A quick one, as I’ve fallen behind.
This was a bit of an interesting game, in that it was rather a different game from our previous two. In our first two games, we were dominated in most of the stats. Not so in this game, however:
|HESC 01B White||Mexico Jr|
|5||Shots on Goal||4|
In our previous games we had been greatly outshot; this game we outshot the opponents. In our previous games we took leads and then defended hard. In this game the opponent took the lead and we had to fight back for the win. It was also the first time we had a lead in corners, which shows how much we took the game to them.
A couple of other odd points: the referee did not call a bad game per se, in that I don’t think the fouls called against us were terrible. But he also didn’t protect our players at all. Jeff Fetzer caught a great photo of Alex with the ball in his hands, at knee level, while an opposing player is making contact with his ankle on a sliding tackle—clearly a late one and while not worthy of a card (the player was not showing his studs) it should have been a foul, but he called nothing.
Another thing that surprised me about the game was how much the ball was played in the air. For a team that styles itself “Mexico Jr” they didn’t play a very Mexican style, which would have been lots of short passes on the ground. Instead they played the ball high in the air, mostly with high kicks rather than headers.
And this is where the referee failed to protect our players again. There was a moment early in the game when one of our players went for one of these high balls and found an opponent’s boot very near his face. I was surprised that the referee did not whistle dangerous play. Unfortunately after that we rarely won those balls. Nobody wanted to put their heads at risk of being kicked when the Mexico Jr players were throwing high kicks right and left. Of course, with our players shying away from those situations the game became much more difficult than it needed to be. But what would be the solution? I understand the players’ reluctance, given the referee’s lack of a call early in the game. But remember that referees are human and make mistakes, and give him a chance to make the next call and settle the game down. While I don’t like to recommend that our players put themselves in harm’s way sometimes that is necessary to break an advantage that another team has developed due to their systematic use of foul play.
Soccer in Houston’s Three Stars of the Game
- Alec Pluchinsky. Alec’s goal was critical, coming as halftime approached. More importantly, it put a relatively short end (a bit under 11 minutes) to the only period so far this season we have trailed an opponent. It also demonstrated good positioning and awareness to be on top of what had become a chaotic situation in the box and take advantage. Well done from Alec.
- Nick Fetzer. I know Nick has already earned one this season but this was a day where he truly was a beast. He was under intense physical pressure, which is a difficult situation for any player but especially a defender as you are confronted with a decision. Do you shy away from the physical play and risk letting the opponent get the past you towards goal? Or do you meet the physical play and risk the referee calling a foul on you, leading to a dangerous free kick or even a penalty. Nick not only made the right decision (meeting the physical play), but he did so without conceding a single foul and drawing three from his opponents. Excellent from Nick.
- João Mitchell. Coming in to this game, when I heard that Alvaro would not be able to play, I was honestly worried. Who would we find to fill that critical defensive midfield position? I wondered. But I had forgotten that Zinho had often filled that role—and he did so today, as well, and did so extremely well. Zinho broke up Mexico’s attacking forays and distributed well, initiating the counterattacks. Fantastic game from Zinho.