Orlando, FL – My day began early. Scouting the entire field was my number one objective so I was at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at 7:45 am to see group A matches. Barcelona-USA was scheduled to play at 9:30 am and 3:30 pm. There were games at every hour and a half intervals with the last game ending at 7:30 pm. Yep, a solid 12 hour work shift at the fields to scout and ensure we give ourselves the best chance of reaching our objective of winning the cup this weekend.
Now to our games.
We kicked off against Sunrise Elite (local Florida club) who came loaded with 3 top California loan players. The 3 players were all on the roster of USA Soccer Stars (team that knocked us out of MIC cup in Spain). We had a sloppy debut in terms of playing a lot of 50/50 soccer. The boys were naturally a bit nervous and forced the issue in the first half. What I mean about 50/50 soccer is they lacked the necessary patience to hold the ball and circulate it until we found a 2 v 1 situation. The boys were going to goal each time we had possession. We bagged two goals to take a 2-1 lead at the half but were running way too much for our own good in this inferno (heat and humidity) we call Orlando.
The second half was much better as we controlled the tempo of the game and circulated the ball a bit more laterally looking for our opportunities. Getting the ball wide to our wingers is the key to our success. Creating 2 v 1’s with out outside backs overlapping is out bread and butter and led to the 2 goals in the second half to put the game away.
Back line: Togo, Mikey, John
MF: Alex, Charlie, Jonathan
1-0 Pk converted by Charlie in the 7th minute after Misa was taken down in the box.
1-1 30 yard bombaso by California loan player on Sunrise in 11th minute
2-1 Jona got fed a brilliant diagonal through ball from Alex and finished calmly against the keeper
3-1 Charlie crushes a shot from top of the box after a great drop off feed from Alex in 40th minute
4-1 A carbon copy of the 3rd goal except Jona was the supplier and Charlie unleashed another bomb from same spot, 53rd minute
Sidenote: The weather conditions were brutal today. 90+ degree weather with 70% humidity was devastating to the boys who are not used to these types of conditions. They showed a ton of heart to continue to play with the intensity we demand in such horrible conditions.
Boys picked up a small meal consisting of a chicken sandwich and fruit from Chick Fil’a. Then it was back to the hotel rooms to relax in bed with the AC blasting. They returned to the fields 3 hours later to prepare for our second game at 3:30.
Next up was West Pines United Black. Another Florida team that would be running and gunning since they are used to these conditions. They had also picked up a 4-1 victory in the morning so this would be the game to decide the group winner and who would advance to the semis.
The game couldn’t have started off any worse. Turnover after turnover after turnover. The boys were not sharp. A costly turnover in the offensive third led to a quick counter attack and a breakaway goal in the 4th minute. A couple of positional tactical switches based off poor performances by a few players led to our quick equalizer through John Hilton midway through the half. A few minutes later Jonathan combined with Alex who blasted a shot far post for a temporary 2-1 lead. Another terrible decision by our backline led to a turnover with less than a minute to play in the half and an easy goal that tied it heading to the half.
A few adjustments and a not so nice half time chat to wake the boys up in this crucial do or die game led to a much better second half performance. Togo took a set play restart off a corner kick from Justin and rifled a shot from 10 yards out into the top right corner. 3-2 to ease the nerves and manage the game. Uly “Neymar” put things away in the last minute on a breakaway for his first goal of the competition.
Back line: Togo Mikey John
MF: Alex Charlie Jonathan
0-1 4th minute breakaway off turnover in offensive third
1-1 John equalizes after combination in box from Alex in 15th minute
2-1 Alex took a drop off pass from Jona on top of the box and finished far post in 19th minute
2-2 29th minute goal off turnover in defensive third
3-2 Togo with brilliant dribble off short corner from Justin in 42nd minute
4-2 Uly calmly takes on keeper and puts game away in 59th minute to seal our trip to the semis
Dinner and a good nights rest was the order for the boys. I stayed until 7:30 pm at the complex scouting the top opposition we’d potentially face in the later rounds. Weston FC and Coral Gables Toros are both quality teams that are organized and boast a ton of talent. The potential match ups will be a great challenge for the boys.
Finished the day attending the Orlando City vs Charlotte Eagles USL Pro game at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. I prefer not to comment on the junk soccer I witnessed so this article doesn’t turn into an F-bomb tirade.
Tomorrow I’ll be back at the fields to catch all the final pool play matches. More to follow on future opposition.