the post.  Solid effort on their part. 

This was a great effort all around.  I cannot be more pleased with how these boys are progressing as a team.  Be proud of their efforts yesterday.  They played like champions. 

Up next, we are back on the practice field this Thursday to get ready for the next game against Pegasus.  Practice will take place at St Joan from 6-7PM. 

Have a great week.

Fall 2012 Season - Game 2

What a game!!!

Today's game was a tale of two halves.  After trailing 3-2 at halftime and then 4-2 early in the 2nd half, the boys rallied for five goals en route to a 7-4 win.  How did the boys do it?  I can can answer that question in one word...HUSTLE.  After a halftime pep talk (and then giving up that 4th goal in the 36th minute), the boys settled down, turned on the jets, found their "A" game and took charge for the final 24 minutes of the game. 

With all of that said, credit has to be given where credit is due.  The boys from Team Evanston played a great game and gave the Hawks a run for their money.  They were well coached. 

Here are some highlights from from today's game:
  • Seven goals were scored by five different players. 
  • ZERO illegal throw-ins (great work)
  • The boys were called for off-sides on four occasions today.  That is also an improvement over last week.
  • There were also seven fouls called on the Hawks today.  On one occasion, one of our boys made a pass back to the keeper, who then proceeded to pick up the ball.  That is an illegal pass and always results in an Indirect kick from the top of the circle. Had the keeper played the ball with his feet, the play would have continued.
  • One of Team Evanston's players was cited with a Yellow Card for a hard foul on one of our boys.  Instead of retaliating, our players took the high road and reached out to shake hands with the other player.  That was class.  Nice going!

My favorite part about today's game was that they overcame that nervous feeling of falling behind in the score and used the remainder of the game to take care of business.  After allowing that 4th goal, the boys tightened up on defense in a big way.  They only allowed one shot on goal the rest of the way.  That was huge.  

Up next, we are back on the practice field tomorrow at 4:00 PM to start prepping for the Wings.  Game time is Sunday, September 23rd @ 4:00 PM at the Hawks Nest.  Because the game is on Sunday, we will have an 80 minute practice on Saturday, September 22nd starting at 4:00 PM.  Check the website for details. 

Be proud with the team today!  They continue to work efficiently to improve their game and help make the team better with each passing week.  

We will see most of you tomorrow.  Happy New Year's to those of you celebrating. 



Fall 2012 Season - Game 1

Hi everyone,

Talk about a statement game!

This travel soccer stuff is fun.  I guess the secret about the newest, coolest North Shore U8 soccer team will be officially out when the scores are updated on the web site this afternoon.

The boys executed well.  They played like a team.  They took charge from minute one.  Here are the key observations:

Congratulations to Mick for making history and scoring the team's first ever goal!  This is the first of many.

Goals were scored by 6 different players.  All but one goal was scored from an assist.  The boys created several more chances that were either just off target or saved by the opposing keeper (who was VERY busy today).

My favorite observation was that EVERYBODY contributed because they got their teammates involved.  These boys are more than just a team with great players.  They are becoming a great team.

The keepers were not needed too often, but they stepped up when necessary.  There were three spectacular saves made on the day.  Guy, kudos to you for stepping up and playing goalie both halves. Overall, the play was solid.

They were outstanding.  I received a lot of compliments from random observers after the game about how well they played as a team.  This is a tribute to how much they have grown in such a short time.  Just think, this is the start of a season long work in progress.  As the season progresses, they are going to improve on their existing skills and learn new ones along the way.

Up next, we go back to the practice field tomorrow at 4:00PM to start prepping for Team Evanston.  Practice will take place back at the Hawk's Nest.  The primary coaching points will focus on transitioning to team defense and learning to avoid off-sides.  Technically, time will be spent working on keeping their feet on the ground for throw-ins.  And yes, we will scrimmage.  Practice is planned to go until 6:00PM.  Let's keep it there for now and then as the season progresses (and daytime starts to shrink further), we will reduce the time to 90 minutes.

The boys played like champions today.  Let them celebrate.  Let them be confident, but do not let it get to their heads too much.  We should be proud.

See you all tomorrow.


Fall 2012 - Training camp

The boys wrapped up August training camp.  If you include July's informal scrimmages, the boys have now been together as a team for 9 practices over 8 weeks... all gearing up for that first game in September.  

Here are the two shifts going into week 1.  To avoid calling them 1 and 2, each shift will be named.  For now I will call them Blues and Reds (Blues:  Noah, Mateo, Markie, Drew, Mick, Aryan, Alex.  Reds: Tyler, Graham, Tommy, Matthew, Ben, Guy, Ned)
I am comfortable with the goalkeeper situation.  We have a good core of skilled keepers with another group of boys wanting to take a turn at it.  Anna had a big part in developing that spirit.
Speaking of Anna, unfortunately we will be losing her services to a career move that is taking her West.  She developed a great relationship with the boys and was the saving grace to showing the boys how to effectively play keeper.  She will be missed, but we are hoping that she shows up for that first game.  

There is not much more to say.  The boys are ready to play that first game and starting taking away the things they did well and learn from any mistakes that were made.  With the Sunday practices, the boys can focus on the finer adjustments right away.  

Thanks to Steve, Edwin, Anna and Ronnie for their help during practices.  Thank you all for suffering through the extreme heat this Summer.   Tomorrow the regular season officially begins.  Once again, enjoy this week.  We will officially see you all on the 6th at Lawler Park (Across from old Orchard Mall).  Thursday practice location is subject to change early on, but I promise to give plenty of notice.  Sunday will ALWAYS be at the Hawks Nest at St Joan.  

See you soon.