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).
And with that, the panic subsided, and things started to return to something approaching normalcy. A 2-0 win over traveling rivals is never a bad win, and when a side looks as assured as we did, and takes their chances like we did — well, it's hard to complain.
From the word go, things looked different. Rather than simply allowing Colorado possession, we pressed — and we pressed to great success. That sounds like a fun little near-rhyme, actually. That our two goals came from errors committed by Colorado should not be a point of dismay.
First, we scored. That's the important part. If you don't finish your chances, however they may come, you're in trouble. We finished our chances, even if we had a few more we could have put away. That's fine — we succeeded at our most important goal: Winning. Oh, and retaining the Rocky Mountain Cup. That's always nice.
Second? This is the best part, by the way, so listen closely. Or don't, because I might not say anything new or substantial. Anyhow: Mistakes don't just come out of nowhere, by and large. A side doesn't magically just crash everything into each other, creating weird collisions and errors that allow scoring chances. Our pressing game was at its rip-roaring best, with everyone allowing as little time on the ball for Colorado as possible.
It starts at the front — Saborio and Espindola were superb, with the latter pushing closer to players and the former standing off slightly and cutting out the passing lanes. It moves to the middle — Javi was always hassling and harrying, which, for a player of his creative abilities and importance to the side, is notable; Ned, Will and Yordany were excellent in this regard as well, with Will standing out and getting an excellent chance because of it.
How great was that goal from Will, by the way? Saborio's pressure created an opportunity for Will to burst forward, and though he's not always the best player in the attacking third, he slotted home as cool as you like. Let's start from the beginning: Pickens plays the ball out, and Will pressures the left back; the left back, under pressure, is forced to pass to his closest center back, and Sabo is quickly on the case. The Costa Rican pokes the ball away, leaving Will Johnson in an excellent position to pick it up and move toward goal. From a difficult angle, our Canadian superstar (or, you know, something like that) takes his time and puts it past Pickens, to the far post.
Pickens, bless his soul, can be disappointed about the way it all went down: His pass out wasn't terrible, but pressure won out in the end. It usually does. That it all came to fruition in the 90th minute (or was it the 91st?) made it all the more spectacular. There are few more exciting ways to seal a match.
But the first goal wasn't so bad, either — was it? It was a bad back pass that created it, and do you know how that back pass came into play? Pressure. Pressure on the right back forced a tetchy pass to his closest center back, and pressure on the center back forced a back pass. It was, however, far too slow, and Pickens was left in the dust, being forced to clobber Espindola (perhaps fairly — replay doesn't reveal too much there, and there's not much to be upset about). Espindola, however, forced a bounce. Saborio, waiting just a moment to see if it would naturally go in — a kind gesture if I've seen one, and given the circumstances, not a bad one (although scary in a big way) — just tapped it in. (Here, I will refrain from making a reference to that Adam Sandler film.) The celebrations, too, were classy and subdued, with Saborio directing attention at Espindola, who really did the lion's share of the work.
It's funny what effective pressure on and off the ball does for a side. There's a reason San Jose has been so successful, and it's not just that players like Wondolowski finish their chances. It's that they press constantly. We're an athletic, tactical side, and the more we can perform as we did last night, the better off we'll be.
Well, 'til tomorrow, then. Go watch the highlights if you've not done it already. It's worth replaying it all and seeing how well we really did.