Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My First Match in Sweden

Thank God I am in Sweden.  Finland was okay, but Sweden is a country in which I feel at home.  For those who don’t know, Sweden is a bit more populated than Finland.  In addition, the teams in Sweden seem to be in larger cities/towns than in Finland.  For instance, Stockholm has roughly 10 teams in the metropolitan area in the 1st-3rd divisions.  Helsinki has three teams over the same range of leagues.  Even Enkoping has 40,000 people.  That’s double the number of people in Valkeakoski or Jakobstad and even more than double the number of people in Myllykoski, all cities of Veikkausliiga teams.  Of course being American I’m used to living in big cities.  The smallest place I’ve ever lived was Harrisburg, PA and that city had over 100,000 people.  So it’s nice to be in a place like Enkoping and also to be so close (50 miles) to Stockholm.

Yesterday me and my new team (Enkoping SK, or ESK) played Sala FF, a team in the sixth division of Swedish soccer (division 4).  Since ESK is third division and yesterday was a good training, I expected the game to pretty much be a walk in the park.  I started as the right winger in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and for the first 30 minutes everything was going exactly how I expected.  We were all over them and had scored two goals and it was only a matter of time before we got the third.  The first goal was created entirely by me.  I intercepted a loose pass at midfield and ran on the counter at the two center backs and left back.  Our striker ran into the space left by the other team’s right back who was behind the play and I played him a pass which he controlled and fired into the net with the next touch.  1-0 to the good guys.  The second goal came off a deflection, but it was well deserved.  However, after 30 minutes things changed.  We made 8 subs and the only players who stayed on the field were the goalkeeper, the striker and myself.  Within a minute of the subs, the other team’s striker got on a breakaway because of a terrible offside trap and our center back had no choice but to take the striker down.  He got a red card and Sala FF got a penalty kick, which they scored.  Ten minutes later they scored a header off of a set play.  We went into halftime 2-2.

In the second half I played 15 minutes as the striker.  It was pretty uneventful.  I barely saw the ball since the team refused to play through the middle at all.  I was frustrated, but the center midfielder playing underneath me was furious.  He was screaming at his teammates to give me and him the ball.  It was actually pretty funny.  I came off after 60 minutes and the rest of the game was pretty uneventful.  It ended 2-2.

Overall I was pretty happy with my play.  I was the best of the wingers in the game and I feel like I impressed.  The head coach didn’t say a word during the second half, but in the first half he seemed pleased.  The assistant did most of the talking and he was very happy with me.  He didn’t have a negative word to say to me, which was very different from what he had to say to most of the rest of the players.  I don’t speak Swedish, but his tone toward the other guys was clearly a negative one.

Tomorrow we play AIK, the 2nd place finishers in Allsvenskan last year.  I think that ESK is a good team, but we’ll see how we match up against a superior team.  I see this as an opportunity to impress and hopefully get some buzz around me.  If I play well tonight, there will be more than a few teams who will know my name going into this season (assuming I get a contract).  In a perfect world I would do well enough tomorrow night to get signed directly to AIK or another of the Allsvenskan or Superettan clubs in Stockholm who will surely have eyes on the match. Wish me luck!

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