Coach’s Corner: Focus, timely goals key to Saturday’s win
The season is off and running. An early start time this past Saturday created a different routine for the players and coaching staff. Even with the the new routine, we felt like we had two good weeks to prepare for Edmonton. We worked hard and trained well. We got fitter. We got healthier. Players like Max Griffin (started) and Bryan Arguez (in the 18) benefitted from the bye week. Our guys could not wait to get on the field and compete.
For the second game in a row we were up against an organized, compact 4-4-2 system of play. Also for the the second game in a row, Edmonton did not change that system for the entire 90 minutes. We once again lined up in a 4-2-1-3 system. I thought we came out much more aggressive in terms of putting pressure on their back four than in the first game. We still need to turn that early pressure into more turnovers, which leads to possession and chances in the offensive third of the field. So, to be fair, we need to continue working on starting games stronger.
On the defensive end, an early miscommunication by Kyle Altman and Connor Tobin led to Edmonton’s best chance of the game. Daryl Sattler stepped up and made a great save. It’s very impressive for him to be so focused and sharp three minutes into the game. That play definitely woke up the back four and they played with an intense composure the rest of the game, leading to our second straight shutout. I could not be prouder of our defensive effort these first two games.
On the other side of the ball, our offense came to life with a corner kick. Simone delivered a hard, dangerous ball that fell to the feet of Griffin. As he went to shoot, he was pulled down. Penalty kicks are almost always tough and controversial calls. After seeing the replay, I think it was definitely a foul. It was pre-determined prior to the game that if we got a penalty, Simone Bracalello would take them. He stepped up and hit a great penalty: hard, low and in the corner. Enough said. We seemed to play much better after the goal. Good movement and passing led to some really good chances to close out the first half.
The second half was an interesting one. Playing with a lead can be tricky, particularly when we are still not as fluid on offense as we would like to be. Sometimes games can be decided not by what happens, but by what doesn’t happen. Our defense made sure not a lot happened. Our focus, concentration and discipline led to us getting more aggressive and going for a second goal, and what a great goal it was! The play started with Aaron Pitchkolan faking a short pass to Altman, then making a 40-yard run to the far post where Altman delivered a pinpoint, in stride pass to the far post. Pitch rose and attacked the ball to play it back across the goal. Lucas Rodriguez’s movement started early as well, and he ran directly across the face of the 18-yard box and timed his run into the box just as Pitch was heading the ball. With little room to finish, the left-footed Rodriguez used his right foot to place the ball in one of the few open spots for the goal. A really well executed goal with speed, power and technique all involved.
We closed out the game with solid play. As excited as we were with our first win of the season, we know a new road challenge lies ahead next week. We know that playing on the road is hard. We know that Atlanta will be up to play us, and we have to commit to getting better this week for the challenges that the road present. The season is off and running.
Photo by Ryan Siverson, RySiPhoto.com
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