|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.|
|7th April, League Game, Away at Cheshire, Lost 0-3
With only three lightweight practices under our belts (this same time last spring we'd had seven practices already!) and playing a highly respectable soccer program like Cheshire's it was difficult to gauge the outcome of this game. Coach Archer admited to having his doubts because he had not seen too many dominating players in his practices. Coach Archer also did not see too many natural defenders signed up for this session, neither. Plus, with four absentees for this game and several players returning from being sick with the flu bug all week, it left the team with just 12 players and some were tired looking before the game even started. It was with a bit of relief that Cheshire could only field 11 players themselves. Coaches Archer and Stimpson could only hope for the best that the team would not be embarrassed, at least.
As the game progressed, the Madison Slashers looked Cheshire's equals. Neither team dominated, the game went end to end without neither team able to break down each other's defences. Coaches Archer and Stimpson were very pleased with the display and it gave us great hope for the season. With both teams playing dead even, it came as no surprise when the first half ended at 0-0.
The second half started well and then disaster struck twice with about 10 minutes gone. After making the save, goalkeeper Paddy Stimpson punted the ball down the middle and only as far as a waiting Cheshire forward at the top of the goal area. The Cheshire player had all the goal to shoot at and made no mistake to give Cheshire the lead. Another moment or two later and Cheshire had a free kick from the left wing some 30 yards out, a relatively safe distance for the Slashers. The Cheshire kick-taker crossed the ball into the front of the goal. It missed all of his players and seemed to be going straight to the Slashers goalkeeper who really didn't have to move to make the save. Somehow, the ball slipped by him, we still do not know how. The Slashers were now 2-0 down and in a seemingly impossible position.
The Slashers decided to make a goalkeeping change. Paddy was obviously distrought and his confidence was extremely low. It would have done no good to subject him to any more embarrassment. Benn "Bubba" Ackley went into the goal. To the Slashers' credit they fought back bravely and threw attack after attack back at Cheshire. Cheshire's defence was playing well, but when they were beaten, the Slashers were always stymied by a highly efficient goalkeeper who threw himself into everything to save his team. On a rare Cheshire attack, now, from about 20 yards out a Cheshire forward popped a high shot over Bubba and just grazed the underside of the crossbar to score an excellent goal. There was nothing the Slasher defence or goalkeeper could do about this one.
Despite another brave comeback at the end the Slashers just could not get at least one goal they deserved and so they went down 3-0 which was not a true reflection on their magnificent effort and spirit.
Coach Archer's Postmatch Thoughts:
I always knew this was going to be a tough game. Cheshire Soccer Club is an excellent program and their facilities are par excellence. With four absentees it made substitution decisions extremely easy. Luckily Cheshire had a similar problem. Plus, many players were recovering from bouts of sickness. In the end, it was an exciting, evenly fought contest. If anything, I sincerely believe the Madison Slashers were just slightly the better team on the day. The obvious difference which decided the outcome was goalkeeping at both ends of the pitch.
Paddy Stimpson has been playing as a goalkeeper indoors in Oakwood, Hamden all through the winter. Playing outdoors is a lot different and he needs time to adjust. He was openly uncomfortable with the bigger goals in the outdoor game. He did very well in the first half and was the equal to everything that Cheshire threw at him. The problem with being a goalkeeper though is that if you make a big mistake its suddenly a goal for the other team. Paddy gifted Cheshire the first goal. For the second goal he almost seemed to be in a trance. Unfortunately, Paddy is a diabetic and we discovered later that during that difficult period in the second half his sugar levels had dropped extremely low. We suspect that his performance was thrown off by his low sugar. The third goal was just an excellent goal by Cheshire which we could do nothing about.
At the other end of the pitch, the Cheshire goalkeeper was magnificent and stopped everything Madison Slashers threw at him. He is obviously a very talented and able goalkeeper, plus he had Lady Luck's help a couple of times when we did seem to beat him. Erik Kloppenburg had an excellent chance in the first half and it seemed as if he had all the goal to shoot at, but instead he shot straight at the goalkeeper. Also in the first half, Andrew Archer had the goalie well beaten with a low shot into the corner but a brilliant, pure reaction save saw the goalkeeper suddenly stick his foot out to tip the ball around the post. It could so easily have been 2-0 to the Slashers before half time.
A very creditable performance. A draw would have been the fairest result.
|14th April, League Game, Home versus Clinton
The Madison versus Clinton League match originally scheduled for April 14 was postponed owing to the Clinton coaches both being out of town. Clinton telephoned Coach Archer to ask for the postponement on Tuesday, April 10 and he agreed to postpone.
May 18 update:
Both teams have been unable to arrange an alternate date owing to busy schedules and not being able to schedule fields in either town at amicable times.
Bearing in mind that the teams meet in the Clinton Tournament on Saturday, May 19 and are scheduled for a friendly in Clinton on Friday evening, June 8, both teams agreed to not make up the April 14 game.
In a telephone conversation on Tuesday, May 15, both teams agreed to convert the friendly on June 8 to be the make-up League game.
|21st April, Friendly Game, Home versus Branford
On Wednesday, 18th April, Branford requested to cancel the game owing to not having enough players for this game. This game will not be made up.
|28th April, League Game, Home versus North Branford, Won 4-1
Firstly, congratulations to North Branford for showing up today with 13 players. Earlier in the week, the North Branford coach had telephoned Coach Archer to say he thought he was only going to have 10 players. Coach Archer practically begged him not to cancel the game! But, the North Branford coach gamely replied that he would still show up even if he only had 10 players. Coaches Stimpson and Archer were very pleased to see that North Branford came through with even more players than they originally expected. The Madison Slashers would have had all 16 players available. Unfortunately, Paul Colebaugh hurt his foot in practice the night before. Paul still showed up to watch his team mates, we are pleased to say. So the Slashers had 15 players raring to go after a slow start to the season.
Both teams started well, but the game developed a pattern that would remain throughout. Madison would do most of the attacking and North Branford were contained to mostly breakaways. After a couple of close chances, Erik Kloppenburg finally notched one for the Slashers about 10 minutes into the game. The North Branford goalie came off his line as Erik blew past the North Branford defence. His angled shot hit the far post and bounced in. After a couple more close chances, North Branford finally put an attack together. The play was broken up, however, and Greg Traugh, in goal for the Slashers, collected the ball in his 6-yard area. Greg then took about 15 steps before punting the ball down the field and the referee stopped play to give North Branford a free kick on the edge of the 18-yard area. In the confusion after the kick was taken, the ball bobbled about the 6-yard area and a North Branford player tapped in the lose ball to make it 1-1.
