Spring 2013 Season - Game 3

The day after the 3-1 loss, the boys were back to business with a 3:00 PM matchup against the VH Cougars.  This team was interesting to watch during the pregame warmups.  Their focus was on ensuring discipline in their offensive attack, using the wings to take the ball up the field and give an effective centering pass.  I knew that this team was going to challenge our defense.

Before the game, The wing midfielders and strikers looked like they needed a little pregame pep talk.  I reminded these boys that if they work together through the passing game, the offense was going to be strong.  They needed to remember the discipline of using the pass before taking on an army of defenders.  Trust one another, and good things will happen. 

In the first half, the boys were in good form offensively.  They had a few early scoring opportunities but the result was not there.  In transition, the Cougars played the game just as we expected.  At the 6th minute, they broke the scoreless tie with the first goal of the game.  This woke up the offense and the wing midfielders and strikers began to settle into a rhythm.  In the 9th minute, Markie launched a corner kick to the top of the key where Matthew controlled the ball and fed Aryan a short cross which he put into the back of the net to tie the game.  The offense continued the attack and created three free kick opportunities in the Cougars half of the field.  Markie took the first kick from 15 yards out and sailed the ball over the post.  He then took the next two from 30 yards out and found the back of the net.  Matthew added his second assist of the game when he put a shot on goal from the top of the key and then redirected in by Ben. 

The halftime score was 4-1.

Usually, the boys are geared up in the 2nd half.  On this day, things were different.  The Cougars were not intimidated at all by the score of the game.  They came out in the 2nd half and applied a lot of pressure on our defense.  This effort broke down and confused our defense and they were able to close the gap to 4-3 by the 38th minute.  I made a wholesale substitution and put in a fresh defense and gave Tommy and Graham a breather.  We needed to take back that momentum at this time and the boys answered the call.  Moments later Matthew received the ball at the top of the key, made a nice little juke move on the defender and blasted a shot into the back of the net with his left foot.

In the final 10 minutes, the boys looked beyond exhausted.  In the defense, they looked to just clear the ball every time it was in their territory.  The midfielders were cramping up and the strikers had zero speed. 

The final score was 7-3.

The boys still managed to put in two more goals before the end of the game and the result as favorable, but there was a lot to take away from this game for Wednesday's practice. The boys looked to use the kick-and-run far too often to attack the opposing offense.  This style of offense rarely works at this level and will never work as theses boys get older.  In practice, we will go outside (finally) and go back to working on the possession game out of the backfield and better discipline the offensive transition.  I want to see a lot more movement to the midfielders in transition and pass with purpose to the strikers for the scoring chances.  This will take time, but I hope that the progress surfaces before the season's end.

Spring 2013 Season - Game 2

A game like Saturday is the best way to validate the progress that these boys put into their time with this team.   Our boys played with a lot of heart.  Losing 3-1 to this Chicago Magic team is not something to be disappointed about.  For the record, this was the most fun I had coaching.

In the first half, the boys started the game a little bit stronger than usual.  They set the tempo early and created some decent looks on goal.  At about the 10 minute mark, Guy broke loose into the penalty box and took a hard foul from behind.  It created the teams' first real chance to score with a penalty kick.  Markie is usually Mr. Automatic from this spot, but this time he came up short.  His shot to the lower right corner was stopped by a spectacular save from the opposing keeper.  The momentum then swung their way and they started pouring on the attack.  This is when Tommy took over the game and put on a clinic.  He made one incredible save after another and single-handedly kept our boys in the game.  The halftime score was 0-0.

In the  2nd half, our boys kept fighting hard for the ball, but they began to lose their passing discipline and resorted to a kick-and-run game.  This was a completely ineffective form of offense but the boys were running out of gas.  The Magic's offense looked to adjust by going somewhaat one-dimensional and looking to get the  ball to their stud player, Brooklyn Raines on every possession.   It paid off as he finally broke loose in the 37th minute and took advantage of a broken  play to score the first goal of the game.   A few minutes later he scored again.  In the 55th minute, Markie finally brroke the scoreless drought  by putting one past their keeper from 30 yards out.

In the final minutes of the game, the boys went into desperation mode to get the tying  goal, but Brooklyn  once again broke loose and scored for a third time.

The Chicago Magic, to their credit, did give a tough, tough challenge to our boys.  They have great talent at the top of their roster.  Brooklyn is a unique talent who can do things with the ball that not many 8 year olds can do.

