Orlando, FL – Following the overtime, pk’s, post game celebrations, and the long journey out of the complex we reached our hotel at 10:30 am. The boys had one hour to rest. Instructions were crystal clear. Rest your bodies with legs elevated, hydrate with plenty of gatorade, and eat fruit and power bars to refuel before the final.
Once the clock struck 11:30 am we were all checked out of the hotel and racing back to ESPN Wide World of Sports for the big game. The second we set foot outside our hotel there was an added element that joined the party. THE WEATHER! Lightning and roaring thunder had crashed the party. The rain was blinding! Tournament headquarters had phoned our team manager on the drive back announcing the final would be delayed because of the weather conditions.
This was BAD NEWS! Our flight was scheduled to depart Orlando International at 4:50 pm. The championship game was scheduled for 12:30 pm was now being postponed until safety of the players and spectators could be assured.
The weather delay wasn’t as bad as first anticipated and the final got started a few minutes after 1 pm.
Our game plan never changes. We want to be the protagonist and dictate play with our possession and pressure. However, a few details about our opponent and how to counteract their strengths and expose their weaknesses always give us a competitive advantage.
Weston plays a similar 3-3-1 formation. Their keys are the vertebral column down the middle. #27 (cb), #19 (cm), and #10 (fw) are all special players. Keys to the game:
– Pressure their back line that is very technical but likes to dribble instead of pass out of pressure. A recipe for disaster.
– Win the midfield battle with #19. The boy is a complete player and needs no room to operate with killer passing, shooting, and dribbling. We have our own super special CM and he was up to the task.
– Force #10 to his left (weak foot) every time he is in possession within our defensive third.
– Take lots of shots from distance as their keeper always plays off his line (waaaaay off his line)
– Their set piece defense on corners leaves massive space on top of the 18 so we’d look to expose that and run our play with everyone in the 6 yard box and play a weighted ball to top of the 18 for our CB to crush a shot on goal.
Back Line: Louie, John, Togo
MF: Jona, Charlie, Alex
Our starting CB and captain Mikey was ruled out by the trainers at Disney Cup who speculated that his injury could be a fracture and cautiously advised rest.
This forced us to move John Hilton, arguably the best outside attacking presence in the tournament to move to Center Back. John’s athleticism would be the only option we had to match Weston FC’s target forward “man child”.
The match could not have started worse for us as we quickly found ourselves down 1-0 after 4 minutes. A bad decision in the back led to an easy opening goal for Weston FC that set the home crowd into a frenzy. The boys quickly absorbed the blow and began playing our famous tiki taka soccer. The run of play was evenly matched with very few goal scoring opportunities for either side.
John Hilton won a ball midway through the half and raced forward on a 40 yard galloping run to finally test their back line and keeper. Alex and Jona repeatedly hit shots from distance but missed the target.
It was time to insert Uly “Neymar” to the game. He was itching to get into the fray. It didn’t take long for him to leave his stamp on the game. He dazzled their defense with a quick move to his left and unleashed a 20 yard looping shot with his left foot from the corner of the box to tie things up 1-1 in the 24th minute. GOOOOLASO!
We got some fresh legs into the game looking to get the go-ahead goal before the half. A stalemate for the remaining six minutes to get to halftime 1-1.
The halftime talk emphasized the same key points. Deny #10 going to his right. The second main point based on the first half was Weston FC inviting our short goal kicks to our outside backs but quickly pressuring to attempt to win the ball in our defensive end. The solution was to bypass our midfield and hit our forward on a diagonal run in two touches.
The tournament officials announced that we needed to start the second half right away since the radar indicated bad weather was rapidly approaching. They were spot on!
We received a double dosage as Weston quickly struck inside 5 minutes with #10 going to his strong foot and burying it past our onrushing keeper for a 2-1 lead. It didn’t take long for the 3rd to fall. A weak tackle and mis-clearance on the right led to a ball being served into our box to an unmarked man at the far post for a tap in goal and a commanding 3-1 score.