We determined later that the referee had called Greg on an old rule that is no longer in effect. Greg had assumed the new rule was in effect. The old rule was that when a goalkeeper got possession of the ball, he was then only allowed five steps to take a little run to throw or punt the ball away. The new rule, only made in the past year or so, is that now goalkeepers can take any number of steps, but they must throw or kick the ball within six seconds. At half-time, Coach Archer made sure which rule the Slashers should be obeying. It really didn't matter which one, but we had to know what the referee wanted to avoid further confusion. The referee agreed to use the new rule for the second half.
Despite a lot of possession and attacking from Madison, they had taken a long time to score the second goal. Again Erik found himself with only the goalkeeper to beat. The goalie came out to narrow the angle and at first appeared to do a good job, but then Erik neatly side-stepped the goalie to give himself a bit more room and deftly planted his shot.
The second half started out pretty much the same way the whole first half had gone, but midway through the half, Madison began to thoroughly dominate. Benn Ackley scored a great goal after breaking behind the North Branford defence. He waited for the ball to bounce over a rough patch of dirt and grass on the field just 12 yards out from goal and then nicely put his shot wide of the goalie. Soon after, Joe Paquette drilled one home too, literally seconds after just coming back on as a substitute. There were only 10 minutes or so to go after Joe's goal. At that point it did not look like North Branford could come back and the game was safe for Madison. Madison made some nice attacks towards the end, but there would be no further scoring.
Coach Archer's Postmatch Thoughts:
I had heard via the grapevine that North Branford had lost to Cheshire 4-0 after Cheshire had beaten us 3-0. I still thought we had played very well against Cheshire, so perhaps North Branford's score was similarly not conclusive as to their form or potential.
I was quite pleased with how we played at times. I have been trying to teach the Slashers how to beat slow defences -- not just by trying to dribble or pass around their opponents, but by putting the ball behind the defence and running on to it. A slow defence needs time to turn around -- usually valuable time lost. Today, I could see the Slashers trying this simple tactic to good effect. They are still slow to use the wide open wings, however, after several practices of showing them how these are the "highways to goal." Their natural inclination is to take the shortest route to goal, but they often find these routes well defended and they lose the ball. So, I have been showing them how to use the open spaces down the wings. Only towards the end of the game was I really seeing any of that. They're learning, albeit slowly.
After losing 3-0 at Cheshire, it was nice to even up the record. We have now scored four goals and conceded four goals. One win, one loss. It feels so good to get that first win under your belt. It helps to relieve any stress and builds confidence for future games.
|5th May, League Game, Away versus North Haven, Lost 6-3
Madison Slashers found themselves on the end of a good hiding today and in the end, the better team won.
The Slashers were very sluggish right from the start and were soon 1-0 down after 5 minutes and deservedly so. It was just what they needed as the Slashers kicked up a gear or two in response to North Haven's goal. Madison had a few chances to equilise, but too many players were taking their time to try to set themselves up for a shot. It wasn't until Erik Kloppenburg broke through behind the North Haven defence that he could equilise after 10 minutes. Then it was North Haven's turn to respond, and they did with a vengence. Madison's midfield was continually pushed up too far and did not chase back when the team were in trouble, leaving a hard working defence exposed to some lightning quick North Haven forwards. Some nifty wing play by North Haven down Madison's left flank found gaping holes in the Slasher's defence time and again. Unlike Madison, North Haven were eager to take their shots and they were going in. Quick as a flash, Madison found themselves 3-1 down with plenty of time to go. It would go from bad to worse as again Madison failed to take advantage of some neat attacking play by not taking shots when in front of goal. North Haven counterattacked -- again down Madison's exposed left flank and another cross found unmarked North Haven players who put another shot in past exposed Slasher goalkeeper Benn Ackley. Madison were 4-1 down by half-time. The referee whistled the half at only 35 minutes instead of 40.
Paddy Stimpson went into goal for the second half. Madison came out a little more fired up and a little better organised. After five minutes Andrew Archer was able to score in a goalmouth scramble. Just as we thought the Slashers were back in the game, North Haven went down the other end of the field and scored very easily past a very static defence. Again, North Haven's ability to shoot when near goal was justly rewarded. About 10 minutes later, North Haven sliced through a none-existent Slasher midfield and set up for their sixth goal. Madison rallied for the last 15 minutes and put enormous pressure on North Haven's goal. Shot after shot rained in, but the quality of shooting left a lot to be desired. Only Erik Kloppenburg could add another goal to the Slasher's tally to make it 6-3.
At the end, it was a great effort, but too little too late. The Slashers needed that performance for the entire game. The referee called the second half after 35 minutes also. The extra few minutes may have been very helpful during Madison's dominant phase.
Coach Archer's Postmatch Thoughts:
Some of the players had played for me last Spring in North Haven when it was a very easy victory. I tried to forewarn them that this was a totally different team. This season North Haven have beaten North Branford 7-1 in a friendly. I think the players, however, still had it in their head this would be an easy game. I was not impressed with the first half performance, and some of the second half, from several players. Some were often out of position, some made weak challenges to win the ball. some were too greedy trying to dribble too much, some were just kicking the ball forward to nobody but the other team, some were taking way, way too much time to set themselves up to score -- and many were doing all of those things.
To be quite honest, I believe much of this is a carry over from our practices. The attitude from several players leaves a lot to be desired. Even in the scrimmages when you would think they would enjoy it the most, too many players are just standing around not putting in the required effort. I take full responsibility for that. I have been far, far too easy on them trying to make it fun.
Personally, I felt a bit embarrassed by today's game. I cannot remember any team of mine ever conceding six goals in a game before. The players' lackadasical approach to both practices and games reflects poorly on my coaching. I have tried to instill a passing game into this team -- and all my teams -- and have strongly encouraged them to use the full width of the field and to take shots early and often. Today, they simply did not do any of these simple things and they got the beating they richly deserved. To be honest, I did not think North Haven were 6-3 better than our team -- but when you consider that they were working for each other, using the wings, making passes and taking shots, they did deserve the big win. They were doing all the things I coach my teams to do.
