The Fish Blog
Sept. 24, 2008
Our visit last weekend to the Pacific Northwest for the University of Washington Invitational was full of highs and lows, with the lows winning out. We missed the sun of Albuquerque and got to experience Seattle at its best: cold and wet. On Friday we played to a 1-1 draw against a very good University of Portland team and on Sunday, we were defeated by the University of Washington, 3-2, in overtime. I believe in our team and feel that we are doing the right things: the process is correct, the outcomes are not. Our challenge is to not panic and to continue to work with mental and physical discipline. Whenever I am in the presence of our team, I realize what a great group of young men they are and how badly they want to succeed.
Our record stands at 3-3-2, with all eight games vs high quality opponents. The refreshing thing, is that we enter conference play the weekend of October 3rd with a bye weekend this week. For all intensive purposes, we have a clean sheet and our fortunes will be determined by our upcoming 10 conference matches (we also play Stanford in a non-conference match on October 24th).
Getting back to last weekend. I thought we played well vs Portland on Friday. We were in control of the match and scored a great goal 32 minutes into the first half: Stephen Brown to Jack Smithson on the back post. We continued to play well in the second half and did a great job managing the game and the clock. With 6 minutes remaining on the clock, we committed a foul 40 yards from our goal: a mental mistake we can not make. Great service by Portland and a glancing header found the back post to make it 1-1. If Portland was given this same chance 15 times, they may score one time. Regardless, we gave up a lead with 6 minutes to play and the score remained 1-1 through overtime. With three minutes remaining in overtime (107th minute), Lobo defender Justin Davis was kicked in the groin by a Portland player and Justin retaliated. Both players were shown red cards and the ref deemed the incident "fighting" and both players have to serve a two-game suspension (for JD, the Washington game and our conference opener vs Denver). A costly mistake by both players.
Sundays match vs Washington was full of ups and downs. 10 minutes into the match, Lobo PJ Wilson scored a very nice goal and seven minutes later, Michael Green doubled our lead to make it 2-0 Lobos. In the 41st minute, Zach Tierney got caught a bit high and let a UW attacker get behind him. Tierney got tangled up in his recovery and brought the player down. By no means a flagrant foul and it appeared like we had cover for Tierney. The ref saw it differently. He said Tierney was the last defender and the UW player was through to goal. Straight red card and we played out the half down a man: 10 vs 11. Not an excusable offense, but not a red card either. We played very well in the second half down a man. In the 63rd minute, PJ Wilson was given a yellow card for a very soft foul. 5 minutes later, another soft foul and he was given his second yellow of the match. Red card for Wilson and we now were playing 9 vs 11. I've never seen an official make such a game altering call on a similar play. We bunkered in and fought hard despite the huge numerical disadvantage. To Washington's credit, they played well and punished us with goals in the 74th and 78th minute to take the game to overtime. Both goals were great strikes from outside the box. Not great chances, but opportunities capitalized on. 7 minutes into overtime they hit the game winner. What a way to lose!
Our challenge will be to put our non-conference matches behind us and go into conference play with enthusiasm and optimism. We open up at Denver on October 3rd without the services of Justin Davis, Zach Tierney and PJ Wilson (all serving suspensions). The boys will be prepared and ready to play. Thanks for all your support and GO LOBOS!
Sept. 16, 2008
This has been one of the hardest updates to write, EVER! What an emotional roller coaster. A huge win over the #2 ranked team in the country on Friday night and a devastating loss to a good/not great Cal Poly team on Sunday. I have re-played the game a hundred times in my head... a thousand times. Our staff has analyzed our player selections, our scouting and our preparation. We were prepared for the game on Sunday and didn't underestimate our opponent; at least the coaches didn't underestimate them. I think too many of our players were worrying about National Rankings and how many minutes they were playing.
This and the combination of the emotional and physical fatigue from a very tough match vs Akron on Friday night, the opportunity and excitement of our opponent on Sunday felt going into our match and negative energy we experienced from some of our players who aren't playing as much as they'd like and feel that they deserve, all combined to provide a sub par effort. I've never coached such a talented group with so many quality players. Most teams have 10-12 players who are of a higher standard and then fill in minutes with role players. We have 18 healthy field players and each sees himself as a big minute player and has the ability to impact the game. Impossible to keep everyone happy.
Friday night's match vs Akron was a great one! 3000 in attendance, tremendous energy and two exciting teams really going at it! Our players and coaching staff were very confident going into this game. This is both a strength and a weakness of our team: we always feel that victory will be ours and that we are better than our opponent. Soccer is a crazy game, like most sports, the more talented team doesn't always win. Defense, mental toughness and the ability to focus for 90 minutes is what carries you through a game and through a season.
