Well, I would have like a happier ending to the season, but the truth was that once they reconfigured the groups such that only the top team from each advanced to a final, I knew we were in trouble.The truth is that we did make progress through the tournament, and after being roughly handled by Albion we bounced back with better performances in the next two games.
In our first game, I can’t help but feel that we are still playing too “polite”. In other words, I find that we struggle when teams get more physical; we have a hard time dealing with it. Albion was a team of 8 kids who seemed on a par with us and 2 kids who were really big and fast and pushed us around, and it wasn’t until Alex W got really mad at #28 for clattering into him that he finally returned the physical play–with great effect. And that should be a lesson to us; we don’t have to initiate rough play, or pushing, and we don’t have to try to hurt our opponents, but when they raise the physical level of the game, we have to match them step-for-step.
In our second game, I thought we played a lot better. And we should have won. We did win, but the referee got it wrong. I know some may have been uncertain about what happened; today people (kids and parents) were still asking me about it. The penalty goal was disallowed because the referee felt one or more of our players had entered the box before the kick was taken, which is against the rules. Unfortunately, the Laws of the Game, say that in the case of a player entering the box before the ball is kicked, when:
a team-mate of the player taking the kick infringes the Laws of the Game:
- the referee allows the kick to be taken
- if the ball enters the goal, the kick is retaken
- if the ball does not enter the goal, the referee stops play and the match is restarted with an indirect free kick to the defending team from the place where the infringement occurred
In other words, he gave the other team a restart, which is what should have happened had the goal not been scored, as opposed to calling for a retake of the kick, which is what should have happened. The second goal was called off for offside; Alex was past the defenders but he was also behind the ball when played by Victor so he should have been onside–unfortunately that is just difficult to call for a single referee.
Finally, game 3 showed more improvement in defense and more sense of purpose in attack, although we still need more work in that area.
I can’t really fairly do three stars of the game(s), but I can note some things that made me proud:
- Luke Pugh’s efforts to do something “special”. More than any other player on the team, Luke tries to do tricks as he dribbles, tries to make special plays. And mostly, they don’t work out all that well. But that’s fine with me, the important part is that he’s trying the creative move, rather than just trying to shove his way through an opponent. And sometimes they do work, to spectacular effect, as when in Sunday’s game he flicked the goalkeeper’s punt over his head further down the line for a teammate to run onto. That was absolutely a joy to watch. I encourage our boys to take a few more risks to try something creative, and to understand that failure is an essential step on the way to success. Christiano Ronaldo wasn’t born knowing how to do step-overs; that was something he had to learn through countless hours of practice. I would rather see our boys struggle to do something creative or that is a good idea than see them always make the boring, safest play.
- Sean Gilmore’s increasingly strong play in the center of defense. What I like most about how well Sean has been playing in this role is that the mental aspect of his game has been as strong as the physical aspect. Sean has really learned how to position himself to cover an outside defender dealing with an attacker, leaving enough space between himself and his teammate that one move by an attacker won’t beat them both, but close enough that the attacker has no room to maneuver even after beating his first defender. Great work, Sean.
- William Symmans, although he missed out on the first two games, played perhaps his strongest game for Chelsea on Sunday. Although he unfortunately was not able to capitalize on his good play, he held his position as a forward well, then chased hard after every opportunity that came to him. Strong work.
- William Wallace and Victor Johnston were invaluable contributors to the team. We surely would have been in terrible shape without them, and I greatly appreciate their families for letting us have them this weekend.
Thanks to all the parents for making the long drive out three days running; I know it was difficult, especially Friday night. I also know that, despite the disappointing results, the kids had a great time, and that’s really what it’s all about.