I make it a policy not to "scream and yell" at referees like some other coaches I know. They are young referees learning the rules and are apt to make mistakes. The one thing I cannot condone, however, is when they take time off of our playing time. Today, the referee called 35 minute halves. Plus, many young referees do not allow extra time for injuries like they are supposed to do. Today, North Haven players went down injured three times in the second half alone, requiring treatment. At an average of 2 minutes per injury, plus the short halves, the referee short-changed us a full 16 minutes of playing time. It is outrageous. Considering the way the Slashers were playing at the end of the game -- and North Haven were visibly tired -- it is conceivable that Madison could have fully vindicated themselves of earlier poor play. It was totally not fair at all.
|12th May, Friendly Game, Home versus Cheshire, Won 1-0
Madison Slashers had to pick themselves up from a poor performance last week to play arguably the best team in the division. Until today, Cheshire had won all of their games and by four or five goals each time too boot. This would be a massive challenge to the Slashers. Albeit "only" a friendly, an unbeaten team wants to stay unbeaten and Madison wanted to be the first to beat them, so there was plenty to play for, for both teams.
The Slashers started without five influential players; Devin Briggs and Claudio Zampino, who are both natural left footers, and Benn Ackley who plays in goal and as a forward. Jamie Greene and Greg Traugh were due to arrive later in the game. Adam Ghadamian, meanwhile, was suffering from a foot injury. That left only 10 fit players to start. Added to this, the weather was hot and substitutes would have been nice to have. Considering last week's performance, the portents were not good for the Slashers before this game kicked off! Adam Ghadamian wanted to play even with a bad foot, so at least the Slashers started with 11 players.
As the game kicked off, Cheshire immediately went onto the attack, kicking downhill, but blew their best chance of the whole match in the first 10 seconds! It was an early wake up call for Madison. From then on, the Slashers tightened up in defence and midfield and steadily improved as the first half progressed. Just after the game started, Jamie Greene arrived to give the Slashers a valuable substitute. Ten minutes later, Greg Traugh showed up earlier than expected, so now Madison had two subs, matching Cheshire's numbers.
Cheshire's attacks were being stifled, and even when they did get the ball through Paddy Stimpson in goal was out early to cut out the danger. Madison fought hard and were starting to make some chances of their own. Shots hit the crossbar and the post as well as the excellent Cheshire goalkeeper being forced into making some good saves. Half-time arrived with the score at 0-0. It had been an excellent game so far with Madison perhaps having more and better chances.
Madison, in the second half, now had the benefit of kicking downhill. With the heat of the late afternoon and both teams tiring quickly, the hill would be a major advantage to the home team. Madison were motivated to beat Cheshire more so now after seeing how evenly they had played them in the first half. There seemed to be more determination. Players were running at Cheshire's tired defence and taking some good shots. Fifteen minutes into the second half Andrew Napier worked some space for himself out towards the right, beat a defender and sent a high shot that flew over the Cheshire goalkeeper and dropped into the far side of the goal. The goal clearly stunned Cheshire and fired up Madison even more.
As the game wore on to its conclusion Madison began to visibly tire, especially in midfield, and were finding it hard to get back and cover whenever Cheshire was able to build a counterattack. This caused some frayed nerves towards the end as Coach Archer was constantly encouraging his troops to get back and help in defence. At the end Cheshire were starting to look the more dangerous team as they desperately sought to score and prevent their first loss. Madison somehow held on to preserve a remarkable victory.
Coach Archer's Postmatch Thoughts:
In Friday evening's practice, the day before this match, I told the players in no uncertain terms that unless they improved not only their play, but their attitude, that this could be a long season and no-one would be having any fun. I reminded them that I have tried to make them into a passing team and to make full use of the wide open wings. With the Cheshire game in mind, I forewarned them that if they continued the way they were going that they were going to get hammered in every game.
Cheshire averaged four goals a game in their first three games -- including already beating us 3-0 in our first game -- that if we could give up six to North Haven, then the second Cheshire game could get very ugly for us. In the back of my mind I expected us to give up at least four goals, and considering the quality of Cheshire's goalkeeper and the quality of our shooting of late, we would be lucky to score one goal in return.
The motivation to give the Slashers before this game was clear -- become the first team to beat Cheshire. The Slashers already knew Cheshire were a tough team. To their credit, the Slashers took the game to Cheshire for practically the entire 80 minutes. Cheshire were limited to long range shots -- none on target -- and any time they got the ball behind Madison's defence, goalkeeper Paddy Stimpson was off his line to clean up. In this, the entire Madison defence was outstanding; Nat Duncan at right back, Paul Colebaugh at left back and Stephen Haigh and Charlie Creller playing in the centre of defence. Charlie in particular was everywhere and was even able to push forward to attack a few times. I love to see defenders having the confidence to do that! Therefore, Charlie was Coach Archer's "man of the match!"
It was an overall very good team display. Midfield had to work very hard, especially on a hot Saturday afternoon, and it was not surprising that they tired and large gaps began to open up in the second half. They wanted to attack Cheshire, but they found it hard to get back and defend when Cheshire broke out of defence. It was at this time I found myself coming more and more into the game having to constantly remind players to get back and help. To be quite frank, we had played so well, I was extremely wary of Cheshire getting a late goal -- or two -- and ruining all we had accomplished on the day. I was desperate not to see this happen. The forwards also played their part. Midfield and the forward line had really set about Cheshire and they created many chances and saw the Cheshire goalie beaten on a couple of occasions only to see the ball hit the post, or the crossbar, or a defender make a late clearance. In my humble opinion, I thought we deserved to win 3-0, at least.
One of the best parts was that (a) we did not concede a goal -- and this should have been a huge confidence booster to young Paddy Stimpson, and (b) we stopped high scoring Cheshire scoring at all. With a win as big as this, I am hoping it will carry over into our next set of matches -- at the Clinton Tournament.
|19th & 20th May, Clinton Invitational Tournament
Madison Slashers heroically stepped up their play and their determination at the Clinton Invitational Tournament to earn a second place finish -- and they were so close to being first.
Before the tournament absolutely nothing was known about any of the opponents in the U-12 Boys Rec section. There was Clinton, of course, a traditional rival and usually always hard to beat. East Haven in the past had produced strong teams, but these were often thought to be more at the "comp" level because their program did not have "comp" and "rec" teams. This year, however, East Haven had teams in both the "comp" and "rec" sections. Westbrook entered two teams. They have a small program and last year their teams were average at best. Wallingford Outlaws were a totally unknown factor.
The Slashers were nearly at 100%. Unfortunately, Jamie Greene was ill from a virus, but there were still 15 players ready to go.
