For the second successive weekend the Legends struggled to cobble together a team with enough substitutes to prevent injury. Unlike last week however, Banatul appeared to be a team the Legends should be equipped to handle. Their squad appeared to be one of the only ones in the division to make the Legends appear youthful & mobile, but their tactics were smart enough to recognize their limitations and play to them. From the start they stayed compact and narrow, patiently waiting for the Legends to irritably try some hero ball. With an eternity of time the centerbacks initially lost patience and tried to force the ball long with the eagerly awaiting Banatul players strangling back possession, however after being admonished from the sidelines the ball started to be switched back and forth to the wings. Recognizing the lack of ambition of the opposition the full backs started to creep further forward, pushing the outside midfielders further up. The game was played almost entirely in Banatul’s half, but the passing in the last third lacked a plan to beat the congestion. Balls were continually booted into the box with the wind taking them out and igniting counterattacks which usually fizzled at the halfway line. What movement there was by the forwards was stifled by the lack of space, and it was a game that sorely cried out for the missing D’Andrea to lazily glide through a few tackles and create opportunities.
With almost all the possession it was somewhat galling to go into half time at 0-0 with no discernable chances. Management reinforced the notion of continuing to switch the ball to the wings rather than seek out low percentage distance plays, but also urged the wide players to keep the ball on the ground and attack the back line while driving the ball hard into the area, a much more potent form of attack than lobbing balls in the air with little to no hope of success. A higher tempo was also required as this would be one of the few games that the Legends would be able to outwork & outhustle their opponents.
The cavalry arrived in the form of the prolific Pritchard and the energetic Hahn, with Pritchard almost paying dividends from his first touch. Discomforting the goalie he obtained the ball right in front of the goal but was only able to drive the ball directly at the keeper, a sign of things to come. With the Legends continuing to play frenetically the breakthrough finally arrived, Pritchard’s havoc getting the ball out to Kovel for a nice finish and welcome relief. Said relief barely lasted a couple of minutes before the unspeakable happened. A ball cleared to midfield was mishandled, but from over 20 yards out the speculative shot managed to find the top right hand corner to the glee of Banatul & consternation of the Legends. A team that hadn’t remotely looked like scoring had managed the tie the game up before gaps could develop in their search for an equalizer. At this point the Legends threw caution to the winds and approached the situation almost like a Cup game, with the full backs moving further and further up the field. Although gaps were exposed at the back Banatul did not seriously look like scoring. Unfortunately, neither did the Legends. Ball after ball was hit directly at the solid Banatul keeper including a hard hit shot from distance by Paul Vale. Free kicks from outside the box managed to find their way to the keeper with the threat level between 0 and 2 out of 10. Cunning Banatul continued to waste as much time as possible, an understandable strategy given their lack of offensive prowess coupled with a laconic referee who was in no danger of adding a single second more than the 45 minutes he had signed up for. The closest the Legends came to scoring was when Morse went down from some contact inside the box. The whistle blew to immediate rage from Banatul only for it to swiftly be mirrored by the Legends. As oft happens in the Cosmopolitan League, the Referee had decided to come up with his own version of frontier justice. Feeling the contact was strong enough for a foul but not wanting to change the game by awarding a penalty, the referee stepped several yards back and awarded a free kick outside the box as a bemused Morse sat down 5 yards inside the box where the foul had occurred. As matched the rest of the game, the whipped cross managed to make it straight to the keeper a half second before anybody could get to it.
| As per usual, the referee altered the game by pretending it was the Wild West & making up his own rules
As the whistle blew Banatul exulted while the Legends were disconsolate. On the bleachers watching the Old Boyz battle the Grays tactical shifts were planned to wring out more goals, but the bottom line is the ball needs to be put into dangerous areas with players having the ability to make something happen inside the box. Barnstonworth this weekend should provide a good test.
Competition: Banatul, League Opposition
Location: Randall’s Island #74, Randall’s Island
Conditions: Initially brisk, turning somewhat warmer as the sun started to set before the temperature dropped severely
Fans: None, with the early showing Old Boyz & Grays more focused on getting themselves ready for their derby
Result: 1-1 (0-0 at H/T)
Goals: 1:0 Kovel, Assist Pritchard
Yellow Cards: None
Red Card: None
Mike D’s aka No Shows: Chris Williams thought he’d been able to avoid the vagaries of the Government’s Ebola protocol but it wasn’t to be this Sunday.
Conboy’s aka Reverse Mike D’s: None
”Mr. Glass” Fragility/Old Man Injury Award: While Venkataraman managed to gambol around daring his hamstring to act up, Tony Vamvouris had no such luck, aggravating his hamstring injury.
Old Man of the Match: The bitter disappointment after the game was palpable, with no attempt to try and paper it up by awarding anyone OmoM.
Old Man of the Bar: Morse has to be the Old Man of the Bar by not only bringing the cooler but then partially sacrificing himself to help manage the Old Boyz with Becker in goal.
El Presidente (new award for Old Men who don’t make it to game but come to the bar): None.
Statistic of the week:.Pritchard’s cameo was enough to cause havoc at the front and show the Legends what they’d been missing. The assist continued to increase his all time totals, the only player with double figures in both goals & assists. With D’Andrea out Resnik took over sole possession of all time caps with 36.
Team Bar Showing: 11 out of 15 for at least a beer, easy grading this week (73%)
Team Bar Night: 3 out of 5: With the Over 30’s derby going on at the same field directly afterwards Morse again produced his cooler and allowed the group to enjoy and heckle the players. The few stalwarts lasted the whole game but the increasingly chilly evening did not help. In a close game the Old Boyz outlasted the Grays 1-0.
Team (No new profiles this week): Telly Vamvouris (GK), Mark Resnik (DF), Andrew Faherty (DF), Paul Vale (DF),Tony Vamvouris, Manohar Venkataraman, Randall Klitz (DF), Steve Morse, Pete Hahn (DF), Steve Teesdale (DF), Milan Gupta, John Hodges, Mike Cassidy, David Kovel, Steve Pritchard
| It’s hard to resist the temptation to display another beautiful sunset with the Manhattan skyline silhouetted in the back.