|One thing to remember. As a recreational (rec.) team we are constrained by the Southern Central Connecticut Regional Commisioner's unwritten rule that if we won by five goals or more, the head coach of the winning team would have to write to the Commisioner a letter of explanation. If we won by five or more a second time, the youth soccer club President must write a letter of explanation. If it happened a third time, the team would be kicked out of the League and the coach would be suspended. These constraints are only imposed on recreational teams, not competitive (comp.) teams.|
|8th April, Friendly, Away at North Haven, Win 5-1
We started the game with two substitutes. Just right. We were 4-0 up after only 25 minutes of the first half, and, in truth, it could have been more. Owing to the Commissioner's mandate, we had to try to hold back our team from scoring the "dreaded" fifth goal. We moved players around into different positions and substituted Jay Mahoney and Erik Kloppenburg who had already scored two goals apiece!
In the second half we played Jay in defence (much to Jay's disgust!) and Erik in goal, which he did willingly. We sat back and defended. It was very frustrating for the players to hold back. Amato Bernado was feeling sick and so we brought him off without putting on a substitute. Bob Stimpson and I thought that the other team didn't even recognise this gesture. Oh well. Well, our players could only defend for so long and with about 10 minutes to go, Jay couldn't help himself and dribbled several defenders on a 60-yard breakaway and scored. Oops. With time running out, our team contrived to give the other team a goal back without it being too obvious. Erik was dribbling the ball around his own goal area, the ball was lost and North Haven managed to score with time running out. Phew!
Coach Archer's Postmatch Thoughts:
We realised how extremely difficult it was to hold back. It doesn't seem fair on our own team because all they want to do is play their best. We had coached them hard in practices and now they were confused to hear the coaches telling them not to play so hard.
|15th April, League Game, Home versus Clinton, Win 3-2
This was a more competitive game and suited our team much better. As it was, we were missing three important players, Sean Andrew (goal), Joachim De Lombaert (centre defence) and Steven Gagliano (defence), who were attending the "Odyssey of the Mind" competition in Durham. This would make an already tougher game much tougher. As it turned out, our three geniuses' team won their competition and we managed a great win without them.
The Vipers showed a lot of guts and character. They never fell behind. They had taken 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 leads with Clinton equilising the first two times. The weather was cool and drizzly. There was a lot of mud in the goal mouths.
We started the first half kicking "uphill" on the New Road pitch and the game was very exciting going back and forth up and down the pitch. Luckily the mud saved us one time as a shot stopped in it on the goal line. Any other day that would have been a goal.
In the second half it started out much the same, with both teams attacking, but Clinton were visibly tiring as the game went on and were making less attacks into the Vipers' half. This was a well deserved victory against a very tough team.
|22nd April, Friendly, Away at North Branford, Postponed
Owing to the heavy rain the night before and the coaches of both teams expecting more of the same on Saturday it was mutually agreed to postpone this match until Friday evening, 12th May.
|29th April, League Game, Away at Woodbridge, Win 7-1
This was a strange game. First of all, the referee and assistant referees did not show up. Coach Archer refereed as agreed by the Woodbridge coaches. Both teams had yellow shirts and black shorts. Fortunately, Woodbridge had red pinnies. The other thing was that this game was played on a big slope. Woodbridge won the coin toss and elected to kick uphill first.
We discovered Woodbridge were a weak team, probably weaker than North Haven and so we spent the better part of the first half all around their goal area. Woodbridge rarely, if ever, managed to break over the half-way line. The goals started to go in and it was 4-0 after only 25 minutes and it could have been a lot more. We took a player off, played a man down for the rest of the half and reshuffled players into different positions. I also disallowed a Vipers goal because an injury had just occured. I did not have to do, but I was dreading us going 5-0 up before half-time.
I expected the second half to be different with Madison getting stuck down the hill, so we started with 11 men, but it was the Vipers who were doing most of the attacking. We went 5-0 up. I took another player off; down to 10 v 11, and Bob reshuffled players around. We went 6-0 up. I took another player off; down to 9 v 11 now, and some of our best players were out of the game. The Vipers scored again to make it 7-0. It was getting embarrassing. I took another player off and now it was 8 v 11. After coming close a couple more times, I reduced us down to the minimum required to play. It was now 7 v 11 with possibly our weakest team playing.
Fortunately, the Woodbridge coaches realised our dilemma and were very nice about it all. There was only so much we could do to slow our team down. Even when it was 7-0, the coaches agreed we would officially report it as 4-0 to the League to save me going through the hassle of writing to the Commissioner. The Woodbridge coaches could see the Madison coaches were trying our best to slow our team down.
