Monday, September 14, 2015

Old Nicks v Pierres 9-12-15

On Saturday, September 12,  Old Nicks opened our fall season with a match against Pierre's, the perennial champions of the division we share in Portland's men's league, the GPSD.  This was a particularly notable moment because Old Nicks had won the O58 Summer League and championship game.  Pierre's never plays in Summer Leagues and so we'd won without having to face them. 

Pierre's is a classic select team carefully assembled over the years by Tony Ryan, a canny footballer with an eye to enjoying the game as a winner even when he's had to watch from the sidelines.   In our age group,  Pierre's has always been a strong team because the players have long played soccer,  have trained together for years, have been coached to a unified style of play, and in most instances are natural athletes.  Despite the fact that we've been beaten by them over and over through the years,  we have admired them for their style and commitment. 

Over the years since the Millennium  we have only had a single match in which we were able to eke out the win.  At the January King Cup Tournament in Las Vegas (held the weekend of Martin Luther King Day) 2002, our motley crew in its second tournament appearance faced off against Pierre's in a night game and beat them on a high lob from Jim Brinkman.  The win has been part of our team mythos for a dozen years since.  We did beat Pierre's that one time, but in league play, they've been unstoppable.   

Our strategy, strongly urged by Jack Stigler who has played with both teams, has been to initiate a regular team practice,  to drill on basics,  and to work on getting so familiar with each others' play that we are comfortable on the field.  "If I pass to this guy, he'll do this."   We were feeling confident from our steadily increasing team play in the summer result but were also keenly aware we'd won it without having to face Pierre's.

At noon on the newly created turf field at Delta 5 the players drifted in, preparing for the match.  Though it was an autumn day,  the temperature was warm and the sun was bright.  No Oregon overcast.   Old Nicks faced a dilemma.  We had enough players to take the field, but our goalkeeper wasn't available.  In Summer season we'd won using six different goalkeepers.   In addition,  we had half a dozen players out injured or on various forms of family trips. The biggest challenge of the oldest division may be that the players are all at an age when they want to do what they want to do--and on a given weekend that may not be soccer.

The other and beneficent side of the coin is that all the older players know each other and are willing to step in and fill a void for guys they like on a weekend where they are not opponents.   So it was that the Nicks' were augmented by Tom Wolfe in goal, Roddy Coles in defense and Greg Anderson as a rover.  All three had played for their own team, Masterbooters, just prior to our match and had agreed to hang over with us.

The match began as they so often have with Pierres kicking off and trying to organize an attack.  Only minutes into the game,  it was clear that something different was happening. Old Nicks players were pressuring the Pierres attack and disrupting it.  Old Nicks forced Pierres to cough up the ball and then began their own attack.  Repeatedly,  the Nicks' pressure forced turnovers and as the moments clicked by, Old Nicks began to counter, distributing the ball across the pitch. 

Rocky and Jeff supported by good midfield play, made a concerted give-go-gone passing sequence which led to Rock putting the ball in the net.Not many minutes later,  another rush at Pierre's goal produced a second goal.  Nicks' players had to ratchet down their exuberance knowing that Pierre's was capable of storming back.   

Then Nicks, pressing hard, won a corner kick.   Glenn took the cross which sailed in high, was cleared but straight to Kim Bergenser who sent a rocket into the net.   The halftime score ended 0-3.   

We did not know what to do with such a situation.  Not only had we never scored three goals against Pierre's, we couldn't recall who else could have.  But we knew that this was a most dangerous situation.  They had 45 minutes to correct all their mistakes and win the match. 

As it happened, they almost achieved that goal.  They muscled their way to a first goal, Reggie using sheer physicality to get through and take the shot.  Shortly after,  they earned a PK which was finished precisely against our gimpy keeper. And then, late in the second half,  a blooper of a shot from the outer left side of the box into the top right corner put the game outcome in question.  

Not because Nicks had been taken out of the game by any means.  We'd had attacking runs into their end and had not been able to convert.  Balls had hit the crossbar and the post more than once.  The decisive moment came when Jeff Heilman was able to beat their defender and paste the ball into the net in a perfectly timed run.  The tally was 4-3 Nicks.

That was the final result.  We'd broken a long string of losses.  We'd played together as a team and had shown that we could play the beautiful game when we were at our best. Most importantly,  Tony and a substantial cadre of Pierre's joined us for beer after,  and acknowledged our win as well as asserting their intention that we not make a habit of it.


No comments:

Post a Comment