Nov 192013
 

Close. Hard-Fought. Impressive.

What a battle. Here are the stats.

Texans 01B Houston

HESC 01B White

0

Goals

1

4

Shots

5

3

Shots on Goal

3

1

Crosses

4

1

Corners

3

9

Fouls

4

1

Yellow Cards

2

0

Penalties

1

 

Texans Houston were a physical team, as is obvious from the fact that they fouled more than twice as much as we did (usually the ratio is the other way around). They use their physicality two ways: they break up our movement in midfield through fouling and they defended Luis almost perfectly (I say almost because he did get through them one time). They were so good against Luis that I had to wonder if they had spoken with the trainer for the Houston North team we played earlier in the year, where Luis scored 2 goals, and found out how he plays. If not, they read the game very quickly and adapted well to it.

So what did we do well?

  • The stats tell you that, despite the close scoreline, we were always the team that was likelier to score. We sent in 4 crosses and earned 3 corners, where they had only one of each. The shots on goals stat is a bit misleading, as well. Although we were tied at 3 each, 2 of theirs were actually in the last few minutes as they made desperate shots in an attempt to tie up the score. Each of these was hit poorly and trickled in towards Alex, not troubling him at all. In offense we threatened far more than they did.
  • We held up well under a physical assault. Let’s call it like it is: Texans is a dirty team. They seem to prefer big players and then encourage if not outright teach them to play dirty, complain about every call against them, shout out imaginary fouls they’ve suffered, and call “handball” anytime a ball is within a foot of an opponent’s arm. I wonder what their practices look like; in my mind the image conjured up is the Thunderdome. Despite this assault we persevered, for the most part, without much complaining or arguing.
  • We showed impressive stamina. We have not had as many players as we wished to have at our games this season, but this game was especially tough. In addition to missing Ben and Abraham (as we have almost the entire season), Jackson was injured, Theo was ill, and Alec was missing due to a family commitment. On top of all this, Zinho started to feel ill as well, and removed himself from the game, leaving us with only 12 active players. But our boys came through. No one complained, no one stopped fighting until that whistle blew.

So what could we have done better on?

  • Keeping the ball on the ground. Just as in our previous game, the 0-0 tie with Fusion, I felt we played the ball far too much in the air, especially against a team that had some huge players and clearly wanted to keep the ball in the air. I’m not saying we should never send a long ball over the top, or use headers. I am saying that instead of continuously lobbing the ball up in the air like volleyball players we need to make an effort to bring the ball down, under control, and then make a pass.
  • Keeping control of our temper. I know it can be difficult when playing against an infuriating team, but we have to keep control—we don’t want to jeopardize things by going down a man, or having a player suspended for later games. There was no need for João to lose control and earn his yellow card, for example.
  • Playing smarter. Be aware of what is going on with you and your teammates. Not just in terms of where they are, but their status in a game. Late in the game Alex was trying to waste as much time as possible on goal kicks. In one instance he took a while to retrieve the ball, then to set it down, then instead of taking the kick he called Nicholas over to take it. All of this would normally be fine, and the minor risk of the yellow card could be worth it, but Nicholas already had a yellow card, so if he had gotten one for time wasting it would have been a red. Both players should have known this and devised a better plan.
  • Varying our attack. Luis has a phenomenal skill set, and if he can turn his defender without having a foul called on him, he has an astonishingly high goal rate. But sometimes he gets taken out of a game, whether through a referee who doesn’t like his physicality and calls fouls against him, or a team that knows how to defend him and never gets turned. This game was the latter. It is possible that Texans knew what to expect, but it is also possible that they just read the game and saw how we were playing. So we need to read the game as well. If Luis is being taken out of the game we need to have another way of attacking; but it seems that as long as Luis is playing that forward position then a through ball for him is the most common decision our team makes. The most inspired player movement of the game (and I don’t know if it was Peter or Auggie who made the call) was to move Luis into midfield, away from the defenders who were marking him out. With Luis no longer up top, we started to vary our attack more to our forwards, Ian and Cooper and later Aarsh and Cooper. Once that was done, the defense spread out a bit more, space was opened up, and someone picked out Luis with a short through pass at the top of the box, giving him the breakthrough we’d been looking for. In fact, as soon as I saw him receive that ball there I knew he had a golden opportunity. Apparently the goalkeeper thought so too, and chose to foul him.

Soccer in Houston’s Three Stars of the Game

Let me start by saying this was sooo hard to compile. I was so pleased with everyone’s play that I wanted to just say that everyone got it. But I did want to take the opportunity to note a few things:

  1. Ian Hart. Ian has struggled this season, as other players have in different seasons, with body growth that has left him somewhat weakened and less mobile than normal. So it is a measure of his soccer intelligence and skills that despite his struggles he has still been able to make a lot of positive impacts on the game, and this game was his best yet. There is probably no better offensive header of the ball on the team, and he never gives up. I can’t wait until his body is back to normal shape to see what he can do. Fantastic job from Ian.
  2. Daniel Olvera. Daniel has had a quietly effective season, flying under the radar but battling hard in midfield to win back balls and start the counter. He has also become our go-to guy on corner kicks. On this day, when he had no break for only the second time all season, he did a ton of work, when almost the entire battle took place in his midfield area. Great work from Daniel.
  3. Aarsh Kak. Aarsh was brought in a moment of what must have been clairvoyance on Marcelo’s part, to fill in for missing players. In doing so, he sacrificed personal plans he had made for that day. And boy did we need him, for by the time Zinho took himself out of the game he was our twelfth player; without him no one would have gotten an opportunity to rest. Just as critically, Aarsh did not look out of place, either on this White team nor on the field against a top-level opponent. He showed good technical skill and good decision-making. I think it’s fair to say that had Aarsh not made it, we might not have been able to win. Very impressive effort from Aarsh.

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