Tournament officials announced on the PA system that is was time to clear the fields due to inclement weather. Twelve minutes remained on the clock. It was now close to 2 pm. Panic set in as the few parents that had travelled with the team and I were faced with a decision. We could not afford to miss our flights and changing them was out of the question. The tournament directors had no clear answer how long the delay would last. Their estimate was at least an hour. I believed in our boys and would not walk away with 12 minutes to go. In soccer, as we all have witnessed and experienced, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. The Weston FC coach knew the situation and was hoping we were calling it quits. Our camp’s posture was unanimous, we were waiting it out and going to finish the match. The boys were much calmer and I told them that all we needed was 1 goal. If we get the first, the second will come with the momentum shift and avalanche that comes with it.
Game restarted after a 50 minute delay. We adjusted our line up and took the necessary risks to give us the most attacking line up possible. John Hilton and Jona Estrada created a couple of clear goal scoring chances to get us back in but lacked the finishing touch. On the other end, Weston could have added a 4th on a couple of occasions. Jesus and the post denied Weston putting the game out of reach.
The minutes trickled away with the match ending 3-1. Weston FC has won Danone Cup 2012 and were heading to Poland. Unfortunately we could not stick around for the awards ceremony. It was a race against time to get to the airport and not miss our flight. Virgin America had an escort waiting for us to take us through security and straight into the plane. The boys set foot on the plane at 4:50 pm. A shout out to Virgin America staff for waiting on the group.
Want to take this opportunity to congratulate Weston FC for winning the tournament. It was well deserved! Players, parents, and coaches enjoy and good look in Poland.
For our boys, you continue to impress and make history! We learn more in defeat than with our victories. Continue to be humble, work hard, and sky is the limit. Parents, you have also been #1 for a very long time and continue to prove the doubters and naysayers wrong. We have a huge target on our backs and everyone wants to dethrone us. Our unity is our strength. A new season is upon us with many goals and objectives to achieve.
Back to work we go to guarantee the doors of opportunity stay open for our young heroes at Barcelona-USA.
Thanks for the summary! The conditions must have been significant! wow.
You didn’t discuss Weston’s play much. Were they linking consecutive passes. Was their coach giving appropriate feedback etc etc etc?
Just a tip – there are plenty of reports from scientific sources (aka, not from “some soccer guy”) indicating the potential biological dangers in giving young athletes gatorade, especially in large amounts. If being provided it is advised to cut this with water significantly. Because, yes, the electrolytes must be replaced. If someone says “but they drink it on TV” just remember “young soccer players are not mini-adults.”
Gary Kleiban says
I’ll let Brian address Weston’s play.
It would be great if you pointed us to the literature regarding gatorade.
We are certainly not experts in nutrition.
I will add, however, as a trained scientist myself and a dabbler in medicine … these things are not an ‘exact’ science. That’s why you’ll regularly find leading experts in the field falling on both sides of the fence with these types of studies.
Nonetheless, we need to be careful with any and all nutrition advice.
Brian Kleiban says
Weston’s play was inconsistent. There were times in the tournament where they combined and passed well but relied more on individual brilliance made by their key players to win them the games and tournament. We were informed by several parents on the Weston team during their first game of the competition that it was a select/all star team of sorts put together to win the tournament. Of the rostered 14 players, only a handful played for Weston year round.
That being said, they did a great job of scouting and putting together a talented group to win this tournament. The man child forward was an Argentinian boy that was silky smooth and super athletic. The center mid colombian with great control and vision.
The center back was another fantastic player! They were all early 2000’s and that made a huge difference.
We initially signed up for the tournament because it was a true u11 tournament ( born after august 1, 2000 ). They changed the rule for Danone flight and we still liked our chances so we attended.
PArt of the tournament rules were that no team was allowed over 3 guest players to ensure it is a TEAM FRIENDLY COMPETITION and not all star teams seeking to gain trip to Europe. We can never be sure but it appears Weston found a loophole in the rule and used different association cards to form a new team within the club ( US Club Soccer?)
No sour grapes, they were better on the day but to answer your question Weston wasn’t as fluid and relied on individual talent. A few months to over a year in age difference is an enormous advantage when talking u11’s/12’s.
Their coach seemed to be knowledgeable and gave good input throughout the match. I believe he is their DOC.
Yes, defo not an exact science as every body is different. However, here is one source I’ve used. Seems quite legit.
