His response: “your season, soccer in general and your life, anything that you want, around 500-750 words and I will check it (which didn’t resolve my worries)”. I wondered if I could even write a blog that would be interesting to the general public, if I would have enough time and whether the incessant ramblings of a college coach would bring people back to read again?... we shall see! So I apologize ahead of time for my lack of proper grammar, punctuation, etc. (and Brendan’s corrections), as I am merely a college soccer coach!
After today’s season opener vs. Bryant, I don’t think I will struggle to have enough to say about the cruelty of the game. I knew that Bryant would be a difficult game, seeing as our campus’ are approximately 8 miles apart setting up an instate rivalry (or derby match), but also based on the fact that since Bryant has come up from DII to DI, they have continued to improve every year; Head Coach Chris Flint doing an excellent job.
When you set up your schedule, you make sure to consider various things that will benefit your team: your opponents, travel, enough rest & recovery, etc…so opening at home should always be to your advantage, considering it is their first true opportunity to play on their game field for the first time in 9 months (for the freshman the first time in their career), in their new uniforms in front of their family and friends! So you would think getting off to a great start shouldn’t be a problem, especially after winning the coin toss and getting the side with the wind and the sun in their keeper’s eyes…you would think?
Halftime (thank God). Your first instinct as a younger coach in preparing your half time “chat”, is to give them an earful immediately; now that I am a bit older, and dare I say a bit more mature, I know I will have their full attention. My strategy is to take advantage and instruct them during this time! And then, before they go out for the 2nd half, I give them an earful…Being down 2-0 puts a different twist on the approach to the 2nd half; now we are chasing the game against a team that will protect that lead with their lives! When you play against a team with a 2 goal lead (the most dangerous score in soccer) they tend to take their “foot off the pedal” (which we have been guilty of many times), meaning you will have less space behind them to go to goal. It is, at this time, when you find out how intelligent and good your team is at breaking down defenses.
At the start of the 2nd half, we look like we are good for a goal or 2, but denied by a couple of very good saves, until finally we break through in the 61st minute, after an initial shot by Melina Toman (New Mexico), which is saved (go figure), Taylor Bartini (Suffield, CT) follows the rebound to score the first goal!
First thought: “thank God”.
Second thought: “plenty of time for a 2nd, and even a 3rd”.
Third thought: “I am dehydrated”!
We continue to press forward keeping the legs fresh with substitutions every 15 minutes up top (attacking midfielders & fwds in other words), but don’t seem to find the space to get that 2nd goal.
10 minutes: now your thoughts start switching to when do we make substitutions or a push of players or a change to the formation? First thoughts are: do we sacrifice a defender, or do we push a defender & midfielder fwd, or is it a substitution? You make sure that you surround yourself with quality assistants for moments like this, to have different views/opinions on the game and situations, but at the end of the day it is your call.
2 minutes: push your central attacking midfielder up top and change into a 3 player mf which is actually a formation of 2:5:3
1 minute: think about putting on a wig and shoes and jumping in yourself (but a bum ankle deters me from that)!
45 seconds: ball gets flighted forward from the back, your first fwd pushes the ball into the box for your second fwd to run on and flick it into the back of the net! GOAL!!!
2-2, going to OT, the way I planned the whole time!
In the infinite wisdom of NCAA collegiate soccer, they feel that after playing a physically taxing 90 minutes, adding a further 2x10 minutes of “golden goal” (sudden death, which I’m sure it feels like at times) is necessary for these young athletes to endure.
So now my conversation during the break is to convince them that their efforts to pull themselves back to 2-2 will not be recognized nor rewarded if they don’t finish it off by winning it here & now! Sounds good in my mind…
Ok, still 2-2 after 1st OT: my next plan of action, convince them they have enough in their tanks to win this game with plenty of time to spare!
So much for that.
Unfortunately, the game finishes 2-2. While I am pleased with the mentality and work rate of this team to battle back, which I don’t believe in my time (7 seasons) we have done very often; we have moved into a new belief that “anything less than winning is unacceptable”. In the past, we have applauded the teams performance and competitive nature, but in order to build a winning program, we must now take the next step and win every moment we step on the field! I am hoping that occurs quite often this season!
Now for a busy week of training and polishing up to get ready for our travels to Charlotte, NC on Thursday to play Davidson on Friday and UNC-Charlotte on Sunday!
Thanks for reading. See you again soon.
And I was concerned I wouldn’t have enough to write…