The Vipers were now on the defensive, playing 7 v 11, but still, some of our less skilled players were doing exceptionally well considering the odds they were against. I was very impressed. The game was near its end and finally Woodbridge managed to score a goal. Later, it was 7-1 when I checked my watch and it was well past time, over 41 minutes of the second half, so that's when I would have officially ended the game. Hence why I have recorded it as 7-1 on our Website. But, Woodbridge were attacking and I thought it would be good for their morale to let them play and see if they could score. Actually, the Vipers stood still while Woodbridge kicked it in! "We wanted to give them a chance," they said!
I was going to make them line up, restart the game and then blow the final whistle. The Woodbridge players were embarrassed to be losing to 7 players and not our best players at that. "We want you to bring on all your players and your best players. If we're going to lose, we want to lose to them!" they demanded. I asked them if they were all sure and they said they were. So, we brought every player on, let them play for five more minutes and I really didn't referee any more. The game was technically over and this was just to let them all have fun. The Woodbridge players left the field in a good mood after this and their coaches really appreciated this "free for all" to raise their defeated team's morale.
Both coaches agreed to report the game to the League as 7-3 to the Vipers so that we were seen to be sporting and not go over that four goal differential.
|7th May, Friendly Game, Home versus Clinton, Lost 3-6
Coach Archer forewarned his team that this was going to be a tough, tough game. It was a very hot day too. We started with 14 players, but we missed Sean Andrew, who is usually our starting goalkeeper, and Jun Tsujii, who is a huge asset to the team. Zach Dutton started in goal again, and we know Zach is certainly capable in the position. Another big difference between the teams was that Clinton had 19 players -- eight substitutes!, and we had three, but during the game we saw an assortment of ailments and injuries reducing us down to no subs at all at one point.
After we beat Clinton 3-2 in our League game, I expected them to come looking for revenge. For most of the first half it was mostly all Clinton doing the attacking. The half ended with Clinton in a 2-0 lead, having outshot the Vipers 8-1. Our only real chance came when top-goalscorer Jay Mahoney dribbled through the Clinton defence and shot over the Clinton goalkeeper only to hit the underside of the bar and out. We were 2-0 down at that point and a goal then would have changed the game completely. Jun showed up eventually, with 10 minutes of the first half remaining and was brought on for the last five minutes.
Clinton deserved their lead. They were the more aggressive team, played for each other, quicker to the ball and not afraid to shoot. The Vipers, contrary to all that we have taught them in practice, dribbled too much, didn't pass enough and many players played out of position, opening up huge gaps for the Clinton team to exploit.
At half-time we managed to motivate the Vipers to come out storming for the second half. I truly believed we could have turned it around. Zach came out of goal, and Erik Kloppenburg went in for the second half. Unfortunately, we, and Erik especially, had the worst start that could have happened. After only 30 seconds or so, Clinton had somehow scrambled the ball into the net for a 3-0 lead. It clearly knocked the stuffing out of us.
Before too long Clinton were 4-0 up. At this point, Bob Stimpson and I wondered if Clinton would slow up, like we would have done, to avoid a five-goal gap. No, they didn't, they were playing as hard as ever. They looked to have scored a fifth, but it was called back for offside. I thought that was the lucky break we so badly needed, but only one minute later, they did go 5-0 up. And still Clinton played as hard as ever.
Contrary to some observers opinions, Clinton did not play one man down when they were 5-0 up and they were still playing hard, nearly grabbing a sixth. Bob and I were very upset. We have promised that this will not be forgotten when, we hope, sometime in the future the circumstances are in our favour. After all we had gone through to be fair in our other games, we felt quite down about it.
The Vipers appeared to be in total disarray. Defending was slack, midfielders were not winning the ball and forwards and midfielders were dribbling not shooting or passing. I tried a few different things and really emphasised to the players what we must do to get us some goals. With 15-20 minutes remaining, 5-0 down, suddenly the Vipers clicked. I was also working on the defence to try to catch Clinton offside more. Before, our defence was letting Clinton get too close to our goal. Passing improved, defending got tighter and we were shooting at goal a lot, lot more. Jay scored two and Ryan Duffy got one to pull us right back into it at 5-3.
We were totally outplaying Clinton now and playing just like I have coached them. We came very close to making it 5-4, which would have been absolutely brilliant. Too bad it took the Vipers 80% of the game to start playing like they have been coached, but I reckon it was still a good learning experience for them. Now they know that can't keep dribbling like they did and more shots must be taken.
5-3, I thought, was a fair score, considering the long periods of dominance Clinton had had and then our magnificent comeback. As I was checking my watch we were into the third minute of time added on for injuries and substitutions, etc., which is unusually long in these games, even by my standards. I was walking back to talk with Bob when all of a sudden Clinton popped in a hopeful shot that somehow got over the goalie and fell just inside the far post. It was a garbage goal and just felt like the knife was twisted a little deeper.
