MIC Cup Game 3
vs Cherry Orchard (Ireland)
After a monumental draw against FC Barcelona at noon, we had to shift our focus to our last pool play game against Irish side Cherry Orchard. They had just come off consecutive losses to Barcelona (9-0) and Begur (2-1) and had nothing but pride to play for. We had a lot riding on this game. The winner of our group would come down to goal differential and Barcelona was 1 goal ahead of us going into the final group game.
Decisions, decisions. Rest key pieces who played lots of minutes thinking ahead to the knock out rounds, or attempt to win the group and have a more accessible road ahead. Meaning, the group winner would have a clearer path to the semis by avoiding the dutch powerhouse Ajax in the quarterfinals.
The players had lunch and a mandatory 2 hour rest period in their rooms to recover physically and stay engaged ahead of tonights match.
The coaching staff were at it again, splitting up to scout games and prepare reports about future opponents. Details make the difference. Andrew was sent to L’Escala (we rented a car to be able to move freely throughout the tournament), to watch Manchester United vs EF Baix Ter, our likely round of 16 opponent if we didn’t win the group.
6 pm came quick and it was time to get focused on the game.
A quality warm up and pregame talk in the locker room to inform the boys on details about Cherry Orchard. We had decided to start the game with the same aggressive approach to attempt to win the group. If the goals came early, we would pour it on. If not, it would be time to rest some of the players with the most minutes on their legs.
Cherry Orchard surprised us all by starting the game “a la Chelsea” and sitting back with all 11 players behind the ball. Their coaching staff had decided they didn’t want to be on the receiving end of another lopsided loss, and prioritized keeping the score as close as possible.
It took us 20 minutes to finally unlock, and it came through the same goal-scorer from the morning’s game – our youngest player, Romario Quintero. Romario’s quick reaction in the box enabled him to get to a loose ball first and strike a rocket from 15 yards out.
Cherry Orchard continued to sit back listening to their coaches orders:
“stay in shape”
“this is the best team in America.”
The 2nd half was much of the same, we monopolized possession and were patient with our attacks.
Needless to say, goals were not pouring in the way we needed them to in order to win the group. Barcelona were surely bagging goals in Begur so we decided to take the approach of rotating players.
Our 2nd goal game in the 40th minute from the penalty spot after Uly (Neymar) was brought down in the box. Our #6 (holding midfielder) Charly (Carlos Anguiano) stepped up and calmly put an end to the match. 2-0 final score and off to dinner and rest for the knockout rounds that would start on Friday.