Our strategy going into the match, was to press Akron deep in their half and not allow their dangerous attacking players to have time or space on the ball. Our defense did an incredible job and we all were energized by the return of central defender, Simon Ejdemyr, to the line up (did not play due to injury the prior weekend). I felt that we really set the tone in the first half and saw the better of play. We missed one tremendous chance and Eric Staver did a very commendable job in the net for us.
The second half picked up where the first half left off. Great play from both sides, with Akron unable to get their attack rolling. In the 67th minute, some great transition play saw Michael Green play a through ball to Justin Davis (streaking forward from his position as a left back), JD out ran the defender, took a great touch and slotted the ball past the Akron goalkeeper. 1-0 Lobos. We held the lead for the ensuing 23 minutes and showed great composure and maturity in our play. Akron saw a great deal of the ball, but only created one quality chance, which Staver handled. After the game we were physically and mentally shot. I felt our recovery session after the game and our regeneration session on Saturday both went well, as did our video and scouting report for Sundays match vs Cal Poly.
Cal Poly is a good team: well organized, proud and hard working. I didn't feel that they could break us down in the run of play, but they would be dangerous on counter attacks and set pieces. They had everything to gain and nothing to lose in their match vs. the Lobos. We had a kick around in our Indoor facility Sunday morning and the boys seemed focused.
The team pre-game meal went well and things looked good going into the match. The warm up 40 minutes prior to kick off lacked great enthusiasm, but it picked up as the kick off approached. The whistle blew and we were flat! What a huge disappointment. I thought we'd work things out and our defense would hold strong. In the 34th minute, we gave up a free kick to the right of the box. Poor marking, great service and a hard fought header....1-0 Cal Poly. A definite wake up call. The half ended with the Lobos down 1-0.
It was hard to get a read on the team at halftime. Still very confident, but not too animated. We picked things up right from the kickoff and looked good. A defensive mistake and Cal Poly was awarded a free kick out side our box 15 minutes into the 2nd half. Poor marking and a lack of focus, allowed the Mustangs to find a free player on the far post. 2-0 Cal Poly. 30 minutes left in the match. Shocking! We began to pour it on. Shot after shot, but no joy. The Mustang goalkeeper was in top form and we missed several very good chances. With 5 minutes to go, we scored to pull within a goal (Mike Porter to Stephen Brown). Too little, too late. A devastating loss! The mark of a great team, is consistency. This will be our challenge the rest of the season.
We depart on Friday for Seattle, to play our final pre-conference matches vs. traditional powers University of Portland and University of Washington. Two very tough matches vs. two of the top teams in the West. Our challenge is to learn from our mistakes and to continue to come together as a team. Our leadership will be tested and team goals must be placed ahead of individual goals. Thanks for all your support and GO LOBOS!
Sept. 9, 2008
A stomach turning weekend on the sidelines for Lobo Men's Soccer. A life times worth of emotions were experienced over two games and a cumulative 191 hard fought minutes. It was great to be home for two big matches vs 2007 NCAA Tournament participants and I felt that the week leading up to Friday nights match was a quality one. Attitudes were good, work ethic was high and the intensity at training sessions was fierce.
The glaring negative of the week, was two bad injuries: Andrew Parsons broke his ankle at training and Simon Ejdemyr partially tore his meniscus and strained his MCL. Parsons had been out November-May and was just recovering from back surgery. He was just beginning to find his form after such a long layoff/rehab. Andrew is probably our most diligent worker and it was a blow to see him suffering both physically and mentally. As for Simon, we are still not sure if he will need surgery and when/if he will be back on the field. His loss is a major one to our defense and really effects our ability to defend in the air. Some of our young players will be tested sooner than planned.
Friday nights match vs Michigan State proved to be much more exciting than necessary. We watched them on tape and felt we would match up well. The Spartans are very talented, but gamble offensively in terms of committing players forward. The key to our success, would be to eliminate mental mistakes and be active with our offensive movement off the ball. 8 minutes into the match, we made a defensive mistake and were punished for it, 1-0 MSU. Our boys rebounded quickly and in the next 20 minutes equalized and put two additional balls in the back of the net. Jack Smithson scored the equalizer at 11:30, PJ Wilson put us up one at 26:40 and Michael Green doubled the lead at 28:40. 3-1 Lobos at the half. The key to the second half would be to play safe and keep our composure.
Michigan State showed a lot of pride and really battled the second half. We had our chances to increase the lead, but failed to put the ball in the net. The Spartans scored against the run of play in the 65th minute and really made it interesting down the stretch. Our defense held strong and the final was 3-2 Lobos. A quality win against a very good opponent. Sundays match-up vs Louisville would be a challenging one.