We will remember this one and I hope we can payback Clinton in full.
|12th May, Friendly Game, Away at North Branford, Lost 1-5
On a Friday evening, the Madison Vipers were without goalkeeper Sean Andrew, again, Ryan Duffy and most especially, top-goalscorer Jay Mahoney. Missing Sean hurt because it meant poor Zach Dutton had to face a whole game in goal again. Without a doubt, without three of the more influential players on the team, this was going to be a tough game. It was made all the more tougher when we discovered North Branford had several very fast and skillful players on their team, comp. level at least, who eventually ran the Vipers defence ragged all night.
Madison Vipers contributed to their own demise in many ways though. Too much dribbling by several players who always dribbled themselves into trouble and not enough passing from the entire team. There was a a serious lack of shooting at the opponents' goal while the Vipers continued to try to dribble closer. The Vipers defence was having a nightmare of a game. They could not clear the ball cleanly and played way too deep allowing North Branford's six or seven forwards (!) to practically camp out in front of our goal. Clearances and positional play was poor. The ball was usually just kicked hopefully upfield and invariably it always went to a North Branford player.
North Branford, to their credit, used their speed to blow past static Madison Viper defenders, and were taking their shots. It seemed that every time North Branford attacked they could score. They could have had more goals if not for some bad luck, some desperate defending by Madison and their insistance to shoot straight at the goalkeeper instead of the rest of the big, wide open goal.
North Branford dominated throughout and were playing hard until their fifth goal midway through the second half. With their fifth goal, their coach ordered them to score no more goals. I can't tell you how unbelieveably embarrassing this is.
With North Branford lifting up the pressure a little bit, Madison Vipers were able to get out of defence more and get a few numbers forward. Erik Kloppenburg eventually scoring our consolation goal.
Coach Archer's Postmatch Thoughts:
This was, without a doubt, Madison's poorest display of the season. They again regressed against everything Coach Archer has taught them and they did not appear to learn anything from their poor play against Clinton the week before.
|13th May, Friendly Game, Away at Southington, Lost 2-4
Again we missed key players. Sean Andrew was again missing, which means he has only played in two from six games. This time Erik Kloppenburg, Jun Tsujii and Paul Colebaugh also could not make it. On our trip up to Southington I only knew that we had 10 players since I had not heard from Ryan Duffy and Steven Gagliano. Coach Archer was expecting us to get hammered again. Fortunately, Ryan and Steven met us at the field.
We had 12 players. It turned out that so did Southington, so things did not look as bad after all. That feeling quickly disappeared when Southington began to take Madison Vipers apart. Southington had even faster and better players than North Branford! After the Clinton and North Branford games, I was beginning to wonder if we were in a comp. league after all!
The first half went much like the whole North Branford game. Southington's seemingly only tactic was to kick the ball behind our defence and have their fast guys chase it. With the exception of Joachim De Lombaert, the Madison Vipers are relatively slow in defence, so this tactic was bound to be fruitful. Southington were romping into a 3-0 lead before half time and it could have been more. Zach Dutton, once again our only goalkeeper on duty, blocked a few goal bound attempts and Joachim was constantly chasing back to make the goal saving tackle. At the very end of the half Ryan Duffy poked home a shot on his second attempt. It was vitally important to get that goal since it would give us hope for the second half.
At half time, it was time to steady the troops. Again, one of our problems was the defence was playing too deep and a tremendous gap had formed between defence and midfield, never mind the forwards. Coach Archer worked hard to get the defence upto the half-way line as often as possible and always as soon as the team moved forward. Playing this tactic against fast breaking teams like Southington has inherent risks. If Southington timed their runs right they could beat Madison's defence pushed too far up the field all day. But, Coach Archer gambled that the youngsters on the Southington team, all too eager to get forward quickly and often would struggle against an off-side trap. Overall, it worked. Southington were being caught offside constantly. If Coach Archer can gain anything from this game was seeing his players finally "get it." The defence were starting to move up the pitch more and more without the coach's constant reminders.
Southington, however, managed to score quickly into the second half, making it 4-1, but it happened before the Madison defence had finally cottoned on to moving upfield quicker catches hungry forwards offside almost everytime.
To the Vipers' credit, they battled very hard in the second half. We were limiting Southington's chances by catching them offside and making them more aware of it. It also meant Madison Vipers were further up the pitch as a team and thereby putting more pressure on an erstwhile underworked Southington defence. The Vipers created more and more chances. Dividends were finally paid when Jay Mahoney worked himself into a shooting position and his shot found the low corner of the net from some 15 yards.