Group Game 1, versus Wallingford Outlaws:
The Slashers would begin their weekend against Wallingford Outlaws on Annex Field. Coach Archer had stressed that to do well in any tournament it was vital to win the first game. The Slashers did start strongly and set about the Outlaws producing some of their best soccer all season and found themselves 2-0 up quickly, deservedly so. The Outlaws pulled one back before half-time after some sloppy defending. The second half started with the teams still close and the Outlaws were playing very well. The Slashers scored early in the second half, however, and it seemed to deflate the Outlaws. Madison couldn't find a way to get a fourth to put it beyond doubt, so the game finished in an excited fashion as the Outlaws tried to get another goal back. The Slashers earned the all important victory, winning 3-1. Joe Paquette, Andrew Napier and Erik Kloppenburg were the goalscorers.
By now, news of some stunning results were coming through from the other two games in our section. Results that would set the tone for the rest of the tournament. Westbrook II had completely crushed East Haven 8-0, destroying the assumption that East Haven had a "comp" team again. Hosts Clinton were mauled 6-1 by Westbrook I. Both results defied belief based on past histories. We began to wonder about these two Westbrook teams.
Group Game 2, versus Clinton:
Confidence was high before playing Clinton -- and so was the grass, a little bit, on Football Field. The grass was lush, but it would slow the ball and players runs for sure and it would tire players more quickly. Despite their big loss earlier, we did not assume Clinton would be an easy game. Another win, however, would really put the Slashers into a comfortable position. The Slashers were also down another man. Claudio Zampino would miss this and the next game owing to other commitments. Madison set about Clinton as they did against Wallingford. Clinton, however, hung on closely despite increasing dominance in possession and chances by the Slashers. Madison scored first through Erik Kloppenburg but just couldn't get the important second to help demoralise Clinton. Instead, Clinton took advantage of some sloppy defending and suddenly it was 1-1. Almost straight away Benn Ackley scored to make it 2-1 to Madison. Surely now the Slashers could pull away? But, no, Clinton came back again, just before half-time, to make it 2-2. In the second half after five minutes Erik Kloppenburg scored again to give Madison the lead. As if to mirror their previous two goals, Clinton mounted pressure to equalise again, but it was not to be. The final ten minutes saw Madison penned into their own half, unable to clear the ball, but they defended hard and heroically to earn the win, 3-2 this time.
In the other two games, Wallingford Outlaws disposed of East Haven 2-0 to put themselves back in contention. Interestingly, Westbrook II beat Westbrook I 3-0. Westbrook II had now scored 11 goals without conceding one -- and they were the Slashers' next opponents! East Haven and Clinton, with two losses each already would not seed above 5th and 6th. The race was still on for the top two seeds with four teams left in contention.
Group Game 3, versus Westbrook II:
For this encounter on Peters' Upper Field, Coach Archer decided to adopt a cautionary approach. His greatest fear was of the Madison Slashers being embarrassed. Losing is one thing, but losing badly is an entirely different matter. Another consideration was the Slashers' recent tendency to go missing in action in defence. Too often we had seen defenders drifting across the field chasing the ball or ball watching while opponents, sometimes as many as four at a time, stood unmarked in front of our goal. Paddy Stimpson, who had played every minute of the first two games in the Slashers' goal, was replaced in favour of the more experienced Devin Briggs who has had success in goal for several teams.
Westbrook played a style not unlike the one Coach Archer has been trying to teach his team. Use the wings to full effect, get down into the corners fast and cross the ball in front of goal to on-coming attackers. Westbrook are a lot more successful at this tactic owing to some super-speedy players. Their left winger was truly exceptional, very skilled and had a wickedly powerful cross and shot. Several of the Westbrook players displayed "comp" level skills, in fact, and now it became clear that like East Haven in the past, they did not have "comp" and "rec" teams, per se, they just entered teams that enjoyed the skills of "comp" level players into rec tournaments, probably to earn easy trophies, a practice Coach Archer vehemently abhors. There is nothing one can do about it on the day, though, just play your best and deal with it.
Madison Slashers were certainly pumped up for this game. Despite early warnings from Westbrook that they could practically score at will, it was the rag-tag Slashers who opened the scoring after Andrew Napier drilled home a shot. It was the first time Westbrook had conceded a goal, never mind fell behind, and it quite clearly shook them up. Just who were these Slashers who had the audacity? Westbrook's play floundered for a while, but Madison couldn't take advantage despite several more dangerous-looking attacks. Westbrook are an excellent team, though, and it is difficult to hold down their calibre for long periods. The Westbrook left-winger began to tear the Slashers defence apart, almost single-handedly. He scored one and created another to give his side a 2-1 half-time lead. The second half began as the first half ended, with Westbrook doing most of the attacking. The killer goal was their third, which was textbook in execution and one any professional playing in the World Cup Final would have been proud of. Again the little left winger worked his tricks and flew over an inch perfect cross into Madison's goal area, into the six-yard box, and perfectly weighted for an incoming Westbrook forward to expertly head home into a virtually unguarded net. Westbrook added a fourth soon after to put the contest beyond Madison's reach. The game was not over yet and Madison Slashers never give up. With time running out they mounted a beautiful attack of their own and defender Nat Duncan buried his rocket shot to pull the score back to 4-2. Madison robbed Westbrook after the restart and set about looking for another goal as time ran out. Westbrook were in total panic, but they held on. It was satisfying, at least, to know that they felt they had been through a real game, one they had to work especially hard to win. Madison Slashers had accomplished their goal. They were not embarrassed.
In the other games, Clinton finally won a game, but only 2-1 over East Haven. Westbrook I defeated Wallingford Outlaws 4-1. Westbrook II were the only undefeated team and therefore deserved first seeding for the next round. Westbrook I and Madison Slashers had a similar record, but Westbrook I had conceded two less goals and so were given second seed. The Slashers were seeded third, Wallingford Outlaws fourth, Clinton fifth and East Haven sixth. The two Westbrook teams had earned byes into the Semi-Finals on Sunday. The other four teams had to play off for the other two Semi-Final berths.
On Sunday, the Slashers would get Claudio Zampino back for all games, but Benn Ackley was not available. They were still without the sick Jamie Greene, too, plus Greg Traugh and Paddy Stimpson were due to leave later in the day for a school concert, potentially missing part, and perhaps all of the Semi-Final and Final if the Slashers got that far. If the Slashers did go far, the lack of substitutes on energy sapping fields was a worry.
