Monday, August 20, 2012

Matchday 22: Trip to Vaasa

Well, that didn’t go to plan.
Vaasa when I was there in February.

I played my second game (of my 2nd stint) with Haka yesterday against VPS and we lost, 2-1.  If you remember, I said here that I would start the match.  In fact, if you don’t remember then stop reading right now and go to a doctor because I’m pretty sure you have Alzheimer’s.  Anyway, things didn’t go exactly the way I expected and I was relegated to a place on the bench.  No one likes going to the bench, but I understood.  We have a lot of quality attacking players in the squad and we can’t all play at the same time.  If we did, we’d lose every game 5-4.  We’d probably win a lot of new fans, but not so many points.

The game itself was strange.  We gave up a goal within 45 seconds, and I still have no idea what happened.  I know that the goal itself was the result of our goalie having his pass blocked by the opposing striker, but I don’t know how that situation could possibly have occurred.  After that things didn’t get much better and we were on the back foot for at least the first 25 minutes.  VPS then scored a 2nd goal and things looked like they  could get ugly.  At that moment I was thinking about how impressive VPS looked.  During my time in Finland I’ve seen every team play in person and no 25 minute span was any better than their opening.  But then Sami, proving why he’s the coach, made a brilliant substitution that changed the game.  A substitution that I wouldn’t have thought to make in a million years.  We took off one of our wingers and put in a defensive midfielder, even though we were down two goals.  This seems like a defensive sub, but in reality it turned the whole game around.  Within five minutes we had created two clear chances and scored one of them.  VPS didn’t know what the hell was happening.  We went into halftime full of confidence.

Now before I go into the 2nd half, I want to mention again just how impressed I was with Sami’s tactical switch.  People who have followed this blog will know that I love tactical discussion.  I love analyzing a game based on how each team’s tactics affected each other.  That said, whenever I am on the bench I try to put myself in the coach’s head and think about what I would do to change the result on the pitch.  To be honest, I had come up with my own plan, which was to switch our customary 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 into a 4-4-2 to match VPS’s 4-4-2.  It would have defined everyone’s role much better and allowed us to turn the tide a bit.  Sami didn’t do this.  I don’t want to reveal what he actually did because I don’t want to give anything away to the opposition, but trust me it was brilliant.  I’m not just saying this because he’s my coach and I want brownie points or anything.  I’m saying it because it is the truth.  Once Sami made the change VPS had no response and the game became balanced and even saw us dominate portions.

The 2nd half was much better from us.  We passed better than we did against Honka in our last game and we created some good chances.  In the time I was in we hit the post, I had a chip go just over the bar (I should have done better) and I would have had a 1-on-1 with the keeper but I was taken out.  The foul was a textbook sending off, but the defender only got yellow.  I was upset that the referee didn’t follow the rulebook, but then again you don’t want to argue for a player to get a red.  It’s just tacky.  The ensuing free kick from 20 yards out went just a foot or so over the goal.  A few minutes late the game was over and we went home with nothing.

She's literally more likely to poop
on herself than say my name.
I don’t think many people consider what it’s like for a team that has just lost a game on the road.  Nobody is happy, and even if you had some reason to be you can’t show it.  For instance, if I had gotten on the bus and had an email that said that my niece spoke my name for the first time (she’s 11 months so that’s not really likely) I couldn’t just go around spreading the good news.  Instead, I have to sit in my seat on the bus in silence like everyone else.  In addition, there’s guys on every team who feel a need to show just how mad they are about a loss.  It’s not ok for you to know you’re upset; these people need everyone around them to know they’re upset.  There doesn’t exist a losing locker room where someone doesn’t kick over a trash can or throw a water bottle in disgust.  I suggested shortly after the game that we should go back out and do a cool-down.  I clearly didn’t judge the temperature of the room correctly, because it was clearly too soon for level-headed ideas on preparing ourselves for our next match.  Ten minutes later though the idea was brought up again and a dozen guys went out to cool down.  I guess that makes me a prophet.

Another staple of the return trip of a lost game is the showing of the match dvd on the bus televisions.  Of course no one wants to watch themselves lose and most people aren’t in the mood for critical analysis of their play anyway, but for those who are it can be constructive.  This particular video though was incredibly annoying as it would randomly jump back 15 seconds every few minutes.  As a result, it took over two hours for the game to play out.  After that, we sat in near-total silence until we arrived back in Valkeakoski.  Fans may take losses hard, but they’re at home watching their favorite tv comedy an hour later.  Our job almost requires us to obsess over our losses which can be quite stressful.  Being on a losing bus sucks.

On the flip side, being on a winning bus is the greatest thing ever.  The coach effectively becomes a party bus.  This is the bus I was on when I was playing in Harrisburg.  We had just beaten the Rochester Rhinos to earn a place in the final the next week:

 That’s why you gotta win.  I’ll be back after our next game on Wednesday.  Hopefully I’ll have a video as awesome as the one above!

The meme:

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