The Vipers continued to battle hard, but there were no more goals. Ultimately, we lost our first League game which will severely affect our chances of winning the League (I only know of one other result, that Southington and Clinton tied 1-1).
Coach Archer's Postmatch Thoughts:
This game ended a very tough week for the Madison Vipers. After a "three and oh" start, they have now lost three straight in one full week. There are many factors for our failures, but we have tried to play three very good teams while missing as many as three or four key players a game. As we have found, this reduces our odds of success significantly.
Attendance has been a problem for the Vipers the whole season. As of this game, practice attendance averages only 69% after 11 practices and this is not good enough to build team play, team tactics and team understanding. Attendance at games is only 82% after 6 games. This works out to missing three players every single game on the average -- and it is always the better and key players.
The next game is against a Guilford team in the Commissioner's Cup. I expect this to be an even tougher opponent than in our last three games. As the season nears a midpoint it is now a time to test the players' character and see how many can help us pull through this dismal spell we are in. Who will be the heroes?
It would be nice to play at full-strength at Guilford. A couple of weeks ago I would not have been too upset to be knocked out of this competition, since all the games are midweek and we have been forced by the Madison Youth Soccer Club's policy that we must play all midweek games away. But, now, I don't think I can stand a fourth straight loss.
I don't mind admitting it, I would dearly love it if our team could win the Clinton Invitational Tournament. But, we simply have to be much, much better than the last three games.
|17th May, Commissioner's Cup, Away at Guilford IV, Lost 1-6
Another devastating loss. Coach Archer knew this was going to be a tough game against a team from a town reknown state-wide for producing quality soccer players and soccer teams, but he never expected to lose this badly. Quite frankly, in the end it was embarrassing.
The main problem with the team is lack of speed, in all positions. In defence, faster teams are blowing right by us. Only Joachim De Lambaert has the speed to catch most, but he can't keep doing it by himself. In attack, we have no-one with any speed and opposition defences are able to gang up quickly on anyone with the ball. Our team still has problems with passing and shooting. Dribbling too much is the preferred way to goal, and as results have proven, the wrong way. Despite the coaches explicit instructions to pass and shoot more, the players continue to dribble too much. The consequences of dribbling too much is that defences are quickly and effectively closing down anyone with the ball. Even when the dribbler eventually passes, it is too late because the defence has had time to recover and regroup.
In fairness, I thought the Madison Vipers played well for most of their Commissioner's Cup game away at Guilford. Coach Archer tried to add more speed to the defence by putting Jun Tsujii and Ryan Duffy back in defence, expecting Guilford to be a quick team. Madison, however, started the better team and contained Guilford in their own half for much of the first 20 minutes. It was extremely satisfying watching the team move the defence up-field and press the opposition into their own half.
Substitutions changed the balance of the team and the flow of the game. Inevitably, Guilford broke out of defence. With their first shot of the game, they scored to make it 1-0. Madison pressed Guilford back again, but another breakaway saw Guilford's second shot of the game also go in, 2-0. Guilford had gained enough confidence now and moved forward more easily. Guilford's third shot went in, 3-0. That's 100% productive shooting. At half-time, Guilford had only had four shots on-target but were leading 3-0.
Ryan Duffy went in goal for the second half and played splendidly, but defensive mistakes often left him exposed with three or four Guilford players queueing up to take shots on his goal. Defending was naive at best. Several players were not playing their positions properly and marking was practically non-existent.
Guilford were racing away with the game. With the score at 5-0, Guilford withdrew a player. They still managed to score a sixth. Guilford also added a seventh, but fully three Guilford players were offside when it went in. The referee signalled a goal and Coach Archer vehemently protested. To the referee's credit, he did go to check with his linesman. I don't know if the linesman agreed with Coach Archer, or they realised that 7-0 in a rec. game was a little high and here was a chance to cut it back, but the referee decided to call the goal back.
Erik Kloppenburg gave Madison Vipers our consolation goal. There were a couple more chances to add a second, but quite frankly, at 6-1 up with only 10 minutes or less remaining, Guilford were instructed by their coaches just to hold us out and finish the game.
|20th May, Clinton Invitational Tournament (Group Games)
Only two or three weeks ago, I felt we were good enough to go far in this tournament. Recently, I was far less confident. I just hoped we could break our terrible losing streak, now at five games and start to rebuild confidence.
East Haven 1, Madison Vipers 0
Coach Archer recognised several players from this East Haven team. They are so good, they really should have entered the comp. section of the tournament. Before the game started Coach Archer had a private word with the referee to tell him he though East Haven were more of a comp. team even though they had legitimately registered as a rec. team. I had this dread fear of East Haven running the score up on us, considering our recent form.
