At one point early Saturday, it looked like the Legends would have to ignominiously forfeit their last game of the season. With a scant 7 plus 2 significantly injured players, showing up only to take a beating and potentially alter the competitive balance of the league did not look appealing. The only thing worse would be to forfeit. Fortunately the hours put in by Venkataraman yielded results as the Legends were able to scrape together a couple more players to at least attempt to give America a decent game. With 9 players and 2 injured players it was going to be a stretch, but Subah showing up halfway through the first half was a welcome sight. Having a grass field was certainly helpful for the Legends as the erratic bounces and speed sapping mud would force America to play down to their level.
Surprisingly the Legends not only came out strong, they were able to take a shock lead. Sobczak was making a nuisance of himself and the resulting possession down in the opposition’s half resulted in a needle threading pass from Teesdale to Stower, who took the chance with aplomb. The huge America squad, replete with banner, were perturbed by this unexpected turn of events. Their left back’s cultured left foot meant they were continuing to use the long ball strategy despite the fact that virtually all of their players could easily beat their counterparts for speed. Although CPR welcomed this low percentage strategy, America were still able to use it to tie the game up, a dangerous left back cross bouncing awkwardly to find the second striker open at the back post. Canny play by the Legends helped keep America in check, and CPR might have taken another surprising lead had Roberts in his last game managed to convert a point blank chance.
At half time the Legends felt unexpected hope that they might be able to salvage something from the game. The focus for the second half was to initially conserve energy in case the game was close in the latter stages, stop vociferously complaining to the referee and to goad the long balls which were far easier to deal with for the old and injured Legends. Both teams did not make it easy for the referee with a lot of barking, and the Legends were hoping that dialing the complaints back a notch while stonewalling America would result in frustration and wasted time by the opposition.
The game’s temperature was well and truly up, but until the end the tackles were hard but mostly fair. An absorbing game of football continued, with America’s possession against the Legends counterattacking. America were able to steal a lead when confusion by two CPR players resulted in a ball trickling back for the gleefully lazy America striker to convert for a lead. The Legends kept up the defence and were rewarded when a long ball found the physical combination of Subah and Sobczak bullying their way through the defence to even things up.
The Legends hope of turning up the screws on America evaporated with Sobczak’s reaction to another hard foul not resulting in a free kick. Immediately from the throw in he launched himself at the fouler right in front of the America bench. It was surprising that the resulting melee didn’t have punches thrown, as the irate America team confronted Sobczak including an opponent kicking him for what should have been a red card offense. Cooler heads eventually prevailed and Sobczak went to the sidelines to dissipate the red mist, with D’Andrea limping on.
The game went back and forth, with America not really creating any clearcut chances while the Legens had 3 glorious opportunities that they blasted over the bar. There was still time for an extraordinary John Stones like clearance off a defensive miscue for the Legends, while the America striker should have been sent off for two egregious bouts of simulation in between being found offside. With the Legends holding on, Teesdale was disgracefully hacked by the America striker who only received a booking. He got his just dessert by the time wasted due to the injury helping end the game swiftly after.
A disappointing season came to a stirring ending, with the Legends fighting through and finding a way to survive and eke out a point.
Competition: America FC 1927, League Opposition
Location: Randall’s Island #51, Randall’s Island
Conditions: Nice warm morning
Result: 2:2 HT: 1-1
Goals: 1:0 Stower Assist Teesdale
2:0 Sobczak Assist Subah
Yellow Cards: Stower, Sobczak
Red Cards: As much as America argued with the referee regarding Sobczak’s horror tackle, it was still merely a booking.
Mike D’s aka No Shows: None
Conboy’s aka Reverse Mike D’s: None, although nobody in the right mind thought Subah would ever show up. A Hail Mary of a phone call from Venkataraman right at game time prompted his unexpected showing midway through the first half.
”Mr. Glass” Fragility/Old Man Injury Award: Remarkably there were no injuries despite most players having to play the full 90’. Teesdale, D’Andrea and Roberts all deserved kudos for showing up to an 8am kickoff injured, and then proceeding to play more than expected.
Old Man of the Match: This was a close one. Teesdale receives an honorary mention for both playing far longer than expected while also showing some canny nous in stretching time due to injury in the last few minutes. Sobczak would have run away with it if it hadn’t been for a moment of madness. Venkataraman worked hard to scrape up a team when early Saturday the Legends only had 7 fit players. Another honorary mention to Steve Roberts in his last CPR game for awhile, marshalling the back for a full 90. However, Arrocha wins the award not only for a number of stellar saves, but also solid overall goalkeeping, distribution and the football IQ to stretch every moment to make time an ally.
Old Man of the Bar: None.
El Presidente (Old Men who don’t make it to game but come to the bar): None
Statistic of the week: Sobczak has been remarkably prolific for the Legends, with 8 goals and 6 assists in 10 career games. This puts him in the elite offensive range with Enticott and Sawyer regarding small sample sizes
Team Bar Showing: 3 out of 12 (25%)
Team Bar Night: 3.5 out of 5. Although only 3 showed up, there was impressive 4 hour longevity without any interesting sports to occupy the Legends. Merely good food (Teesdale with his multiple meals) and beers.
Team (No new profiles this week): Pablo Arrocha (GK), Manohar Venkataraman, Neil Stower, Gavin Moore (DF), Steve Roberts (DF), Eduardo Mazzi (DF), Bevan Rosenbloom (DF), Willian D’Andrea, Steve Teesdale (DF), Ernest Subah, Sebastian Sobczak, Jan Carlsen