Nov 082010

Not Alex's hand

First, a word about Alex Blankenship. Alex suffered a hairline fracture in his wrist, and is awaiting consultation with an orthopedist on Tuesday to determine the severity and course of treatment.  We will hope for a quick recovery, but it looks doubtful that he will be available to play our last game of the Fall season next Saturday, or the last PDF game on Sunday.  Hopefully he can rejoin us for our tournament run in December.

The game was certainly disappointing; it was our worst loss this season.  And yet, when I look back and think about things, I can’t point to any areas in particular where things went unusually wrong.  I can’t really feel that any players let the team down with a sub-par performance, or with glaring errors.  Rather, it was the little things — a thousand little things that we didn’t do as well as we could have, and they managed to capitalize on, it seemed, just about every little one of them.

Of course, I don’t know what Ken will want to work on this week with the boys, but I want to return to the basics, and start with what it takes to win the ball, and one of the important issues there is a willingness to use one’s head.  To that end, I am awarding a prize to the player who most uses his head this week in practice and the game; you can read more about that here.’s three stars of the game:

  1. Ryder Ballard
  2. Alex Blankenship – I’m lumping together Ryder and Alex here a bit, to talk about what they went through in this game and what they achieved.  It might seem strange in a game where we gave up 10 goals to give the two goalkeepers honorable mention, but it is important to remember that both Ryder and Alex are two of our least experienced goalkeepers, and that neither of them (I believe) has gone to any training sessions, nor gotten the dubious benefit of much personal instruction on the topic from me.  Ryder has shown unbridled enthusiasm in taking on the challenge, just as he’s felt disappointed in himself when greatly skilled opponents have taken advantage of his inexperience and scored against him, and yet he never gives up in his desire to succeed in this position.  I like that in him.  It’s really hard to be a goalie, especially against a team that can penetrate your defense seemingly at will, and pepper you with shots.  Even harder, as I’ve said before, is to pick up the ball after being scored upon, send it upfield for the kickoff, and think to yourself, “I’ll get the next one.”  And yet, that is exactly what both boys did, not only in telling themselves that, but in actually achieving it–the vast majority of the goals were scored in the opening minutes of the game, and as the half wore on Ryder found more and more success in stopping their attacks.  Alex, too, found himself hammered initially, but quickly adjusted to the speed of the other team’s attack to make some very good saves.  Of course, Alex paid a price for his heroics, and we hope he recovers soon.
  3. Sean Gilmore. I could just say Sean deserves this for scoring the only goal of the game, what in Spanish-speaking soccer-mad countries is often called the “gol de honor”.  But it’s not just the fact that he scored, but the way he scored as a perfect demonstration of how to play the position (central midfield) that earns him recognition here.  Central midfield can be a confusing position for a lot of our kids; they assume at first that they should be pushing hard to score goals, and are surprised and confused when we keep emphasizing to them that the position has as its primary responsibility a defensive role.  Once they learn that, however, it becomes difficult to understand how to attack without crowding out the forward, how to be the “second wave of attack”, as I often tell them.  And yet Sean’s goal was a perfect example of how to do this, following the first wave of attackers far enough back that when Ryder’s cross was deflected away from goal by a defender Sean was able to run through the play, pick up the loose ball, and take the shot.  A wonderful reward for a position well played.

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