East Haven had scored within the first five minutes. They had effectively backed Madison Vipers up into our own 18-yard area. It looked like this would happen all game, but the Vipers fought back, giving as good as they got. Player for player, East Haven were far superior to the Vipers. There forwards were very fast. Madison held out valiantly. The Vipers also had a few good chances too. In the end, I thought we full deserved a draw and felt unlucky that we had not scored at least once. Losing 1-0 to a team of this quality, however, was no disgrace.
Clinton 3, Madison Vipers 1
Clinton had won their first game 3-2 over Westbrook II. Madison Vipers needed a result to have any chance of finishing in the top seeds. So, we had the team push hard for goals. Madison pinned Clinton back and they defended desperately. Everytime they had a breakaway, however, they scored. Three shots, three goals, to take in a 3-0 lead aty half-time. It was familiar territory to the Vipers now. There was no speed to chase back on the breakaways. Sean Andrew, in goal, also came off his line way too far, and slipped twice allowing Clinton to easily get around him for chances on an open net.
In the second half, Madison threw caution to the win and fought hard and bravely trying to get the three goals back. Clinton were pinned back again, but this time they weren't allowed to break away. Jay Mahoney scored Madison's goal after some neat passing moves down the left wing before switching play over to the right catching the massed Clinton defence off-guard.
Despite the lop-sided score, in truth Clinton had been totally outplayed. They only had perhaps five solid attempts on the Madison goal, but, to their credit scored three. Another factor in this game was the extremely poor refereeing which was constantly going against Madison. Clinton defenders fouling Madison defenders were going Clinton's way. Once, a ball hit a Madison player on the back and it was called as a hand-ball. It was clearly no hand ball, but the referee had already made many calls in favour of Clinton and so it was hardly surprising. We call such idiots "home referees."
More importantly, Madison are frustratingly allowing a goal almost everytime somebody attacks them.
East Haddam Blast 3, Madison Vipers 2
East Haddam, were another comp. level team disguising themselves as a rec. team. They had easy 9-0 and 4-1 victories over Westbrook I and Westbrook II, respectively. To me, I think this smacks of glory hunting. Such teams should be entered into the comp. section, but they have no comp. program, as such, and therefore legitimately enter the rec. competitions winning everything.
After two easy victories and seeing Madison losing both of theirs, East Haddam must have been counting their chickens before they hatched. They found Madison Vipers and entirely different proposition, though. East Haddam were very much like the East Haven team and again, player for player, they looked the better team. Madison were determined to make up for two close losses though, losses hardly deserved, and pressed East Haddam back, catching them totally surprised.
In some desperate defending an East Haddam defender brought down Jay Mahoney in the penalty area. Christian MacDonald whacked home the resulting penalty kick to give Madison a shock 1-0 lead. Almost straight from the kick-off, East Haddam attacked down their right wing. A cross was sent in, and instead of finding an East Haddam player, it flew over the Madison goalkeeper's head and just inside the far post for an undeserved equiliser. Just our luck. As if this wasn't bad enough, just a moment later, the referee and linesman allowed play on when an East Haddam player was clearly offside near to where another player was passed to in an onside position. The East Haddam player then crossed the ball over to another player who was also offside and East Haddam scored. Despite furious protests from Coach Archer, the goal stood. Once again, Madison were playing versus 11 men and a referee. On the stroke of half-time, however, Jay Mahoney struck to make it 2-2.
The beginning of the second half saw East Haddam make a quick attack and it was suddenly 3-2. Madison Vipers fought back valiantly, pushing East Haddam back into their own half for long stretches. But, we couldn't get the tying goal.
End of Day One
Three losses, but we deserved far, far more. I would say that on form, we deserved a tie against East Haven, a win against Clinton (given our superiority) and a win against East Haddam (given they had one lucky goal and one off-side goal). We had played extremely well and I was very proud of all of the players. Out of the six teams, we finished 4th. We were drawn against 5th place Westbrook II in the play-offs.
|21st May, Clinton Invitational Tournament (Play-Offs)
Today, if you lose, you are out. We were drawn against Westbrook II who had lost 3-2 to Clinton, 4-1 to East Haddam Blast and 2-1 to East Haven. Quite similar results to our own, really, so I expected an evenly fought contest.
Westbrook II 4, Madison Vipers 2
In truth, this match was probably won before it even started. It was an 8:00 AM kick-off. The players were instructed to report to the field at 7:30 AM. When Coach Archer arrived at the field at 7:25 AM ALL of the Westbrook team were there and by 7:30 AM they were ALL on the field warming up. They were excited and ready to play.
In sharp contast, at 7:30 AM only three Madison players were on the field. By 7:45 AM we only had 10 players. At 8:00 AM, just before kick-off, three players were just showing up. I had to repeat my instructions for the team no less than three times. While repeating myself a final time, the Westbrook team were lining up around us eager and ready to play. In contrast to the Westbrook team we were not ready to play, some players weren't warmed up and some players weren't even awake.
