Bad Lads FC: Attack of the Clones

Hello and welcome to Episode 2 of Bad Lads FC. Last weekend, we played Cancho FC in our second match of the Spring Season. [If you don’t know what any of those words mean, you’ll probably want to go back and read my previous post in which I explain the league, and what this post series is about.] To refresh everyone’s memory, here’s what I wrote about Cancho last week:

Cancho FC – Cancho are one of two new teams in our division. Cancho was founded this Winter by someone who left our team to start his own. He took with him a few of our other players. I wouldn’t go as far as to say there’s a grudge between our teams, but I would say that I think both teams will have something to prove when we play them. Our first meeting is this Saturday and I’m definitely looking forward to it.

 

I’m eager to talk about this one, so let’s dive right in.

Week 2 Tactics

A match against a brand new team demands a different kind of preparation than a match against the team you’ve played against several times. I didn’t know how they like to play, I didn’t know how they were going to line up, and I didn’t know their strengths and weaknesses. All I knew were the individual traits of some of their players, but that’s not really enough to build an entire gameplan out of.

So instead of thinking about how to counter the opposition like I did in Week 1, I thought mainly about our strengths. Here are some things I considered:

  • The 4-4-2 worked really well for us last week.
  • We have athletic, two-way fullbacks who can contribute meaningfully on both sides of the ball.
  • A few of the Cancho players are easily frustrated, especially after going down a goal or two.
  • Every single person on our roster RSVPed ‘Yes’ for this game.

With those things in mind, here’s how we lined up:

  • There were three changes in the XI from last week. OPSL veteran / Bad Lads newcomer Sam started on the right wing after missing the first match. Bad Lads veteran Perrin started at left back in his first appearance since Fall Season. Sang started in center midfield after notching an assist in his BLFC debut last week.
  • Keeping our wingers out of the corners worked for us last week, so we did that again, telling them to make those inside runs between the opposing full and center backs.
  • I felt confident in our ability to keep (and win back) the ball, and I knew we could gain a significant mental advantage with an early goal. As such, I told our fullbacks to push up and provide width in the attack, adding another threat as our wingers cut inwards.

The Match

Before kickoff, I outlined the above points to the squad. I specifically stressed that we wanted to come out attacking, on the front foot, and score the first goal. I told them an early goal made us good favourites for the match, and that since we had plenty of subs on the bench they could press high and work hard knowing they’d get some rest.

Then, things got started and…  it worked. Cancho’s first few minutes were the most threatening they were all match, but we soon settled in. Sang and Nate started bossing around the midfield, forcing them to play through-balls or try to go over the top from deep. They had a couple pacey forwards, but Aidan was able to calmly collect anything that got past (or over) our back line, essentially nullifying their attacking threat.

Then, in the 15th minute, Sang won the ball in midfield, took a few touches straight at the goal, and then fired into the back of the net from distance for his first ever goal for the club; 1-0.

I was feeling good having gotten the early, first goal that we wanted, and the classic adage ‘goals change games’ proved true. The match restarted with us calmy in control, and we kept up our pressure well.

Later in the first half, we won a free kick that was maybe just on the edge of shooting range. Our resident set-piece specialist Matt (two goals from two free kicks in Winter Season) was on the bench, so new guy Sam stepped up to take it. He went for goal, striking it hard and low, but it pinged off the far post and back into traffic in the box. I opened my mouth and started to yell, “HUNT THE REBOUND!” but Russ was already doing just that and the ball was in the back of the net once more; 2-0.

Halftime came, and we were feeling good. Up two and in control of the game, the question was only whether or not we should go out and play more conservatively to protect our lead. Someone on the team (I’m not sure who) said, “Hey, we’re up two, let’s play like it” but I felt like our high-pressure attacking strategy was working for us and keeping Cancho from being able to do much of anything. Also, I wanted to score more goals. So I told the guys to keep up the pressure and to start on the front foot again.

Small note: For some reason, I stopped writing down minutes after the first goal, so please forgive the vagueness in which I describe the times the next few things happened at.

Not long after the second half started, we had an attack down the left. Sang put in a shot or a cross, but it was deflected by a defender’s head. However, the deflection went mostly up, and Jubba was able to challenger the keeper for it as it came down in the six yard box. He somehow managed to win the aerial ball and put it on target for his first ever headed goal with BLFC; 3-0.