3rd Seed versus 6th Seed Game, versus East Haven:
Despite the successes of Saturday and East Haven's relatively poorer record, Coach Archer pointed out that none of yesterday counted for anything regarding this game. The Slashers had to start from scratch and play as tough as ever against East Haven in this match on Peters' Upper Field. Despite Madison playing slightly better than East Haven, the match was scrappy. It was as if the Slashers had lowered their game down to that of their opponent. Despite running up a first half lead of 2-0 after an won goal by the East Haven goalkeeper and a great goal from Joe Paquette, it was not convincing stuff from the Slashers and East Haven stole a goal back that would increase the tension and fray the nerves a little bit. It was 2-1 at half-time and the Slashers were once again told to tighten up their marking in defence. A third goal, scored by Erik Kloppenburg, came midway through the second half, but the Slashers were still not comfortable. East Haven were still valiantly making a game of it. It wasn't until the Slashers made it 4-1 with another Erik Kloppenburg goal with little time left could we start to think about the next round.
In the 4th Seed versus 5th Seed game, Clinton defeated Wallingford Outlaws 1-0 (score correction?)
Semi-Final, versus Westbrook I:
This game was to be played on the lush, energy sapping Football Field. It was well known that Westbrook I could be a high scoring team like their Westbrook II counterparts. The fact that they had lost to Westbrook II by 3-0 and compared with the Slashers' 4-2 result, the outcome of this match was by no means a foregone conclusion. The possibilities were very intriguing! Paddy Stimpson would start in goal again, but he would have to leave at half-time, with Greg Traugh, dropping the Slashers' numbers down to 12 players. After a below par game against East Haven, the Slashers raised their game a notch or two to give a very good Westbrook team some stiff competition. It would turn out to be a very even game as all semi-finals should be, but Madison Slashers always had the upper hand, never falling behind. Andrew Napier scored first in the first half for the Slashers which completely stunned Westbrook who were perhaps slightly overconfident. Westbrook got a goal back before half-time, though, and at 1-1 at the break, there didn't seem to be anything between the two teams. Madison lost the services of two players though and this could have been all the difference. Westbrook had plenty of substitutes, and this was their first game of the day -- Madison's second already. The second half saw Devin Briggs go into goal again and the whole team began to display grit and determination as Coach Archer has never seen from them before. They were literally throwing themselves into the ball to block passes and shots. The game would go end to end, both sets of fans were tense. It was anybody's game, but it was Madison who took the initiative. Erik Kloppenburg scored with less than five minutes left to make it 2-1. It seemed inconceivable, somehow, that the Slashers were on their way to a Championship game. But this game was far from over. Westbrook threw everybody except their goalkeeper into attack and Madison took everything kicked at them. It was heart stopping stuff, but the Slashers prevailed, the final whistle went and the dream was still alive.
In the other Semi-Final, Westbrook II slaughtered Clinton 6-0. They were ready and fully expecting to win this Championship now and must have been extremely confident to go up against a team in the Final they had already defeated 4-2 the day before.
Championship Final, versus Westbrook II:
Again, Coach Archer was worried that his team could be severely mauled in the Final. He had just concerns -- this was about to be Madison's third game of the day, their second on the large, lush Football Field, whereas Westbrook had only played one game, on a smaller field with better mown grass. Worse, Andrew Archer was now limping with sore heels, the first real casualty over five hard games. He could barely walk without pain, and certainly couldn't run and heartbreakingly could not participate in the Final. The Slashers were down to no substitutes at all!
Coach Archer implored his troops that they could beat Westbrook II. After all, they had lost to Cheshire on the first day of the season and then beaten them later, Cheshire's first (and still only) loss of the season. The Slashers had also worried the Westbrook team a little bit in their last encounter. There was still very much a chance, but it depended on every player giving 110%, 100% of the time. It was an awful lot to ask, but one doesn't play in a Championship Final that many times in their entire lives. This could potentially be their first and only time.
The Slashers responded heroically. They gave absolutely everything left that they had. They harried, hustled and contained Westbrook II in every department. Plus, they counter-attacked with great effect, several times. Westbrook II should have seen those warning signs -- Andrew Napier took his chance and slammed home a rocket shot that quietened the whole shoreline from Clinton to Old Saybrook. One-nil to the Slashers. Westbrook couldn't believe it. The same thing as the last game. It totally shattered their confidence and Westbrook coaches' and parents' nerves were frayed. Read the half-time scoreboard: Madison Slashers 1, Westbrook II 0. The Slashers were half a game, 20 minutes away from becoming the sort of stuff legends are written about.
At half-time, Coach Archer could see the exhaustion setting in. It was obvious the Slashers couldn't keep up the pace as Westbrook were by far the fresher team and highly motivated to win to get "their" Championship back. Coach Archer told the Slashers that it was all about frustration now. Westbrook were already frustrated, but if they could just frustrate them more, even if it just meant blasting the ball out of play all the time, it just might pay off. There really wasn't much else to say. They were already defending as if their lives depended on it, and when they did go forward they looked just as likely to score as Westbrook ever did.
The second half got under way and as expected Westbrook mounted extreme pressure, but Madison contained everything. On the counter attack the Slashers were very dangerous and a couple of chances were very close to going in. Two-nil just might have killed off the game. But Westbrook's force proved to be too much, they were simply too good to hold out. With ONLY 5 MINUTES left in the game, Westbrook scored the equaliser. The release of tension from the Westbrook coaches and crowd was enormous. With confidence and energy brimming over now, they set about taking the exhausted Slashers to task. Their brilliant left winger cut inside two defenders and scored with an unstoppable shot just two minutes later. The Slashers were not giving up, but in an effort to get forward with the ball, the defence was now just a little more open for the skillful Westbrook team to exploit and they quickly added their third. It was final nail in the coffin. A minute later the final whistle went. Westbrook cheered loud and hard, probably more from relief than anything. In the end the Slashers had made excellent opponents for them. And once again, the Madison Slashers were not embarrassed.
