by Sheldon Cipriani
We played a team from a bigger city this past weekend, a.much bigger city. They fielded two teams in our age group and we played them both on Saturday. We played the “B” team first and beat them 3-2. It was not a very good performance from us, especially when we did not have the ball which is something we have been working on for a few weeks. We were much better in the second half and really deserved to win.
The afternoon game is always a problem, because the boys have just eaten and they are usually sluggish. We warmed up as usual and we spoke about what we wanted to do when we were not in possession.
This is huge for us because it helps us attack quickly. We try to invite the keeper to play the outside backs, then we press. It is a collective effort and we are not as interested in winning tackles as we are creating ball winning situations. I want the boys to understand that the best time to win the ball back is when the ball is traveling from player to player.
They have this habit from high school to dive in when the ball is already at the feet of the opponent. These kids were all quite good on the ball and a few were very very good individually, so we had to make them uncomfortable by limiting time, space and options.
We were fantastic as a unit. We did not give them any time on the ball and we were in their half for most of the game. We had one break-down in the second half, when my outside back decided to take a break and a switch found his man unmarked on the blind side.
He had enough time to settle and pick his spot. We were almost perfect defensively…I am very critical, so trust me, this was an amazing effort. The opponents could not get into a rhythm, nor could they complete more than three or four passes. This team, by the way, has a player who has been invited to the U17 National Team Camp.
To make a long story short…we tied 1-1. We were clearly the better team. They had better players, but did very little collectively. I think we have turned the corner. Eyes have been opened and people will have to respect us.