Cottonwood. At Cottonwood.
First Region game this season.
It'd been an interesting 10 days since our last game. The boys have spent a fair amount of time working on finishing with accuracy, moving the ball through passing lanes, and finding structure and positional changes with the formation.
The result of the effort came to a head Thursday afternoon. Snow/rain/slush greeted the boys at our arrival. As a result of the conditions the field was slippery, and made things a little tricky throughout the day. I think some of the passing into the middle of the field weren't really errant, but hard to get a clean trap on because of the wet ball. Oh well.
A scoreless first half. And that wasn't unexpected. After all, we haven't been able to finish well this season. Our shots, however, showed promise. They were on target. They were on frame. They made the keeper work. I don't feel like Cottonwood had any real threats on our goal. Jorge made a great save--but that was late in the second half.
And in front of Jorge Cisneros...Marshall, Ryan, Bode, and Calum. Solid. Each and everyone of them deserve accolades. Smart and physical, they kept the ball out of threatening position. Fairly easily, I might add.
If only, we said, they could relax a little. Calm down. Keep the ball off their defensive wings feet, and apply a little pressure--smartly--to the fullbacks on the ball.
Adam and Nate both pressured the defense well the second half. Chris and Eric and John were unsung heroes...all played exceptionally well and all gave the best games of the year to date.
Sam Kunkler said at the break that he felt he had all day with the ball. He did. Mostly. He was calm, cool, and collected and made several well timed shots--all quite dangerous. It's when he connected with Carlos Herrera on the right wing, and Carlos collected the ball near the goal line outside the box that his cross found Mathew Mean's header. "I didn't have to do anything but knock it in," Mathew said after the game. Well placed delivery, and expertly finished.
Calum made very nice runs up the field and even had one very easy finish off of a cross and flick pulled out of the net. Offside? On whom? Is that the second Calum has had pulled out now?
With 30 minutes left and a 1- nil lead, things started to get MORE physical.
Two yellow cards. Jose and Carlos. One retaliatory, one a late tackle.
And then a red. Bode. We joked that he just ran with his elbows out and the other guy ran into him. I think though that it was a little more complicated than that...a head ball, elbows up, is a caution at the least. The gushing blood though brought the ejection.
Cottonwood followed suit five minutes later and we were both at ten men for the last fifteen minutes. And we saw good dangerous balls and a few nice chances.
All of it ended with Sam being leveled after being hit in the nose (no card for that?)...and his hilarious question after the game: "You saw I got the meg, right?" He did. Straight up meged the defender and got hit because of it. Bloody nose and all...but he got the meg.
And then a true break away. A perfectly placed ball (on a short field that isn't easy, by the way) and Nate was two yards past the defense and on a dead sprint with a ball at his feet. I asked Nate what the plan was afterwards...he said he looked up and saw the keeper playing a little out of position, cheating far post, so he had planned to push it near post. Why didn't he slot in to the keeper's left you ask? Ugh. The Center ref blew the whistle to end the game when Nate had one touch remaining.
JV lost I think. I hate losing. Does anyone? I don't lament this, however, because I think they played many many juniors and seniors. I think there must have been 30 JV players and most of them looked 30. Really.
Don't get me wrong, our midfield structure was terrible. Jared and I changed up the personnel often, and purposefully put athletes in new and uncomfortable positions. But one look at Cade's uniform and you'll see how physical they beat up our freshmen and sophomores. Farhoud blasted a direct to score.
Hats off to all the JV players for the effort the gave. From Eric and Eric and Hunter and Mitch (who won't be wearing a necklace for a while) and Conner and Yomar and Andrew and Tenzin (who saw ten minutes in the varsity match) Jeremy and Luca and Charles and Jake and Nick and Caden and John (carefully nursing a badly bruised ankle) and I'm sure I'm missing someone that I don't mean to...we saw a team grow. We simply need to shut down the passing lanes better. How? Structure. We'll get there. Which is a whole other blog post...about what in the world are club teams doing? How is the fundamental structure of a 4-4-2 (well, we play a little more of a 4-4-1-1) so foreign to a group of athletes? Oh well--something to work on, I think.
And be sure to visit Unofficial Husky for more pictures for some great action shots--including Matt's goal. And here at Mytoppix for lots of great action pictures.
Thank you all for reading. Thank you all for your support.