A little after midway through the half, Jubba was chasing down a ball at the edge of the penalty box and their keeper came rushing out. Jubba won the ball, but their keeper stayed down hurt and Grant played it out so he could get some attention. I’m not sure what the injury was, but he came off not putting any weight on his right foot. It sucks to see guys get injured, especially in a rec league. I can only hope it’s not too serious, and that he has good insurance. [insert commentary on the inhumanity of the American medical  system]

As a result of the injury, former Bad Lads player Zach C put on his gloves and stepped into goal. A few minutes later, he tried to roll the ball out to one of his center backs. Unfortunately for Zach, the ball went directly to Jubba who passed it first-time into the net; 4-0. What followed was hands-down my favourite moment of the match. Immediately after the goal, Jubba yelled “Zach, you are loyal! Bad Lads forever!”

I will never stop chuckling about that.

A bit later, we gave up a free kick in the midfield, and our defense switched off when the whistle blew. Cancho took it quickly down the right and they managed to put a narrow-angle shot past Aidan to bring the score to 4-1. I could be wrong about this, but I’m fairly certain that goal was their only shot on target the entire match.

Almost immediately after, with time running out, Russ won the ball after a sloppy touch from one of their center backs, dribbled into the box, and placed his shot into the bottom corner with the outside of his right foot; 5-1.

The final whistle followed shortly, and that was that. Braces from Jubba and Russ, a goal and an assist from Sang, and an assist for Sam. We could be pleased with our play, but I made sure to talk to the group about staying focused when the whistle blows so we don’t give up a goal to a quick free kick when it matters.

As we were leaving, Russ told me that this was the most fun he’d had playing soccer. I hope he keeps saying that after every match.

Takeaways

  • It’s nice to know we have another great free kick taker in SamMatt obviously can’t be on the field 90 minutes per match, so having two guys who can be extremely dangerous on set pieces is key.
  • Similarly, it’s nice to see strikers scoring goals. Goalscoring is such a confidence game, I can only imagine they’ll be bursting with it after that performance.
  • New guy Joel showed some sweet moves that I didn’t see from him in our first game. He told me he hasn’t played outdoor in several years, but I can already see the rust coming off. In particular, he had a really slick hesitation dribble down the left that totally fooled the opposing right back.
  • Our defense continues to be really solid in ways that it never has been before. We should have gotten out of this match with our second clean sheet in a row if not for a momentary lapse of focus, and that’s something we can clean up in the future. All of our defenders have been really solid, and the addition of a real goalkeeper has helped things really gel into place back there.
  • In the second half, Cancho did a good job of swarming Jubba and Sang when they tried to dribble and caused a few turnovers that way. Both of those guys are good on the ball, but teams can definitely take advantage of it if they get too predictable in their decision making.

Around the League

Two weeks into the season, here are the results so far.

And the table.

(Sorry these are kind of small, my 525 pixel-wide WordPress theme isn’t the best for posting wide images like this. If you’d rather just look at the league site yourself, you can find that here.)

It’s a little early to take too much from this, especially with how rec league teams have the tendency to be wildly different from week to week. That said, there are a couple things worth noting. First, Bad Lads FC on top of the table is always a nice sight, and out of the four teams that have played two games, we’re the only one with six points.

However, FC Evergreens put up a very convincing 10-0 scoreline in their first match against Firefighters. I dunno what happened there, and Firefighters have definitely shown up under-manned to matches in the past, so it’s possible that rout is more about circumstance. But, you have to respect a 10 goal win regardless of how it came about. We don’t play Evergreens until late-April, so I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on their results until then.

Next Up

Next week we play Toffee Club for the second and final time this season. I know their manager (and at least one of their players) read my blog from last week, so I dunno how, or if,  that will affect the match. I do, however, think they’ll be keen to take revenge, and I’m sure it will be an exciting match.

I’m a little bummed to be playing them again so soon, but taking six points off of them would put us in a really strong position to challenge for the title.

If for whatever reason you want to come watch us play, our match this weekend is 6PM on Saturday at LaSalle High School. You can find our full schedule, roster, and results here.

 

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