Coach Archer's Post Tournament Thoughts:
Unbelievable. Compare and contrast the Madison Slashers of the Clinton Tournament against the Madison Slashers where were dreadful away at North Haven several weeks ago. They have become heroes to parents and coaches alike, and even received some compliments from their opponents. Westbrook II's coach recognised that the Slashers were the only team to score against them -- no less than three times -- in the entire tournament. She forgot that we also had the lead on them in both games. I am exceptionally proud of my team at this point. They never gave up against very superior opponents and losing by only two goals in each game against Westbrook II, who were crushing all others, is some kind of testament to their character, I think. There is no doubt in my mind that Westbrook II, at least, were a "comp" level team, despite their insistence that they were not. You see very few kids of their ability spread about a WHOLE "rec" league, never mind all on one team like theirs. I still hold to my claim that such teams enter competitions like this to pick up easy trophies. I laughed when I overheard their coach claim afterwards, "You've earned this!"
I also choked up a little near the end of the Semi-Final game against Westbrook I. While our opponents were not as good as Westbrook II, they were still very stiff opposition, as good as, if not better than Cheshire. While the clock wound down as the Slashers were winning 2-1, I watched my players literally throwing their bodies in front of the ball while they defended. They really, really cared. I couldn't believe we were going to a Championship Final. I have not coached a team that has done that since my older son, James, went to one with his team in 1994 -- We lost 1-0 that day to a goal one minute from time that was a hand ball by one of their players first, but the referee had missed it. I also expected Westbrook II to beat us, but you never know, that's why we play the games. So, please forgive me for being emotional!
I was excited about us being in the Final, but all of the odds were against us. Westbrook II were rampant against all of their opponents, so I merely prepared the Slashers to try to limit the damage. The Final was our third game of the day, our second on the big Football Field with its energy sapping high grass, and we didn't have any substitutes for the big game. Westbrook were much fresher and had plenty of subs. It's amazing to me that we didn't lose by a heck of a lot more goals. I was simply awestruck that we held them to 1-0 for so long, and for so, so, long before they eventually got ahead of us! We were just five minutes from overtime. Just before they scored their second, I was commenting to the lineswoman near our bench that the Slashers looked exhausted and that we really did not look forward to playing 10 more minutes in overtime. It would have been fun, though, to have taken them down to an MLS shootout tiebreaker, if the game was still tied after an overtime period. I REALLY fancied our chances in that -- I think we had the better goalkeeper for it.
After this, I just hope we can keep up the good work, have a good showing at the Southington Tournament and finish strongly in the League. For now we have a two week break from games (Memorial Day Weekend, next weekend) and enjoy what we have accomplished in Clinton this weekend.
|2nd & 3rd June, Southington Invitational Tournament
Coach Archer has had to reluctantly withdraw the Madison Slashers from the Southington Tournament.
It came to our attention on May 23 that this is a "comp"-only tournament and I was greatly concerned that it may be a little too intense for some of our players. We do have two or three players capable of playing at the "comp" level, but not the whole team. The last thing I want for my team is for us to be embarrassed. I enter "rec" teams into tournaments for their fun, not to be somebody else's cannon fodder. That has happened to me so many times in my 40+ years of playing, I do not need any more character-building, thank you.
Our three opponents were to be Naugatuck, Newtown and Coginchaug. After I found out about the tournament being "comp"-only a part of me wanted to stay in the tournament and see how well we would do. I decided to check into the playing records of our opponents. Naugatuck and Newtown invariably show strong at tournaments and in League play - they are currently "beating up" teams in their own "comp" divisions (never mind against "rec' teams!). I do not know anything about our other opponent, Coginchaug. Another team in our group we weren't scheduled to play is Madison Tigers. I found out later that this is the Madison U-12 Boys Comp team coached by Rick Fiorentina.
The tournament director, Bobby Swanson, is a long time friend of mine. Bob is a very nice guy, a highly respectable member of Connecticut's soccer community and is, in fact, a member of the Connecticut Soccer Hall of Fame (I was there in January 2001 when he was inducted). I talked to him during the winter about entering his tournament, which I have never done before. I could have sworn I talked about our being a "rec" team and his tournament being a "rec" tournament, but he doesn't seem to remember that part of the discussion. I have reread all of the paperwork and there is no reference to the Southington Tournament being all "comp." I even wrote "Travel Rec" next to our name on the application form. Bob saw this, but he still thought I knew what I was doing and didn't think anything about it. It was only after I telephoned the Swansons on Wednesday, May 23 that I discovered my predicament. I should have telephoned him with my questions as soon as I received the draw at least a week earlier and that is completely my fault.
My most sincere apologies to all players and parents. It was a very tough decision for me to make, because no matter what I decided I was letting a lot of folks down (not forgetting three other teams). I have talked to a couple of the parents and they did share my concerns, and ultimately, this helped to swing my decision. No doubt you, like I was, were looking forward to another exciting tournament. I feel very badly about withdrawing a team in the eleventh hour and putting my friend Bob in a big bind like this.
|8th June, League Game, Away versus Clinton, Won 5-1
It has been a while since the Slashers last played a game -- 19 days since the Clinton Invitational Tournament, and over a month since their last League game in North Haven!
The Madison Slashers had already played Clinton once this season, at the Clinton Invitational Tournament, which resulted in a 3-2 victory for the Slashers. In that game, the Slashers played the better soccer and dominated for long periods, but Clinton kept the game close with a couple of goals and also a lot of pressure on the Slashers in the dying moments. So there were to be no preconceptions about this game. Madison always know Clinton will give them a tough game.
Madison Slashers started out the game in style, instantly putting pressure on Clinton. Within 10 minutes Erik Kloppenburg had given the Slashers a much deserved lead. The Slashers sought to extend their lead and dominated most of the first half. Clinton had few chances of their own, but every time they got near Madison's goal there was a tendency for the Slashers to be too lax in clearing the ball. Fortunately, Clinton proved to be poor finishers. Erik Kloppenburg scored again to give Madison a 2-0 lead at half-time.
The second half saw Madison go on the attack again. Madison needed a third goal because Clinton's counterattacks were giving the Slashers all sorts of problems. The game was far from comfortable for the Madison. It took awhile before Joe Paquette made it 3-0 for the Slashers. The game seemed to be safe, but soon after, Clinton finally broke apart Madison's fragile defending. Madison defenders were drawn to the ball out on their right and left the goal practically unguarded. The ball was crossed over and a deflection found a Clinton forward completely unmarked in front of a wide open goal. He made no mistake and brought the score back to 3-1. Clinton were very much back in the game.
Madison put pressure on Clinton again and finally scored a fourth through Erik Kloppenburg again. In the dying moments of the game, Joe Paquette was tripped in the Clinton penalty area and the referee surprisingly, given the score, had no hesitation in awarding a penalty kick. Coach Archer called for a defender to take the kick and elected Charlie Creller. Charlie lofted his kick high and down the middle, but fortunately it dropped over the Clinton goalkeeper and into the goal. The referee ended the game soon after. Madison won 5-1, but Clinton had played better than the score suggests.
