Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Some Soccer Talk

So here's the set-up. 4 weeks ago we (Aidan's team, which I coach) lost a game. That meant that with 3 weeks to go in Provincials qualifying, we were 9 points out of the 2nd (and last) spot for the city. The team of us only had 2 games in Provincials qualifying in that stretch, since they played an out of town team one night. We had 3 games. The first week we were monsters, and won 7-0. The second game should have been an easy lock: Only 8 boys for them (indoor season is half field, 8 a side) and 3 were call-ups from a younger age group. And yet they held us to a 1-1 draw for almost the whole game. And what can you say, except that it was final exams week, and the hearts and minds of 15-year-old boys can be fickle things. But with about 1 minute left we got a corner kick, and I threw everyone up; only a win would keep us in striking distance, as it counts for 3 points, and a draw only for 1. Sure enough, Josh dropped in an amazingly sweet corner, and Arsh, my leading scorer, got his head on the ball and it dropped into the corner, and after that we hung on for a very nervous few seconds.

Cue tonight's game. As can only be presented in cheesy Disney movies, we were now three points behind SUSC, and they were the team we were playing. We'd beaten them in the preseason, in a game that didn't count towards anything. But during the season, we'd taken a 3-0 lead into the half and had badly fallen apart, losing 4-3. All this meant that if we beat them tonight, we would be tied on points, and also tied head to head, with each team having won one and lost one. Which meant that it would have to go (at least) to the next level of tie breaker, which was total goals against in direct play with the other team. Which meant that we had to beat them by at least 2.

The night was filled with unlikely heroes and some of the nicest work I've seen these boys do. Another excellent corner by Josh and a run by Arsh resulted in a header for 1-0. Then later, a hard cross somehow found Nimish (not exactly my best player, but a hard worker) and he drove in a smoking hot volley from just inches out.

In the second half, another great corner from Josh found Collin's head, and he smashed it just inside the post and then slammed his body off that post and then another that was further off the field. A little later Collin again, this time being sprung free by a sublime pass across the middle, and he smoked it into the opposite corner.

Did I mention Collin is awaiting knee surgery, and I have to use him sparingly?

Then, closer to the end, Arsh somehow kept a ball in that everyone was sure was going out over the goal line, took one step out, and found Nimish (again!) standing all alone in front of the net. A great solid pass along the ground and it was in, 5-0.

Now, of course, is when the boys let their collecting boot off the gas pedal. SUSC scored a nice goal, somehow splitting our defense and catching the keeper wrong-footed. And then, a little later, Aidan and Arsh had for some reason traded positions, and a cross hit one of our boys and went in for an own goal. I think Arsh may have been trying to set Aidan up for a goal (Aidan is my central defender), and indeed he did break loose but couldn't get a good enough shot away, and the keeper parried it. There keeper actually saved their bacon many times. In the end, the score probably could have been 8 or 9-2.

But 5-2 is how it ended. I was spitting nails as I walked off the pitch, because my math skills had failed me. But one of my assistant coaches told me I was talking with my head up my butt, and indeed, our math shows that we lead the second tie-breaker 8-6. So now I await word from the league, confirmation that we did indeed make it.

But in the meantime, colour me relieved. The boys have sucked it up very nicely, which, considering the remarkable talent on this team, is pretty much expected. I'm proud to be their coach, and pleased with their hard work, especially tonight.

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