The U11 little boys team played a friendly game today against the NASA Redwings. This team is from the NASA Recreational program and are a very good boys team. They played in the B bracket of the Spring CAYSA Cup games so we didn’t face them during regular Spring season play. They are currently top of the bracket and haven’t lost a game. This is like the fourth or fifth time we have played them and so far they have beat us in every game.
Normally, I supervise the team as they warm up just to make sure they do it right but this time, I sat with Cristina and we watched and talked about them as they went through their paces. They knew that Jack, our regular keeper was not going to be at the game but I made no mention of who his replacement might be. We were surprised as we watched that they were no longer shooting on goal in the normal haphazard way that they seemed to enjoy but were actively putting a different player in-goal to give them a chance to show their paces as Jack’s replacement and then taking turns in shooting in a most orderly fashion.
Special mentions needs to be made to Andrew Scott who had made the decision to no longer continue with his soccer career and was not at the game. Andrew, if you get to read this, you need to know that the boys and myself, all wish you well in your future endeavours whether they include soccer or not.
At the start of the season and after I had time to assess the kids in terms of leadership abilities, I appointed Hank Sauer as the team Captain with Ian and Taylor as Co-Captains. None of them have let me down and Hank in particular has taken his duties very seriously. He does his best to manage the group and tries very hard to get their attention when it is needed. He came over to where Cristina and I were sitting to discuss something and I asked him to take the team on a run and go through their dynamics. The run was pretty impressive with the boys running two by two as I like them to do but what followed after that was even better to watch.
Hank had them lined up across the end of the penalty area and they performed their dynamics across 44 yards to the other other side and then turned and came back to the start. I have never seen them so cohesive and remain in a line as they did yesterday. They did this for all ten drills. They have never done this before and it was like a lightbulb going off as they performed. Wonderful to watch that they realized what we had been trying to do for nine months and then made it happen. I want to believe that the team thing is finally sinking in and has nothing to do with me verbally harrassing them.
Following the boys tryouts at the goalkeeper position, they informed me that Hank and Ali were the best but that Ali should be the keeper and keep Hank on the field. Ali was in full agreement and I told him I would try to get him out in the second half. I really did mean to do so but as it turns out, Ali got stuck there for the entire game and apart from one slip up on their second goal, gave a very good account of himself. He could easily play there if he chose to do so and has the makings of a good goalkeeper. More importantly, he is a real team player and knew that no one else really wanted to play there and was willing to take on the task.
The first half was pretty even with attacks going in both directions. We had a mix up in the back line resulting in the other team scoring their first goal. We had several opportunities ourselves to tie it up but the boys seemed to need one more touch before shooting or not shooting at all. Very frustrating to watch. Our first touch and ball control especially trapping or bring the ball under control, was not very good and we did a lot of air kicking in an attempt at control. Something we need to work on.. The other team then scored a goal from a hard shot that Ali let bounce off his chest and led at half time 2-0.
The second half was a whole different story. We reshuffled the team and moved Leo and Taylor to forward and Normie to half back and had a different back line and we began to dominate the game especially at the half back positions. We played several different combination of players in that mid field role and they all gave a good account of themselves. The only problem that I had was trying to get them to play defense as all they wanted to do was to attack. So for me, it was a constant reminder to them, play defense, play defense.
I got the impression from the way the boys were playing that they were really enjoying themselves and had the belief they could go on to win this. We did pull a goal back when Leo outran the other teams defence to place it wide of the keeper. He had at least two more of the same type opportunities but managed to place his shot directly at the keeper both times. Several of the other players found themselves in the same position and we really should have pulled this one out. As it was, the final score was 2-1 to the Redwings.
We talked about it after the game and the boys all felt we should have won. They really believed we were the better team and I have to say that I really agree with them.
For me though, as well as the boys played in the game, I couldn’t get over the pre-game warm up and how well they had performed. That was really coming together as a team and all of the hard work for both them and the manager/training staff is beginning to pay off.
Next up, player evaluations and then tryouts. I would like to be coaching the same group of kids next year but it is up to them to work on their weak points. They have three weeks…