Coach Archer's Post Match Thoughts:
It is always tough playing one's local rivals. Clinton have a traditionally excellent youth soccer program and so it has always taken a little extra effort for Madison to compete with them. Worryingly for me, however, was that the Slashers had not played a proper game since their 3-1 defeat in the Clinton Tournament final against Westbrook II. That was almost three full weeks before this match. Our record in the League was only won one, lost two as well, so if for no other reason, it was a "must win" game to improve that record. I was somewhat confident we should have been able to win this game, the Slashers were the better team than Clinton in the tournament. Still, things do change and that's what makes every game interesting.
I was pleased to see the Slashers get off to a magnificent start. They tore right into Clinton. With a start like that it bode well for the rest of the game -- as the final score proves. We are lucky that we have several players who can score goals, but most of them seem to be on a lean streak, lately. Not Erik Kloppenburg, who scored a hat-trick tonight. Erik plays from centre midfield not as a forward. Sometimes midfielders score more goals than forwards because they have more space from which to make their runs from. Erik has enough speed that he can burst forward from midfield with the ball and surprise defenders who are otherwise marking forwards. This is how he is able to quickly get behind defenders and take on goalkeepers one-on-one so many times.
I was not happy with how we gave up that particular goal Clinton scored. It is one thing if opponents can score good goals, that I don't mind, but I hate it when we give up sloppy goals because defenders are caught ball-watching. Too often this season our defenders have allowed themselves to be drawn completely out of position leaving opponents totally unmarked in front of our goal. We have given up so any cheap goals that way.
Finally, it was nice to see Charlie Creller score a goal. His play this season has been heroic and magnificent. Whenever we have penalty kicks awarded to us I will always think of defenders -- and the goalkeeper! -- to take the kick before almost anything else. Charlie deserved his chance. He nearly fluffed it, however, when he kicked the ball high and over the goalkeeper! It was ugly, but at least it went in. It wasn't an important goal enabling us to win, but it was important to give a defender his chance to score.
|9th June, League Game, Away versus Branford, Won 10-1 (recorded as
8-1 on the game card)
Oh dear. This turned out to be one of those games that no matter what the Slashers coaches did to prevent running up the score, the Slashers players were just too hungry and the opponents too tired and demoralised.
Unfortunately, the Slashers' broke the "five goal rule" mandated by the CJSA South Central Distict Commissioner and Coach Archer was required to write a letter of explanation.
The referee reported the game on our game cards as 8-1, but after double-checking who had scored what it was determined the Slashers had actually won 10-1.
Both teams started out with substitutes, fortunately, since it was a fairly hot morning. Madison had three subs, Branford had approximately the same.
After a great deal of pressure on the Branford defence Madison scored first only five minutes into the game. Madison pressured again, but Branford also attacked. It was end-to-end stuff for a long time and eventually Branford scored to make it 1-1 after about 15-20 minutes into the game. Branford were making quite a game of it at this point, and the Slashers defence was a little shaky. Not long after, Madison scored again to make it 2-1, but the game was till competitive. Still in the first half with perhaps 10 minutes to go to half-time the score reached 5-1. Coach Archer immediately reduced the Slashers to 10 players on the field, taking off Erik Kloppenburg, who had scored two goals. Almost immediately, Madison scored again to make it 6-1 and Coach Archer took off a forward before the restart, reducing the Slashers now to 9 players. The first half ended 6-1 in favour of Madison.
For the start of the second half, Madison started with 9 players and switched some positions around, i.e., let defenders go forward and put forwards and midfielders into defence.
Erik Kloppenburg started the second half in the centre of defence. Within five minutes he had already burst through most of the Branford team to score his third and made it 7-1 to Madison. It was Erik's second hat-trick in two days. Coach Archer immediately withdrew him from the game and reduced his team to 8 players. At this time he also substituted some more of his better players out.
It stayed at 7-1 for a while, 8 v 11, but it was clear that Branford were very tired and demoralised. The 8 Madison players currently on the field conspired to score again, making it 8-1. Coach Archer pulled another player off, reducing his team to 7 players.
Branford were starting to dominate now, but the Slashers' defence was just too strong. Branford were pushing up to score some goals and left themselves wide open to the counterattack. This is exactly how Madison scored their next goal to make it 9-1. Coach Archer told everyone to play in defence and substituted out any remaining "strong" players where necessary. Nat Duncan - who has played defence all season - played as the entire midfield and forward line (in a 5-1-0 formation!). Everyone else was in defence. It is not certain when the tenth goal was scored; Coach Archer thought the game ended 9-1.
Today's goalscorers were Erik Kloppenburg (3), Jamie Greene (3), Andrew Archer (2), Joe Paquette and Benn Ackley.
Coach Archer's Post Match Thoughts:
I apologised to Jim O'Brien, the Branford coach, after the game and he seemed to fully understand what I was trying to do. I joked with my players that they had to write the letter to the Commissioner!
The referee asked me after the game if I had any "comp." players on my team. No, we do not. I personally do not agree with "double rostering" of comp. players on a rec. team, anyway, since I believe they are taking playing time off of a rec. player and then going off to play more soccer on their own comp. team. I do have two or three players capable of playing at the comp. level, but they are only signed to play rec., not comp., since they prefer to play at the rec. level where there is less pressure and strictness from the coaches.
The only really bad part in Madison's game was how we gave up the one goal. Again it was because players were drawn away from marking opponents in front of the goal and the ball was passed to a player with an open net to shoot into. This problem has persisted all season long! In the end, Branford's goal did not matter and Madison's coaches and parents were rooting for Branford to score so that Coach Archer would not have to write the dreaded letter!
I personally hate coaching games like this because the players have an extremely difficult time holding back. I can only reduce the number of players on the field and change positions around. Then I have players begging me to get back into the game because they also want to score goals. The terribly hard part is I love them to score lots of goals and especially want those who rarely or never score goals to get one before the season ends - but I also hate to see teams get beat up like today. That is not why I coach, because at the end of the day, I wished I could have helped the other team too. Perhaps I should have gone on as a sub for Branford! Oh well, perhaps next time!
Once again, my apologies to Jim O'Brien and his club.
|16th June, League Game, Home versus Hamden, Won 8-2
For the second consecutive week, Madison Slashers violated the "five goal rule" (beating an opponent by more than five goals). It wasn't for the lack of trying to give the other team their chances, though.