News article: http://healthland.time.com/2011/05/30/teens-dont-need-sports-and-energy-drinks-pediatricians-say/
Scientific reference/source: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2011/05/25/peds.2011-0965.abstract
However please note this says (paraphrase) “don’t drink unless playing sports.” Which your boys were doing. But it also discusses about the issues specifically related to AD/HD and other such issues – so I am on the side of caution and stick to either just water, or energy-drink/water mix. In the end it is up to the parent/child though.
This is the link to the National Institute of Health formula I have seen used since way back and it was confirmed again in a more recent study. This study states amount they drink is more important than what they drink. But it’s important to note this study is focusing on hydration and performance, not overall diet and the consequences of ingesting too much sugar, dyes, chemicals, etc. There used to be a product from Pfrimmer I used as a teenager, but I don’t know if they even make it anymore.
That’s a great formula, as far as I know – which isn’t far. But one thing I noticed is it doesn’t mention sports drinks (note, these are much diff’t than energy drinks and should be a big no no for kids!). It simply discusses fluids. Maybe the full article discusses sports drinks? The abstract does not.
Although it does say “Choice of fluid should be dictated by taste preference, since volume of intake, rather than fluid content, is the most critical issue in child athletes.” Which suggests “sports drink” I guess.
That being said here is a study just out this week – BANANA’s allow for equal performance when consuming sports drink, but have a number of additional benefits – http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120529113258.htm.
*note – the study was provided by DOLE foods. (so take it fwiw, I guess) but it was peer-reviewed by the Public Library of Science.
Banana’s are also preventative re: muscle cramps (and work, as I speak from experience).
Bananas are awesome for electrolyte replacement and we always carry in our bag. They are also great frozen. You can put them in the freezer still inside the peel and take them out when you need them on a hot day!!! (warning – skin will turn brown, but fruit inside is fine). Potassium from food is also absorbed faster than potassium from fluids (so some studies say) which can recover you quicker when you don’t have 4 hours between games.
Great job by the boys. Brian does weston academy play 8vs8 throughout the year?
Brian Kleiban says
I believe all Florida teams play 8 v 8 until u12 or u13. They are possibly changing the rule this year.
We are one of the few states that starts 11 a side at u11.
Tim H says
Most of the starters on the Weston team did not play 8v8 this season. The big forward, Center mid, left mid, and right mid all played U13 this past season. The left back and center back played U14. I believe the keeper and right back played U12. I am a parent from the Weston team and would like to say your boys are awesome players and the size advantage that we had did make a difference in the game. It was great playing your team as it is really cool to see how players from different areas of the country stack up against each other. Good luck to your team.
Brian Kleiban says
Thanks for the factual feed and kind words Tim. It will always go down as one of those “what if” games for us. Would have loved to play the game with our CB in the line up. Regardless, Weston deserved the title after taking down all 5 of the opponenents put in front of them.
Good luck to all the boys and congratulate them on our behalf for their accomplishment.
Tim H says
Brian. Thanks and I will tell them. I to would have loved to have played your team with your starting CB. The kid you moved to CB is a really dangerous player and was looking forward him matching up with my son for a whole game. My son was the left back and only got to battle with that player after the second rain delay. My son also is a young 2000 like all of your team. Anyway, after seeing how your team plays and you coach i wished I lived in Cali…….
speaking of playing time (“match-up the whole game”) – Gary how do you dole out playing time and decide who starts. Does it balance? I ask as the discussion is development-first on this board so I wonder what your approach is.
Gary Kleiban says
Tremendously involved question man!
I mean there are 10-20 posts right there to outline the philosophy on all things playing time.
The truth is I’m concerned of offering anything outside a more formal post as it can easily be misinterpreted. But here goes a non-exhaustive quick brain dump, and I ask for patience until I can pump out the relevant articles:
* Meritocracy first.
* Charity is bad.
* Winning is important.
* From a “development” perspective, everyone gets more than ample playing time.
* If a player only played 10 minutes or zero minutes in a particular game on a particular weekend, that means absolutely nothing developmentally.
* Cumulative playing time over the long term is important. One should not look at specific matches.
* Match ups are considered.
* Long term potential of a player in a specific position considered.
* Positional “experiments” done when appropriate.
* More flexibility when weaker opposition or game is in hand.
* Refinement and polishing of player (ie development) happens first and foremost on the training grounds.
* Certain element of playing time philosophy are malleable depending on level of play (ie for instance, are we coaching a bronze or premier team).
