What did our beloved Claret and Cobalt do the evening of March, 10th? They did what they trained for. They did what they most wanted. They did what they are capable of. They “came to score” (The Aggrolites).
It was only a friendly, I keep telling myself. It was only a friendly. 89 minutes in, it was still only a friendly. 90 minutes gone, it was still only a friendly. But that last-gasp goal from BYU — 89 gone, stoppage to play — hurt. It stung. It felt like it does in the league when it happens — not at all like when we're on the other side of things.
It's really all too easy to overreact to things that happen in such a manner, isn't it? The dramatics get at you, chew you up, spit you out — and whether it was a friendly or not, the drama was out in full force. The manner of the 1-1 draw was what stung the most, so let's go over that a bit.
Throughout the match, we dominated, by and large. We had chance after chance after chance, and the one that went in seemed the least likely of them all: The ball rebounded out to the edge of the box, and Will Johnson absolutely smashed it home on a half-volley. It was perfect. Just perfect. Oh, and it was in stoppage time of the first half — last-gasp a bit, yes?
But as much as we had chance after chance, we submitted Kyle Reynish in goal to a plethora of attacks. Sure, our defensive line wasn't perfect — especially in the second half — but tactically, something seemed amiss. It's always going to be difficult to motivate your best players for a friendly designed to help them stay fit — though Will Johnson seemed plenty motivated throughout, which was perhaps no surprise.
A second-half defensive lineup of Terukazu Tanaka (who I thought was excellent throughout, making great last-ditch efforts at the back and zooming forward with impunity) at right back, Chris Estridge and Leone Cruz in the center, and 23-year-old Greek-American trialist Andreas Chronis at left back was never likely to maintain a clean sheet, but it certainly stung.
So how'd some of the lads do?
Chris Estridge, when playing on the left side of defense, looked reasonably solid. It was such that I'm convinced that if we need to call on him, he won't collapse — at the very least. He's stronger than he seems for a player his size, and he seems to have a good sense of positioning.
Leone Cruz was a bit shaky at the back but seemed to know what he was doing. This is the sort of match that he'll learn from, though — nobody likes to give up a last-minute goal, friendly or not.
Terukazu Tanaka was excellent, getting forward at the right times, staying back at the right times, and dominating the right flank. His effort and work rate seemed that of a player who is doing his best to break into the first team. I can't say I'd be upset if he did.
Andreas Chronis, fresh on the mind, didn't seem, well, ready. Or particularly worth more than a cursory look. His positional sense was poor, and while he displayed some very neat touches and got forward well, it was hard to see him making it at this level. But you know, it's good to see players being looked at all the time. If our scouting team is well-educated and attentive, they've got a considerably better chance of finding spectacular unknowns.
Cody Arnoux, for what it's worth, looked excellent. I have sometimes wondered how good he must be to have been retained through injury for such a long time, but we saw glimpses of that yesterday. He seemed a good all-around striker with some real strength. If I'm to be honest, he'd make an excellent partner for Saborio, who wasn't responsible for all of the hold-up play with Arnoux in.
On the rest of the attacking front, we were inventive, creative and full of guile, but our finishing let us down. Ned Grabavoy hit the post, Emiliano Bonfigli hit the crossbar, some others hit the post, Alvaro Saborio fired at least three shots _just_ wide of goal — so it's not as if we weren't out there trying. But as strange as it seems, it just wasn't quite clicking in a friendly. Yeah, yeah. Big surprise.
That said, I'm sure it will have served its purpose well, that friendly. We filled a gap in our schedule with some action, we got some minutes for some of the types less likely to see minutes on the pitch.
Right, 'til tomorrow, then.