Monday, September 15, 2008

Soccer Weekend

On Saturday night I went to the San Jose Earthquakes (new expansion team) vs. Houston Dynamo (old Earthquakes team that moved) soccer game. The game was at Santa Clara University. Although we got super cheap tickets because of an AYSO promotional, the seats were really awesome. The stadium is small so all seats are really good. The game was pretty good with lots of action and lots of yellow cards (and even a red). The only bad part was that since it was an AYSO promo night, there were A LOT of little kids around us. By the end of the night I had sticky blue stuff (cotton candy?) all over my pants.

On Sunday, my GU19 team had their big game against the other city team. Both teams had won their first match by wide margins (6-2 and 8-0) so this was going to be a good game. And it was. We were down 1-0 at half time with 2 game ending injuries resulting in no subs, and about 3 other players that were playing despite their injuries. The other team had pounded our defense with loads of shots but we had managed to hold them at 1 goal.

I’ve decided to try a non-traditional lineup. Most American teams play 4-3-3 or 4-4-2, with a sweeper and three defenders in the back (the lineup notation is the number of defenders-midfielders-forwards). A variation that is often seen in Europe and is starting to catch hold in the US is the flat 4 in the back (without a sweeper). The idea is that there’s always one free defender that can act as the sweeper or last-man back depending on where the play is. I decided to go with a 3-4-3 lineup, with a flat three in the back and two center midfielders – one offensive and one defensive. My idea was that with a strong middle field and lots of forwards, we would be able to maintain most of the play in our offensive half of the field. On defense, the defensive center-mid would come back and act as a fourth defender to help on defense. It had worked great in our first game when we absolutely dominated the match and control of the field for most of the game. But this weekend we were playing a much stronger team and as we discovered once the game started, a much faster team.

I had actually lost some sleep in the days leading up to the game but I consoled myself thinking that we could easily and quickly change the lineup if we needed to. Plus, I was going to play one of my strongest (in skill, speed, and stamina) and hardest working players at center defense. Although, my heart did skip a beat when I got an email from her on Saturday. She was just confirming that she was going to make the game after all (I didn’t know it was an issue).

In the second half we had an unbelievable come back and scored three goals in the third quarter, all off of corners. Due to another injury, we ended up playing the last quarter down 1 player and ended the game 3-2 and with a victory. It felt sooo good to win, especially with such a big comeback.

After the game, as the teams exchanged hand-shakes, there was a bit of confrontation with some name-calling between players from both teams. We tried to resolve the issue from our side as soon as possible with the official “I’m sorry,” but the other player disappeared after the game.

Despite the issue after the game, I was on cloud-9 the rest of Sunday. I even had trouble going to sleep, just playing back the game in my head. I am sooo glad we won!

Last year I coached GU14 and comparing the two age groups is a difference of night and day. The GU14 was fun and mostly relaxing. We never would have had any major issues between players on the same team or between teams. It was usually hard for me to do the post game debrief because the girls were always chatting it up with each other regardless of the score. So far the GU19 age group is a lot more fun for me, despite the drama, which I hope does not become an issue (although I’ve heard the other city team is having a lot of attitude issues). By this age the girls just get it. Most players have been playing for years and they come to the game and practices because they want to not because their parents signed them up. When the coaches tell them something, they listen and incorporate the advice. And they work really hard with minimal complaint. My only complaint is that it seems that at this age they are way busier and so we tend to have trouble having a full roster at practices or games. There’s only 1 player that has come to every practice so far.

I had originally decided to coach the under-19 team because I wanted to be able to play with the girls during practice scrimmages. But now that I’m pregnant, I can’t. Still, I’m having fun. Plus, I have some great assistant coaches that I often feel like a GM. While one coach handles the keepers and the other gets the girls ready for the game, I go over last minute line-up changes and walk around from group to group (forwards, midfielders, etc.) offering advice and trying to get them excited about the game. Too bad I don’t get paid to coach.

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