In general, long term objectives/vision are the primary drivers guiding the philosophy (if that makes any sense).
^Thanks. I’ll not really respond. Too tough to do so here, and things can be misunderstood. But I basically follow the same design you do.
Though I will ask you to clarify two points:
1 – “* Winning is important.” ?? (at what point do you take age into consideration in this regard)
2 – If you give a player 10 or less minutes how do you handle parents who “complain” considering they’ve paid you to teach and play their kid? What if you explain “your son isn’t ready to play a team of that level” and their response is “I pay you to make them ready in practice.”? (this is rather extreme, but has happened). Keeping in mind “12 year olds are not mini-adults, they are perfect 12 year olds.” 🙂
Thanks again for the response.
Gary Kleiban says
Again, tough questions.
1) The importance of winning is a function of ultimate long-term objectives. It’s one thing if the end-goal is to develop quality professional level players, and a whole other if the the objective is have fun and ‘see what happens’.
This “winning vs development” meme needs to die! People are being totally misled. Frankly, it’s ridiculous for a whole bunch of reasons.
People will cite FCB saying winning isn’t important at the youth level. And it’s complete bullshit! You bet your ass they care about their youth teams winning! And no, I’m not guessing. I know.
But the soccer community here run with it because it’s in their interests. Don’t be fooled.
My response to “winning vs development” is yes, winning is a huge aspect of proper development. But one also must look at the application of the player – are they competing properly. Etc etc. Anyway, it’s always tough to discuss these things on a computer screen. But I hear you.
However, my only regret over the years is not giving adequate playing time and kids eventually quitting. So one must have a good balance of development, winning, participation, and perspective. As your last point said “* Certain element of playing time philosophy are malleable depending on level of play (ie for instance, are we coaching a bronze or premier team).” But, I would suggest no team of 11 year olds, regardless of the level should have kids sitting and not participating in a given game.
Gary Kleiban says
Just be aware that your suggestion is not in line with professional player academies around the world (even the best).
Gary Kleiban says
2) Parents “complaining” about playing time.
Well, I’ve kinda outlined it above.
* Development first & foremost happens on the training grounds.
* Cummulative PT over the long term is focus.
* What’s in the best interest of the team and players on the whole is priority over any particular individual.
* Give your kid a chance (over the long term) to win his place. In other words, don’t be so short-sighted (diplomatically stated of course).
* Your kid wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think he had what it takes.
And finally, if parent is going to be a problem to the family. It won’t be tolerated.
I want to buy you a beer! Parents should know what they sign up for, and if more coaches were upfront and clear with their team goals, we would have less of the Muffy and Buffy mentality of parents that think their child is gods gift to futbol. If you are ever in the NY/NJ let me know I will take you and your brother to Boca Juniors in Queens for a beer and some steak.
Any video avialable on this tournament?
Thanks for the response re: playing time, Gary. I’ll keep those in mind re: the “don’t worry about one game, look at the body of work over the entire season.” response. But at beginning of year will remind parents that anyone who damages morale to the group will not be returning or will be asked to leave the team to be replaced by someone with more of a team mentality. 🙂
This has always been a tough spot/call, as it can put clubs in an awkward position.
Joe Fabian says
Congratulations! In my opinion, your team played the most entertainig soccer in this tournament.
I enjoyeed watching them play in the final. This was the first time I saw them live and I felt they were playing below their ability as compared to some performances I watched on video. They looked tired and nervous at times. Obviously, the different time zone, the heat and high humidity, the two games per day schedule took its toll. I felt that the kids tried to play too direct, too many times with early balls up and early attempts on goal. I don`t mean it as criticism. I understand your reasoning and I understand you know them a hell of a lot better than I do. I hope to meet you sometime in the future to exchange ideas. Keep up the great work! Tell the kids don`t be sorry for not winning this one. There is a lot more to come for them in the future .
Watched a few games. Very impressed with your style of play at such a young age. You are right about the Weston squad, had some talented individual players but were lacking tactically in team play. Assuming they keep the age cut-off the same, are your players young enough to compete in the tournament again? Another question, noticed your coach was extremely verbal in providing direction to the players. Is this necessary for your team to function the way that they do or is it simply his style of coaching? Best of luck.