A busy weekend for IMG Academy soccer program began Friday afternoon at 4:00 pm as the IMG USDA U18/U16 combination side squared off against the Venezuelan side that is at our facility in preparation for the upcoming World Cup qualification tournament in South America. After a brief feeling out period from both teams IMG seemed to be more comfortable in the build up and after some sustained bouts of pressure that lead to a corner kick Reinaldo Brennes slammed a shot off the cross bar that would have put IMG in the drivers seat. Instead the visitors pulled up their socks and got to work by raising their intensity, speed of play and line of confrontation in an effort to slow the IMG build up. Their efforts were rewarded and IMG were soon on their heels. Having failed to match the opponents' intensity, tentative decisions and lack of awareness led to a string of turnovers and some embarrassing moments 2 of which directly resulting in goals.
Down 0-2 at the half the staff opted for 6 changes in the squad at the interval. With no change in tactics necessary, the new group was simply asked to execute the game plan and they did so without apprehension. A marked change in ACE (attitude, concentration and effort) paved the way for a terrific comeback including 3 unanswered goals and a missed PK. The Venezuelan's found it difficult to get out of there own half for the first 15 minutes. The presence of Alex Walters, Chase Miller and Ricardo Batista gave IMG a much needed boast in energy for ball recovery and the opponent's time on the ball was limited to seconds. The pressure soon paid off as a pressing action on the right saw Batista run a player off the ball, turn, drive past 2 defenders and square a ball for Andres Acevedo to calmly side foot to pull a goal back. Just minutes later Bernardo Zamora was fouled in the goal box but failed in his attempt to convert from the penalty spot. Undeterred, IMG keep the heat on and late sub Joel Mitchell put IMG level with poise and quality on the end of a cross. Joel calmly collected the ball on his chest in a crowded penalty area, shaped well allowing the ball to drop and volleyed past a bemused Goal keeper. The game had been turned and the comeback complete when Ariel Hughes headed home from Chase miller's cross after a short corner. Needless to say the second half provided the kind of excitement that has come to be associated with Field 1 at IMG Academy.