It came as no surprise then, that most of the team did not play as well as they had the day before. Most players seemed to have totally ignored my pregame instructions, or, perhaps they had never heard them. We had regressed to naive defending, a total lack of passing and practically no shooting.
Westbrook relied heavily on their speedy left winger. Great, that's all we needed, another speedy player fast than us in defence. Not surprisingly, they spend most of the game trying to feed their speedster the ball. When it finally got through and he was able to ride through some incredibly soft tackling from the Madison defence he was able to run in on goal and score easily giving Westbrook a 2-0 half-time lead.
In the second half, Madison surged forward and Jun Tsujii's brilliant shot made it 2-1. But, there was only 10 minutes to go and time was quickly evaporating. The Madison players didn't play with the urgency we needed. Westbrook, however, found their left winger again, and he easily outwitted some half-attempted tackling and made it 3-1. A moment later, it was 4-1 with five minutes to go. The Madison Vipers had completely collapsed against a team only half as good as any they had played on Saturday. With time running out, Jay Mahoney fired in another brilliant shot to reduce the arrears to 4-2, but it was too little too late. Westbrook II had deservedly won the game against a very half-hearted Madison attempt.
Coach Archer's Postmatch Thoughts:
The losing streak is now eight games. To be honest, with four games left, I will not be surprised if we loose all of them at this rate. Although the team is not playing well with respect to marking, passing and shooting, our complete lack of speed has been our main downfall.
|3rd June, Friendly, Home versus Meriden, Cancelled
The Meriden coach telephoned Coach Archer to cancel the game owing to a lack of players to fullfil this fixture. He claimed he "may have been able to bring eight players." He also said that they had struggled for numbers in recent weeks and were badly beaten, he did not want to go through it again. I understood completely. It seems his team has suffered from a total lack of commitment. I would not be surprised if he folds his team and cancels the remaining games of the season.
The unfortunate thing for our team is that we badly needed a game to boost our confidence after the shambles at the Clinton Invitational Tournament. After no game on Memorial Day Holiday Weekend too, that means it will be almost three full weeks without a game.
It also impacts the number of home games we will have played this season. With the season almost over we have only played at home twice and only once on our primary field, New Road. Its unbelievable, but true.
It has been a really strange season so far. Hopefully things will improve for us in more ways than one for the last three games of the season -- two at New Road... hopefully.
|9th June, Friendly Game, Away at Clinton, Lost 0-5
This was an evening game, kick off at 7:30 PM, played under floodlights.
Madison Vipers nearly had a full squad for this game, the only missing player was Jun Tsujii whose father was on emergency call and couldn't get Jun to the game in time. With this sort of turn out, Coach Archer opted for a defence with some speed that could turn defence into offence, so Sean Andrew and Ryan Duffy were called upon to play at left and right fullback, respectively. With very few other goalkeeper options, once again, Zach Dutton was put into goal.
The strategy appeared to work. Vipers had the ball in Clinton's half for most of the first half. Clinton were rarely seen moving towards the Vipers goal. In contrast, the Vipers had breakaway efforts from both Erik Kloppenburg and Jay Mahoney with narrow misses in each case, even hitting the post once. It was cruel justice, then, after some 20 minutes or so when Clinton took the lead with their first real attack and it ended up coming off a goalkeeper mistake. Zach, without falling on the ball, somehow let it through his legs while bending down for it and a pair of Clinton players burst through to kick the ball into the empty net.
It was devastating. After all the good work the Vipers had done to give up such a silly garbage goal. With four substitutes, Coach Archer was forced to make some changes and it change the chemistry and the balance of the team. Clinton, with their morale boosted by the goal, started to make progress. After about 35 minutes, Clinton surging forward in only their second real attack again found the net with a shot over the goalkeeper. Clinton were 100% effective with their chances on goal. But, we've seen the same thing over and over again this season. The defence can only do so much, but ultimately, the goalkeeper has to make some saves.
At half-time, Coach Archer, after promising Zach a chance to play outfield reluctantly put one of his best outfield players into goal. Sean Andrew, once thought to be our primary goalkeeper, has not been to enough games and practices and his confidence is shot. Erik Kloppenburg is our only other real option, but he was having a great night attacking goal. Ryan Duffy was playing brilliantly in defence (actually, Ryan plays brilliantly everywhere...), but Coach Archer remembered him having a great game in goal against Guilford. With more defensive options than attacking options available, Coach decided to leave Erik in his attacking midfield role and very reluctantly put Ryan into goal.
