A view from my side.
Tonight we played better. Tonight we took to the field without the intimidation we had when we played this team a month ago. Tonight we played our game. Tonight we stood toe-to-toe with them and stood our ground. The difference between the team that took the field tonight and the team that took the field a month ago were night and day.
While the match saw us playing more in our half than in theirs, we held on. We marked up better. We shifted better. We covered the open spaces better. We filled their passing lanes and kept them at bay. Their first goal came in around the 26th minute. They hit a shot from 30 yards out. It deflected off the back of one of our players, changed direction and found the back of the net. 1-0 Them.
About 7 minutes later, one of our mid-fielders lost his mark as he ran forward toward the top of our box. His teammate, forced wide by our defender, crossed a ball in and it hit the ground just in front of the unmarked attacking mid-fielder. He settled it and hit it. 2-0 Them.
Just before the half ends, we press forward. Organized and supporting the ball, we threaten their net. Unable to shoot, our striker drops the ball to an inside mid-fielder who plays a one touch ball to the other striker. His first touch is not great, the ball bounces up to his waist, but he settles, turns and shoots. As the ball crosses the net, the flag goes up. Handball is the call and the goal comes off the board. The half finishes 2-0.
Halftime adjustments in place the second half starts with their kickoff. They press forward but we win the ball. We counter and keep them on their heels for the next 20 minutes. A break away is stopped when our player is pulled down, sprawling on the ground. No call and play continues. We put the ball into play in the box a few times, but can’t finish it.
They counter on one, a center defender taking the ball up field. He beats a striker and keeps going. We step to him to shut him down and stab…not once, but three times. Our striker fails to follow their defender, and we have no help to double him. He keeps moving and launches a rocket from 25 yards. Our keeper mishandled it and it goes over his shoulder into the net. 3-0 Them.
We make a few changes and press forward. Their players call for reinforcements and they sub fresh legs. They are able to keep us out of the net and hold on to the shutout. The match ends, 3-0 Them.
But…while we wanted to win it, we were focused on improvements over the previous match. The difference was night and day. We were not intimidated. We did not stand on the field like deer in headlights. We shut down their player that scored 3 goals on us last time. Two of the their three goals, the unmarked player at the top of the box and the defender running forward, resulted from mental mistakes on our part. Their other goal, a deflection on a shot taken from distance…well, not much we could do about that one.
When this match ended, the coaching staff was excited. Our boys had grown up. Our boys had matured. Our boys were getting better.
We play this team again, May 1, in the 1st Round of the state playoff tournament. Tonight we learned we can beat this team. We have three more matches to work out the kinks in our system. On May 1, we will see just how much better we have become.