Monday, July 9, 2012

Matchday 13: The Great Green North

It’s legitimately hot today.  At least in my room it is.  You see, there doesn’t seem to be air conditioning anywhere in this country.  Instead every place has really big windows.  You rarely see the double hung type windows that seems to be on every house in America.  Anyway it’s hot and I have no A/C, so I’ve been forced to open both my windows and my curtains.  This, for better or worse, has caused me to see some things that I’d rather not know were happening right outside my place.  One positive thing is that I saw the greatest thing anyone could possibly see in Enkoping: an old man walking a cat.  Maybe I’m in the minority, but I’ve never ever seen a person walk a cat.  What joy is there for either party?  The guy was forced to just drag the cat along, and the cat seemed like he had no interest in being outside.  Maybe because it’s actually hot outside.

We played our 13th game yesterday and tied, 1-1, to Lulea.  Lulea is 800km away from Enkoping and less than 100km from the artic circle.  Look it up on a map, it’s comically far north.  I have absolutely no idea how they can afford the travel to play in this league, but then again, it’s not much different from every single team in USL and NASL and they make it work.  I played perhaps my best match of the season and assisted on our goal.  I also drew three yellow cards (one of which was a stone-cold red, no question) and ran the left back into the ground.  He got a cramp in the 70th minute and had to leave the game.  I’ll get to my performance in a minute, but first my impressions of the team.

I thought that the game yesterday was ESK at near our best.  Before I go further, I need to mention that Siggi didn’t make the trip up north because of an illness he’s been fighting all week.  Also staying home with Siggi was our philosophy of near-constant pressuring.  The majority of that burden is carried by the front four players in our 4-2-3-1.  The result is that when we actually get the ball those players have no energy to run and create goal scoring chances.  In Lulea though, we played a much calmer style and were able to have much more possession than we typically enjoy.  Per Ake (our assistant, who was the head coach for the game) did very little yelling during the match and more or less allowed us to sort out our own problems in the match.  The result was that we figured them out and became stronger as the game went on, rather than just running more, working harder, defending harder.  We struggled for the first 30 minutes and they scored around the 30th minute, but after that it was more and more in our favor.  We still insist on playing too many long passes, but I’ve given up hope of that changing without a change in personnel and that seems unlikely. 
Area next to the stadium

I can’t be sure, but I think I felt the liberation of playing without the pressure from Siggi the most of anyone.  I was picked as the Man of the Match for my performance.  When I went to the bench a month or so ago, Siggi pretty much told me that it was because I didn’t do enough defensive work.  As a result, a lot of the running I’ve done in subsequent games has been “show running” where I run real fast and real aggressive to nowhere in particular.  It’s cynical, but my minutes went up every game I did it.  In Lulea, I did the defensive work that the game dictated and no more, giving me the energy to make the hard runs that drew all those yellow cards.  In addition to assisting our goal, I could very well have scored on two other occasions.  The first was from a penalty kick that we earned with 15 minutes remaining.  As soon as it happened, I went and got the ball and walked to the spot with every intention to take the shot.  I would never have taken a penalty in a tie game were Siggi there, since I know that in the event that I missed, he would never forgive me.  In the Great Green North though, I had no problem stepping up.  Why not?  I was full of confidence.  Another player took the penalty and had it saved.  That’s fine, no worries there, but I would have shot to the other side because I prefer to take penalties to that side so I think I would have scored.  The second opportunity, and the one that made me a bit upset, was deep into stoppage time.  A long cross or shot was caught by our ‘keeper who played a brilliant quick punt to our striker.  Lulea was pressing to score and had left only two players back.  I took off sprinting down the field and caught up to make it a 3-on-2 counterattack.  The defenders committed to the other two player so all I needed was an easy pass to be one-on-one with the goalie.  Instead, the striker shot from about 25 yards and was saved.  It was the last play of the game.  I had just sprinted 80 yards in the 93rd minute and gotten myself wide open only to never get the pass.  I was upset.

Today is my day off and the most interesting thing I’ve seen is the guy walking his cat.  I’ve also started to pack because it seems that I will need to be ready to go on short notice anytime after our game this Saturday.  If it’s not for a trial, then it will be to visit Celia in London.  I can say for sure that I won’t spend my 10 days off in Enkoping though.  No word on a contract extension so I have to look for another place to play.  I will be talking with my agents in Sweden and Finland a lot more in the next few days and weeks to figure something out.  As soon as I know something I’ll be sure to put it here so you know too!

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