Back with a vengeance

You may recall that a few weeks ago I mentioned that I’d gotten a bit banged up and played a disappointingly bad game. Since then, I’ve been amping up my effort in practice on the theory “you play like you practice”, and it’s been having positive results. Two weeks ago, my side practiced a man down for the entire two hours – our captain’s basic theory of practice is to scrimmage until someone literally collapses, then play another 15 minutes or so – and still managed to come out on top. My shot was off, as I hit four posts or crossbars and failed to put anything in, but I made up for it on the defensive side.

In the league game, we crushed our former archrivals 10-3; we were up 7-0 before some of the defenders started getting careless and lazy. I had two assists, including one 30-meter pass that put the attacker beyond the defense just inside the box, one-on-one with the goalie. He ran on to it, hit it, and scored. I also had one decent chance from the left corner of the box, but hooked it wide.

The funny thing about the goal is that the guy who scored it hadn’t played with us this year, but had been serving as the ref at our home games. Ergo my complete thought process, as follows:

  • open man long clear lane through THERE
  • wait, is that M?
  • isn’t he the ref?
  • can’t be, we’re not at home
  • KICK don’t fade don’t fade YES!

But practice this week was the best I’ve played in years. I scored six of our 13 goals, including one header, which practically never happens. I earned my third start in a row, which would have been more meaningful if we’d had more than 12 players on hand. We’ve lost four in the last three weeks to injury, which poses a problem because I simply cannot effectively cover a wing for 90 minutes at my age.

Fortunately, we got off to a fast start, which let me concentrate on controlling the defensive two-thirds of the left wing and leaving the front one-third to the attackers. I played for 20 minutes, took a 5-minute breather, then was switched to the right side, and started the attack that led to our second goal. I also made the dumbest possible clearance pass into the center instead of simply kicking the ball out of bounds when my first two passing options were blocked, but fortunately, our goalie bailed me out with a good save. It was the sort of mistake I would have benched my kiddy players for making, but our captain settled for a brief and well-deserved “WTF-FWT?” monologue in my direction at halftime and promptly put me back in on the right wing.

Note to players – don’t ever let in-game comments from other players who are not the captain influence your subsequent actions. My decision was stupid, but it only came up because I had just previously been warned by another midfielder about the danger of bringing the ball up myself out of the box instead of passing it. The thing is, I KNEW I could safely beat the opposing wing, no problem, which I had just done, and which I could have easily done again. But with that admonition freshly in my mind, I looked to pass it instead of simply blowing past the guy, and this time, both pass options were completely blocked. So, with the thought “must pass the ball” on my mind rather than “in deep, play safe”, I looked inside, saw the right color, and made the stupid and dangerous pass into the middle, where my teammate received the ball, and was promptly knocked off it by an opposing player. I should have simply done what I did the previous time, take the ball outside, beat the opposing wing, then look up before looking in.

We didn’t score again, but we kept control of the ball and the game despite being unable to substitute after one of our attackers was taken down hard early in the second half and banged up too much to run. We won 2-0 and moved up to second place, with a game against the first-place team next week. Despite the injuries, we’re 3-1 in our last four games and we should be getting our best defender back in a week or two.