With the game clearly going in their favour, Clinton, in the second half, started to move forward with more authority. This was made somewhat easier as Madison were forced to open up their play to get two goals back. After 10 minutes of the second half, in only their third real attack Clinton scored again (is there an echo in here?). The game was effectively over.
Madison bravely fought on, attacking in waves, but they didn't take enough shots. At the other end, whenever Clinton attacked we feared the worst. Even with Ryan in goal, he was left stranded by his defence several times, Clinton scored a couple more easy goals.
It was 5-0 in the end, but the fifth was very late. Even still, Clinton are guilty of winning against the "five goal rule." I won't forget that.
Coach Archer's Postmatch Thoughts:
5-0 was also not a fair reflection on our own play. For perhaps as much as three quarters of this match Madison Vipers were as good as, if not better, than Clinton. This phenomenom of the score not reflecting our own true play against Clinton has occurred in our other three games against them.
In game one, we won 3-2, but we were clearly the best team in the second half.
In game two, we lost 6-3 after being 5-0 down. Our team did not play well until the last 15 minutes -- when still 5-0 down -- and came back to 5-3, nearly made it 5-4 and gave up a very unlucky garbage goal in the third minute of time added on.
In game three, we lost 3-1 after being 3-0 down at half-time -- all breakaway goals after dominating 90% of this match.
The problem is giving up almost 100% shooting on our goal, i.e., letting the opposition score with practically every shot they have. It is not just against Clinton that his is happening. This is not always a reflection of poor defence but proof that we are weak in our goalkeeping position. This is not a criticism of the four players (two mostly) that have played there, but a fact.
|11th June, League Game, Home versus Branford, Win 9-1
In the penultimate match of the season, only our second home game at our primary field, New Road, the Madison Vipers suddenly made a mockery of recent poor results, winning 9-1, even when trying to hold back.
On a very hot, humid Sunday afternoon, Branford brought 13 players. The Branford coach requested only 35 minute halves in order that two of his "comp" players could leave on time for their comp game later in the afternoon. Coach Archer, concerned about the comp players was told by the Branford coach that they were "legitimately double-rostered" as comp and rec players. Coach Archer persuaded the officials and the other coach that he wanted 40 minute halves. I could care less that his comp players had to leave early, my players' playing time should not have to suffer. One of the comp players was the Branford coach's son, no less... But, as long as they were on the roster, I had no option but to let them play.
During warm-ups after the officials had checked the Branford passes and roster, the officials told Coach Archer that two of the Branford players did not have passes. I told the officials, as per the rules, that they could not play then. Not coincidentally, perhaps, both players were the comp players. In other words, the Branford coach was trying to pull a fast one.
Coach Archer expected the Branford team to be really tough, just by judging how they were kitted up and warming up. It turned out to be quite the opposite. Madison played exactly how the coach demanded -- lots of passing and lots of shooting. The shooting was getting more and more impressive, and then after about 10 minutes the goals started to rack up.
By the time it was 4-0, Coach Archer reduced the Vipers to 10 men. When it was 5-0, he reduced them to nine and was taking key players off the field. Branford fought back to 5-1 and they looked capable of adding at least one or two more but failed to take their chances. Madison, however, made a couple of breaks and on one occasion scored to make it 6-1. It was half-time soon after.
In all my dreams for this season I never expected our team to be 6-1 up at half-time in any game. It was quite a quandary. All of the players wanted to play and many wanted to score goals for themselves, or get their hat-trick in a couple of cases. So, I reluctantly put Ryan Duffy, one of our best players, in goal again (he wanted to, anyway) and kept most of our other best players off, starting with only nine for the beginning of the second half.
I expected to either see the Vipers struggle, given the heat also, where Branford would get at least a goal or two back or perhaps the score would not change. It was Branford who struggled and Madison soon scored their seventh. Coach Archer pulled off another good player, reducing the Vipers to eight men, and that is how they played for the remainder of the game.
Some players had been sitting out for a long time and most were extremely anxious to get back into the game. I was in an extremely difficult situation. To give them a little bit more playing time I put them into defence with specific instructions to stay in defence and not make surging runs forward. Vipers had four defenders and two midfielders and one forward with the majority of the players being "weaker" players (I hate to use the term loosely. Somehow this little rabble continued to dominate Branford's 11 players and added the Vipers' eigth and nineth goals. There was still some 10 minutes to go too. Coach Archer substitued the better players again and told the others to work on their passing and not to press forward.
The game ended 9-1. This meant a letter from Coach Archer to the Commissioner explaining this farce of a game.
