Sunday, September 6, 2015

FC77 Old Nicks win Portland's O58 Championship

Championship matches have a special flavor. Regardless of the level of competition, the allure of being a champion trumps many other emotions. FC77 Old Nicks have toiled in workmanlike fashion through the O50s and the formative years of the O58.  A substantial number of our players have committed to weekly practices---basic skills, scrimmaging and building fitness and familiarity.  The work has paid off.   Increasingly,  our guys have been able to play to our strength as a team--not to feed the ball over and over to the strongest players but to mix that up with simple basic play.  Triangles.  Solid traps, Accurate passes. Movement away from the ball.  Each player being aware of what they might do to support the play.  And increasingly,  our results in matches have improved.   We haven't won dozens more games over the period of this transformation, but we have had games that were close in which our play measured more closely to 'the game' than it has in past years.

This Spring/Summer season, Old Nicks took to the field with our usual optimism but an additional feeling of gritty resolution.   We'd played the short winter season and felt we'd played well in most of our matches but had not been able to pull off a win. The only game where we were not close was the last one against Pierre's, a 904 loss.  We were frustrated.  We thought we should do better. 
FC77 Old Nicks- O58 League Champions  Spring 2015

The biggest challenge we faced, in my estimation was our own focus--our sense that we weren't just taking to the field to have a good time, but that we had a common purpose,  a desire to demonstrate that we had learned something of value in all our work in the winter gyms and that we could translate that into something stronger than just camaraderie---into performance. That feeling of intensity carried us into an opening run in March and April knocking out a tie and two wins, one of them against Royals-the strongest team in the pool.  At the end of the month, however, we unraveled against Master Booters giving up a 0-3 result. In May, despite the long stretches between games,  we beat our sister team, FC77 GE and routed Rodders who were shorthanded by four goals.    In June we eked out a second tie against Widmer and another against Royals.  The season finished with wins against Booters and FC77 GE.  The latter played courageously shorthanded rather than taking a forfeit and playing a friendly.   Some thought that GE should have had a tie on a shot that appeared to go into goal.  
The result placed us at the top of the table with Royals right behind.  A 'championship' game  was scheduled for July 11 at Gladstone and Nicks prevailed against Royals on a late goal.  Anatole Farci placed a lovely free kick into the scrum where Jeff Heilman flicked it home.  By all accounts it was a deserved result.  

All of this was accomplished in a season in which we had six goalkeepers in ten games.  Jim Chan, Tom Wolfe, Greg Anderson, Bruce Barclay, Randy Provine and Mike Calder all took turns in the hole.   I think it's a tribute to the reputation of Old Nicks that so many people were willing to step in to help.  And we got great service from each of them.  The championship season was built with the contributions of more than the ordinary group of players. 

Where does Old Nicks go from here?  We have our eyes on being ever better at playing successfully as a team.  And we keep working it.  And we will get better.   Regardless of the results on the table,  when we play together as we are capable of, we are champions.