After a great week of training, I will admit that I was a tad nervous going into the weekend games with first place at stake. The trip to Miami is difficult. You are up early, in a van for 4 hours and then you have the wait, a box lunch and the wild card -- artificial turf. These are a lot of obstacles to overcome for any team.
The match did not start well, and FC Miami dominated the game and created a few chances before scoring midway through the first half to take a 1-0 lead. Slack marking and poor communication lead to the general demise of our structure, and it seemed that we gave the opponent far too much time and space. I considered changes before the half. But I waited because I wanted to rotate the squad over the two matches, look at new players under pressure and have enough left over to train on one-day rest in order to prepare for the Dallas Cup.
The second half started off much better. Two substitutions and an adjustment to the formation gave us coverat the back, a posture to pressure the opponent on their own half and 3 forwards to create scoring chances. We also had a strong wind at our backs. The gamble paid off after sustained pressure along with quicker ball movement saw Matteo Vetucci level the score from distance with a thunderous 25-yarder from a quick combination and solo run to finish off the dribble. Martin Ontiveros got his foot caught in the turf and missed an open goal from two yards that could have given us a lead. In the end, another pressing action helped to recover the ball close to the Miami FC goal. Miguel Medina controlled the ball, calmly faced the onrushing keeper, cut the ball and neatly tucked the ball away low to the corner for the match winner.
The following day, we faced Schultz Academy after a quick turn around with a different lineup and formation. A pressing action again saw us steal a goal off the opponent turnover in the build up. Benny Barshai scored the only goal of the match from an Alex Walters pass after 25 minutes. Walters steppedup to cut a pass after Vetucci and Ontiveros had applied pressure that forced an errant pass into a bad area. Although we hit the bar twice and came close on several other occasions, the score stood 1-0 after 90 minutes, including a rain delay. The opponent never looked likely to score. Jorge Risquez and Ambry Moss were stellar in their defensive roles over the two-match weekend.
We feel substantiated at this point in the year. Both the U-16 and U-18 teams are first in the division standings on both points and playoff criteria, which is points per game.