I have known the Hamden coach for about 15 years. We used to work together at 3M in Wallingford several years ago. So, I hope he realises I did my best to keep the score down.
Hamden showed up with 12 players after their coach telephoned everyone to make sure he had a team. He already knew three of his best players couldn't make it -- double-rostered comp. players erstwhile playing in a tournament. Madison had 14 out of 16 show up, and a 15th showed up to play in the second half. It was a very hot and humid morning so both coaches and the referee agreed to play a shorter game, 35 minutes each way instead of 40, and to have water breaks half way through each half.
Madison scored the first goal within two minutes when Joe Paquette slammed home a cracking shot from a narrow angle. Erik Kloppenburg scored the next two. Madison's second had taken about another five minutes and the third after 15 minutes. Hamden could barely mount an attack. At 3-0 up Coach Archer immediately withdrew a player dropping his team to 10 men.
Soon after Benn Ackly scored the Slashers' third goal. It was 4-0 to Madison and there were still 15 minutes of the first half to play. Coach Archer withdrew another two players at this point, making it an 8 v 11 game. Coach Archer was shuffling defenders and forwards around and taking anyone off who had scored a goal too.
A couple of moments after the game restarted 8-man Madison scored again through Andrew Archer… It was 5-0, so Coach Archer next withdrew Paddy Stimpson in goal, stunning his assistant coach and the crowd! The Slashers were now down to just 7 outfield players with about 6 - 7 minutes of the first half still to play!
At this point, finally, Hamden sensed they could score and much of the rest of the half saw Hamden attacking and 7-man Madison defending as if their lives depended on it! Amazingly, Madison had a breakaway that resulted in Devin Briggs scoring a sixth goal -- his first and only goal all season. It was 6-0 at half-time.
At half-time Coach Archer emphasised to his players that he was "already in trouble" and that he could not allow them to score any more goals. The disappointment was on all of their faces, but at least the older, more experienced players understood. Coach Archer told his best players that when - if - he put them into the game they could not go beyond the defensive third of the field. He told several other players they could not advance past the half-way line. A couple of players on the team have never scored a goal (ever, perhaps) and they were put into forward positions.
Madison Slashers started the second half and played the rest of the game without a goalkeeper. They started with 9 players and still had 7 substitutes! Most of the players were not allowed to go over the half-way line. So, the Slashers started 9 v 11 and practically invited Hamden to do all of the attacking.
Without a goalkeeper, Erik Kloppenburg and Joe Paquette stood in the six-yard area to protect the goal (not Coach Archer's instructions). While this appeared to give Madison two "goalkeepers" now, at least they could not use their hands - plus, it effectively allowed Hamden to attack without ever getting offside.
Hamden were awful, I has to be said. They could not shoot on goal to save their lives. Coach Archer and his assistant were constantly going down the touchline to tell the Hamden coach that he should tell his players to shoot all the time. They also pointed out that Hamden could not go offside. The Madison coaches found themselves coaching the other team, telling them when to shoot and where to make good passes! The situation was a total farce.
The Madison players, to their credit, were not going beyond the areas Coach Archer had limited them to. The Madison coaches did not give one coaching instruction the entire half! They were willing Hamden to score, in fact.
Alas, an incredible thing happened. Because certain players were told that they could not progress beyond the half-way line - they were told to make long passes into the corners, or to "take a shot from the half-way line!" Andrew Archer took his coach at his word! As soon as Andrew crossed the half-way line he took a high shot at goal. The ball dropped into the 18-yard area and bounced over the advancing Hamden goalkeeper and into the goal. Coach Archer took him straight off the pitch and the Slashers were now down to 8 v 11 again. The Slashers were told by their coach that they could no longer go and defend inside the goal's 6-yard area and they were also instructed to play "three touch" to limit them from breaking away on Hamden's goal.
I think every parent and coach, whether from Hamden or Madison, willed Hamden on to score goals more so than ever now. The Madison players even deliberately tripped a Hamden player in the penalty area. Incredibly, the referee only awarded a "direct free kick." Ahem, a direct free kick in the penalty area is a penalty kick! A bit unlucky for Hamden there. Hamden still failed to score, even given this chance. Madison defenders were walking and not even trying and Hamden still couldn't score. Finally, some Madison players actually moved out of the way for a Hamden shot and the ball went in to the goal to make it 7-1.
With still some 10 minutes to play, Madison let Hamden attack again. It had taken a while, but to everyone's relief, Hamden scored again to make it 7-2.
As the game wound down, in the dying seconds, Jamie Greene broke Coach Archer's "rule" about crossing the half-way line. He found himself flying down the right wing and getting behind the defence. Jamie took an acutely angled shot from some 25 yards out and it flew into the net. The final whistle went 30 seconds later. That goal cost Coach Archer another letter-writing exercise.
Coach Archer's Post Match Thoughts:
I can't believe I had to write a second letter to the CJSA South Central Division Commissioner, just one week after my first letter, explaining another violation of the "five goal rule."
I went out of my way to try to keep our team from winning by more than five goals. We played without a goalkeeper for roughly 60% of the game! I even found myself coaching the other team at times. I don't know what else I could have done. It was farcical. When I look at Hamden's results against other teams, they've won a few and done fairly well, so I do not understand why they were so weak. If I had let my team play without restriction, I am convinced we would have won 20-0 or even more. Hamden would never have scored if we'd let them play in front of an empty net for a week! I don't know what their three comp. players would have added to this team. I am sure we would still have won convincingly.
In our last three games (all League), we had to hold back. We scored 23 goals and conceded 4 in those last three games - and it could have been a lot more goals scored and less conceded. In the last two games our best players barely got to play 50% of the time and most of the players claimed they did not enjoy playing the way we had to, to give the other teams a chance.
I agree with the principle behind the "five goal rule" and I do not know a better way to resolve these sorts of situations. While we try to protect weaker teams from being humiliated, it is also not fair on players who want to play and want to score goals the way that they have been coached all season. They want to have fun playing soccer. I tell my best players to try out for the comp. teams if they are good enough - and this they do! Whether they are accepted is another matter.
Even if they do make the comp. teams the players prefer to play for me on the rec. teams. I have had numerous complaints from players and parents that the comp. coaches are too strict and too negative so that the players do not have fun playing soccer on the comp. teams. It appears to be a vicious circle.