Olympia 2 – 2 West Orange
This was the biggest game for the Titans yet. We were away at the Warriors of West Orange high school. As far as the standings in the district it is incredibly close. A win for each team would be crucial. It was like a Cup final!!
Coming into this game I was nervous. Was it the excitement of such a big game? I knew what was at stake? – I knew how good the Warriors were… I had been thinking about the game all day. The facilities were nice and for the first time for the varsity this year, we were playing on an artificial pitch. One of those 3G surfaces. Am I a fan? – havent really decided. I mean yes of course, from a view above it looks the business. There is no mud that you have to deal with. Problem is, the markings on the field were permanent. I’m not making excuses but it was covered in yard markings for football. The soccer field was marked with orange lines. Tricky? yes, just a wee bit. I didn’t think the ball bounced much at all. The surface had tiny black rubber like pellets….anyways… I thought id give you a brief description of the pitch.
So pumped at the start of the first half. Decided to play 5 in the middle like we did against Edgewater and have our lone strikers. Again, creating that triangle or diamond shape if you like in the middle. Having that attacking and defending midfielder. The boys seemed to be doing everything well up to the water break. We were keeping our shape all over the field. Shifting with the motion of play but staying compact. Something that was worked on in practice. It was very important to have patience. Let them play around with the ball at the back and not biting. This was looking good, they couldn’t seem to find an opening. Our diamond were doing their job. The only resource they had was pump it up top to one of their start men, number 10.
After the water break, it was important to still keep up the good work. Still keeping that shape. We created a few chances from corners. Every ball was into their keepers hands. This keeper was very good. I have heard good things about him coming into the game. He is one of their strengths. Very agile, mobile. Not afraid at all to come of his like and snatch those balls in the air. Our balls needed to be away from him. looking for deep in the 18, or even far post. 6 yard balls he was going to claim all day long.
Second half had begun and a change of ends. The warriors had begun a comeback. There speed up top gave our captain work to do. They started playing those long balls over the top. Just in front of our back four and keeper. Communication was required for the organization – The captain came through with his speed and strength. I have total confidence with him at the back. A ball into their box, Clint Dempsey going up 50/50 in my eyes, with the keeper, in the air. Down here goes… Yeh it didn’t look good. Dempsey had to go off. I really didn’t see anything wrong. I did not want to see our star winger go off and their solid keeper down. Just heads up, if a player gets a yellow on the field he has to go off. He can come right back after 5 mins. Silly rule…but o well. The big guy between the sticks was taken off for treatment. As much as I was really concerned for him I also knew this was an advantage. We needed to attack this goal. Magic Sponge had been used – he was back on the field. The thing is, he was hobbling all over the place. I would have made the straight sub, there is no way this keeper can play – he could barely walk. Anyways…they kept hi, in throughout the whole game.
The Warriors had a break on the left had side. A wonderful delivery was whipped into the 6 yard box – who was on the end it? unfortunately not one of their players but our captain. That really hurt, just came off his boot and into the bottom corner. Our keeper couldn’t do nothing about it.
I sensed the mood and spirit had died a little bit with the boys. I’ll be honest, it shut me up a bit. Something you never want to see is a goal conceded, with that goal being an own -goal. I was gutted. That goal really hurt. I was saying in my head, shrug it off – there is nothing we can do about it now. There was still 28 minutes on the clock left – plenty of time. We can still get back into this… A few changes giving some of the boys a rest. Get some fresh legs out there. The pitch was extremely wide, a lot more space to fill – involving a lot more running. Stay positive, stay patient. It will come. We needed to make the big change, it was now or never. Switched our captain to play up top, brought on a defender. Captain and the brazilian lead the strike force. This is strong – all I kept saying to myself, was You’ll Never Walk Alone (YNWA). Those of you that don’t know what this is… ill explain. It it what drives my beloved Liverpool FC. It’s the passion and spirit which drives the players. We needed it tonight.
The boys were getting complacent with the Ref. The worst person for this game – He was terrible. I know being a coach you should never blame the ref but come on. We just didn’t get any calls at all. It was extremely frustrating resulting in me to be yelling every time at him and the linesman. I even found myself 5 yard on the pitch with my anger and disgust. Let the boys play. But play fair. Something we needed to shrug off also. We were not getting any calls – so forget it, lets just play.. and play to win.
A great save from our keeper, but he could only parry it. Needed him to have hard hands, that wasnt the case. They could pick up the trash and slot it home – we were down 2.
Time was ticking away.. I couldn’t keep stlll on the sideline, biting of the nails started to take place – heart slightly picking up speed. Come on Boys, Lets go! trying so hard to get them really fired up. YNWA,YNWA, YWNA!!!
A wonderful delivery over the top, the brazilian with his speed was on the end of it. Keeper very slow off his line, around the keeper – very wide placed the ball home 2-1!!!!! I was screaming, jumping up and down, so pumped! GET IN!!!! This game was still alive… There bench was starting to get really frustrated. Starting to yell at their players… A couple more good deliveries on the corner from our british winger, causing ever more of a threat. Next, we had an in direct kick in the box about 6 yards out. Their keeper had dropped the ball and picked it back up. You cannot do this! They had every man back to defend this free kick. Do we pop it far post or do we just rip it. Neither plan pulled off and the ball was out of the box. UGHHH! only 6 mins left…YNWA YNWA YNWA
GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAL!!!!!! The equalizer was there! The Brazilian. I was so close to running to the half way line and giving him a massive hug, but the evil eyes of the linesman stopped me… The place erupted, the bench was going crazy. It was truly like a champions league final… I couldn’t believe it – I will admit, my eyes were starting to fill…it was so emotional, my heart was racing. The palms of my hands were red roar from clapping so hard. It all paid off. We secured that vital tie, away. This was a win for us in the district.
I cannot even begin to tell you just how proud I am of the boys. They played their heart out. Every player on that pitch gave their all. It was war! Bruises, cuts the lot. You guys made me so proud as a coach. That was an incredible game – I had nothing left at the end. No energy… emotionally drained. – All worth it. Would I do it all again? Course I would!!!!!!!!!
Hope their keeper makes a solid recovery – I know we will be hearing a lot more about him in the future..
We have a break with a friendly tournament next week - give the players chance to rest and recover. Chance to try a few more ideas out, ready for Districts!
Until then GO TITANS!