Coach Archer's Postmatch Thoughts:
Branford failed to make use of their numerical advantage, and given the extreme heat of the afternoon, it was surprising that they couldn't make anything out of it. Madison Vipers played most of the second half with only eight players. They ended the second half with nine. They were down to 10 as early as the 25th minute. The coach is also responsible for trying to give fair playing time to all of the players. Today, that was clearly impossible. Several of the Vipers players -- noteably the best ones -- played less than 50% of the game today.
It was our first victory after a run of NINE successive defeats. The Vipers did not deserve all of those defeats and many of those games were against teams containing comp level players and many of those teams did not hold back against us. Some teams did not take players off for us, and of those who did, it was down to 10 men for perhaps all of 10 minutes.
While I was happy to win today, finally (April 29 was our last win), the manner of the ease of our victory and the reduction of a great deal of playing time for those who deserved more after all the bad weeks we've had soured that happiness somewhat.
|17th June, League Game, Home versus North Haven, Win 5-2
The final match of the season, on a terribly hot and humid day saw us with only 12 players (three of them asthmatics!!!), and missing Joachim De Lombaert (Lyme Disease), Erik Kloppenburg (vacation), Paul Colebaugh (trip to Canada) and Seamus Stimpson (vacation) hurt in that there was a desperate need for substitutes today. It was a shame that the whole team could not be together on the last day. It would also have been a good opportunity to move players around into different positions depending on the run of play.
Owing to the heat and humidity, the referee decided to split the game into quarters. The quarter break being nothing more than a water break, really.
Despite a relatively easy first game of the season versus North Haven, Coach Archer forwarned that North Haven have now had time to improve and this could be a much tougher match. As things turned out, it was a tougher match with very even play. The only major difference between the two sides was that Madison Vipers were able to put some of their many chances away and North Haven did not put enough of their many chances away.
With Joachim De Lombaert out, it was always going to be a difficult time in defence and a problem with who to play in the central defensive position alongside Daniel Lane. Coach Archer opted to start with Christian MacDonald, but with Christian unfamiliar with playing that role he often drifted out to his usual midfield position and it created the inevitable gaps. Owing to the heat, the players where lazy in covering their positions too, so defenders marking incoming attackers was a problem throughout the game, particularly when North Haven kept trying to feed their speed player. North Haven's tactics worked several times as they beat Madison Vipers' weak offside trap and caught defenders ball watching instead of man watching. Both of North Haven's goals came from these type of lapses. For the second half, Coach Archer moved Christian back to his more familiar midfield role and brought Sean Andrew back into the centre of defence. Sean was more wary of North Haven's speed and did his marking job extremely well. The rest of the Vipers' defence also played much better in the second half and North Haven were not quite as successful with their counterattack.
Zach Dutton played the first quarter in goal. Andrew Archer played in goal for the second quarter. Coach Archer intended having different goalkeepers for each quarter if the game was going easy. The game did not go easy, however, and goalkeeping options were pretty limited. Zach Dutton played the whole second half in goal and made several significantly important saves.
Ryan Duffy opened the Vipers account with a splendid goal and Jay Mahoney added a second, both in the first quarter. North Haven were playing well, however, so the Vipers were hardly running away with the game. To prove this point, North Haven, attacking in numbers, caught the Vipers defence napping and were able to pull a goal back in the second quarter, making it 2-1. Before the half-time break, though, Jun Tsujii broke through a packed North Haven defence to toe poke home a goal to make it 3-1.
In the second half, with both teams tiring in the exhausting heat and humidity, mistakes were being made by both teams. It was just a matter of who might capitalise on those mistakes. North Haven made the first breakthrough in the third quarter scoring to make it 3-2. The game was quite intense at this point and either team could have taken the game from here on. It was Madison, fortunately for us, that scored next, after Jay Mahoney made another of his dribbling runs and finished up with a shot into the corner of the net. Going into the fourth and final quarter the Vipers held a 4-2 lead but were not comfortable with it, much to the credit of North Haven's persistence.
With 10 minutes to go, Jay Mahoney completed his hattrick to give the Vipers a 5-2 lead. Finally, it seemed, the Vipers could relax. In this heat and humidity it would have been difficult for North Haven to find three or four goals in the final several minutes, especially given that Madison's defence was playing much, much better and North Haven were kicking uphill.
Coach Archer's Postmatch Thoughts:
The victory gave Madison Vipers four wins and one loss in the League. The only other team who could have beaten this record was Southington. The Vipers lost to Southington and the only known dropped points by Southington was in a 1-1 tie with Clinton. The Vipers definitely beat Clinton in the League because Clinton also lost to Madison. It would be incredulous to believe that Branford, North Haven and Woodbridge's only losses came against Madison Vipers. Vipers could only finish first if Southington had lost to either Branford, North Haven or Woodbridge, or at least tied two or three of those games. Either scenario seems unlikely.
We can deduce, then, that the Vipers finished in second place behind Southington.