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.