Louisville has quickly developed into a top program over the past three years. Ken Lolla was hired as coach in January of 2006 and he and the program have made great strides. Last year the Cardinals made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. They defeated a quality UC Davis team 1-0 on the opening day of the TLC Classic.
Louisville's strength, is team defense and patience. They wouldn't break us down in the run of play, but would capitalize on our mistakes and their set pieces. The match was a good one. I felt we dominated possession and play in the first half and created a lot of half chances. We found ourselves in great positions, but failed to deliver the final ball. We went into halftime 0-0. I felt good about the team and was confident going into the final half. In the 65th minute, Justin Davis played a ball into Chris Wrights feet, a quick turn and CW found the far post to make it 1-0 Lobos. Not sure where our heads went. We abandoned everything we were doing right and left the Louisville right back free for service at the mid-field line. A tremendous far post driven ball found a blind side attackers head to even the score in the 70th minute. The next 20 minutes saw both sides create chances, but no goals. Over time!
The first 10 minute overtime period was fairly even with no great chances. The final 10 minute overtime would be our undoing. A minute and a half into the second overtime saw us make two defensive mistakes: a poor clearance and then a misjudgment by our GK. An off balance cross from the end line somehow ended up in the back of the net. 2-1 Louisville in a very cruel loss. I can't tell you how devastated we all were with the outcome. Our first loss of the season. We weren't as mentally disciplined as Louisville and paid a big price.
Zach Tierney played the whole game in a great deal of pain and our back line needs to tighten up in order for us to be successful. Big one this Friday at home vs Akron. The Zips are undefeated and are ranked #5 in the Nation. Should be a great match. Thanks for the support and see you this Friday night at 7:30 PM at the Lobo Soccer Stadium. GO LOBOS!
Sept. 1, 2008
The 2008 Lobo Soccer Season is officially underway! The realization that "nothing is going to come easy" hit us right in the face this weekend. Two games to open the season in sunny/smoggy Southern California at the Loyola Marymont Crown Plaza Classic. We opened play on Friday vs the host LMU Lions. We felt good going into the game and maybe, a tad too confident.
In the 24th minute, junior transfer, Euan Holden, hit a left footed curling free kick from 25 yards into the upper left corner of the goal for our first goal of the season. We controlled play until the 60th minute when a Lobo miscue led to a LMU counter attack and an incredible goal from 30 yards. It appeared that the Lion left winger was attempting to cross the ball, but miss hit the ball and found the far post upper corner from an impossible angle. Lobo goalkeeper Staver was looking for the cross and could only watch the ball dip over his outstretched glove. We continued to press and dominated the majority of play. Two great chances, which should have been goals, just missed the mark and after two ten minute sudden death overtime periods, the game ended in a very disappointing 1-1 tie.
LMU celebrated, while we were furious with our inability to finish quality chances. After the game I asked myself why I continue to make my living this way? The rigors and mind games of the season are upon us! I wish I could say we put the game behind us and immediately began to focus on Sundays game...a sleepness night and the ongoing loop of the game and our chances repeating itself in my head...over and over and over and over....again.
We had a great team meeting Saturday night and everyone felt very positive about Sundays match vs the University of San Diego. USD had tied #5 ranked St. Louis in Friday's neutral match and would prove to be a challenging opponent. The game kicked off at 11:30 AM and at 11:35 we were down a goal. A miss-clearance, a slip and 1-0 USD. We were in for a tough game.
To our boys' credit, we quickly regrouped and never lost our focus. We dominated possession and gradually began to control the game. We did everything but put the ball in the back of the net. We hit the post, whistled shots just over the post...everything but score. I was still very confident and happy with our play, but as the clock began to show 10 minutes left in the match, I started getting that hollow feeling in my stomach.
With four minutes remaining in the contest, a great service from the right flank by Ryan Farquharson, found 6'5" Chris Wright's head to even the score at 1-1. Regulation exhausted, we entered overtime very confident. We had possessed the ball the majority of the game and USD had chased us all over the field. Their legs were shot. Less than two minutes into the first overtime, Farquharson played a beautiful ball over the top to Stephen Brown, who had made a tremendous run from deep. The GK came off his line and Brown casually lifted the bouncing ball over his head for the winning sudden death goal. 2-1 Lobos in a thriller! We played very well and were rewarded in the end. Four Lobos made the all-tournament team: Chris Wright, Jack Smithson, Simon Ejdemyr and Zach Tierney. Wright was the tournament MVP.
We play our next four games at home beginning with NCAA Tournament participant Michigan State this Friday at 7:30 PM and NCAA participant and #21 ranked Louisville on Sunday at 4:00. Two great games vs tremendous opponents. Thanks for your support and see you this weekend! GO LOBOS!