There are several positives to this game.  
  • Start with the obvious.  Tommy played the game of his life in goal yesterday.  It will be a long time before you see another performance like that from an 8 year old (unless you are there when Tommy plays in goal again).  That was the gold standard of goalkeeping.
  • The defense again had a tall task of defending against great talent and again, they were remarkable.  The Magic offense had the boys on their heels, but the defensive effort neutralized the majority of them.  Alex's header was pretty cool to see.  Tyler was a boy possessed.  Noah had by far his best game ever and Mateo is a tough, tough little mother....(I will keep this clean).  Markie took on more of a CDM position on Saturday and quarterbacked another spectacular game. 
  • Because we were under a lot of pressure, the wing midfielders and strikers were in a lot of isolated situations.  That is a very unfair situation for these boys because they could not get into any rhythm against such a good team.  That said, I am proud for the way these boys kept their poise and kept applying pressure as much as they could.  As you may recall, practice has been geared towards a disciplined defense, possession out of the backfield and offense through the transition game.  This is the next coaching opportunity for us to focus on for the rest of the season.
  • You can tell that the boys have been working on controlling the ball out of the air.  Their technical skills are really starting to show up in games. 

Up next, we are back on the pitch today at 3pm for our match-up against the VH Cougars. Game time is at 3pm.  Be there at 2:30pm.  See you then.

Spring 2013 Season - Game 1

It has been 5 months since the boys last played an outdoor soccer game.  We move up two Divisions in the off-season.  Our first opponent (Fox Valley Bayern Munich) was an incumbent Division 2 team familiar with the style of play that is required at this level.  Finally, we all had to commute 45 miles each way just to get to the game.  Steve, Edwin and I agreed that this situation required a lot of mental preparation prior to the game.  We warmed the boys up with the usual regimen of 4v1 monkey in the middle to get the passing game tuned up.  Then followed that up with a scrimmage.  At first, things did not go as planned.  In fact, things went the way I had feared.  I put the boys through a brief session of "tough love".  They had to be reminded of what was ahead of them and that is was time to get their heads in the game.

We started the game a little flat.  Fox Valley Bayern Munich immediately took control, making crisp passes and moving the ball at will through their disciplined passing game.  This was the tempo of the game for about the first 15 minutes when they finally capitalized with a very nice one touch goal from their striker (named Arian) taken off a cross from their 2nd best player (named Noah).  That was the moment that our boys kicked things up a gear.  The defense, already at a solid level, stepped up their game even more.  Midfielders began to possess the ball more and use the pass to move the ball up the field.  The strikers finally kept their position and stretched the field vertically with the mere threat of their existence.  For the next 45 minutes, and especially in the 2nd half, the boys went back to business as usual, locked down their offense to just a few shots on goal, wore down their defense and finished the game with a 4-1 victory. 

Let's look at the highlights:
  • Our defense carried the team to victory yesterday.  Tyler, Noah, Alex and Mateo were all solid today.  In fact, they are solid always.  They had a tall task of neutralizing Fox Valley Bayern Munich's talented front line and did an outstanding job.  Their play was the key to the game.  Excellent, excellent work boys...ALWAYS! 
  • The passing game looked very good today.  Sure, they missed on a number of passes, but that is far better than not trying to pass at all.  Kudos to Markie in quarterbacking the transition game, avoiding the kick-and-run and setting up great lead passes to the wing midfielders and the strikers. 
  • I was also pleased with how the forwards and midfielders worked together.  Matthew's lead pass in transition to Aryan that set up the first goal was outstanding.  Matthew, Aryan and Graham then later set up a sequence of passes (also in transition) that nearly set up another breakaway goal.  Regardless, it was beautiful.  The combination of good passing and athleticism wore down their defense.  By the end, our boys were in charge of the tempo of the game. 
  • Tommy, Ben.  Both of you were awesome in goal.  You made some great stops. 
FACT:  Did you know that this is the first game that we allowed less than 2 goals in a game? 

I enjoy games like this a lot.  The boys played well enough to beat a quality opponent, but the game provided several coaching opportunities for the next practice.  Unfortunately, we only have one practice to prepare for the Vernon Hills Cougars, another Division 2 incumbent.  You all have seen the video of this team.  The scouting report suggests that our team defense will be put to the test again, but like I tell the boys.  Play our game and we win.  Play their game and we lose.