Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Matchday 7-9: So many games

It’s been quite a long time since I posted here, and boy has a lot happened.  Now if you’ve been wondering why I’ve written so little this month there is a simple answer: life just hasn’t been that interesting.  We’ve had games twice a week for the last month and we’re continuing on the same pattern.  That pretty much means that I have no life.  I can’t go out to bars or even the beach because I have to constantly recover from the previous game and prepare for the next one.  I could write about what’s been going on in the games, but honestly I think people have their own opinions and don’t much care about how I feel.  Besides, when you’re in the game it’s a bit difficult to be objective about the performance.  I’ve talked a lot about our games in my recent posts and will do some more again today, but in the future I’ll go away from that.  Anyway that’s the recap as to why I’ve been away.  I’ll try and post more frequently in the future!
Sonera Stadium


I think the last time I posted was after our loss to KuPS a few weeks back.  Since then we’ve played a Finnish Cup game against JJK (loss), away to Inter (draw), away to HJK (win) and away to MYPA (loss).  Now I know people are most interested in hearing about the HJK game, so I’ll spend the most time on that, but first I’ll go over the other three games briefly.  I’ll be mostly referring to my individual performances because it’s my blog and I feel like talking about myself.


The Finnish Cup quarterfinal against JJK was an absolute disaster.  I thought that we were totally dominated for most of the game and my performance was the worst of the season thus far.  I can’t explain why, but I just couldn’t get a foothold in the game at all.  My passes weren’t crisp, I gave a lot of balls away and generally just didn’t help VPS to win in any way.  I worked reasonably hard and had a handful of good moments, but that’s not good enough in a cup match with everything on the line.


Later that week we traveled to Turku to play Inter.  In contrast to JJK, I thought this was my best performance of the season.  Not to toot my own horn (which means I’m going to toot my own horn), but I felt like I was the most dynamic player on the field.  I say dynamic and not best player because even on my best day I’m never the most skillful player on the game.  My influence comes from being active and dangerous, which I was against Inter.  If you watch the highlight video you will see that 4-5 straight clips are my contributions.  In other words, for about a 30 minute span in the second half I did everything exciting.  It didn’t lead to anything so that’s a concern, but I was quite pleased with that game.


The biggest game so far in our season though was clearly our win in Helsinki against HJK.  They are the perennial power in the league and have an outstanding home record, even though they lost their previous home match to TPS.  We came in as big underdogs, but I wasn’t sure why.  We clearly have a good team capable of winning any game in this league and we have the league’s best backline and goalkeeper.  Add Anthony in with that group and I think our defensive-thinking players stack up with any group in the league.  When you have that sort of defense you are capable of having great success no matter what league you play in.  We started the game poorly though, and after nine minutes we were losing 1-0.  Things only got worse from there and we were lucky to get through the first 25 minutes without giving up more goals.  From about 30 minutes on though, the game was very competitive.  We made a few half chances for ourselves in the last ten minutes of the half and went into halftime with a bit of confidence despite being down a goal.

Jyrki before the HJK game.

The second half was much better for us, with our ball possession getting better and the game being played more and more in HJK’s defensive half.  I was told at halftime that I’d be coming on early in the second half for Tomi Ameobi and I was to play as the striker.  I thought that this was a great idea since HJK had substituted one of their stoppers and put in a guy who looked like he was 45-years-old.  There was no chance in hell that guy could do anything to stop me running for breakaway after breakaway.  However, Tomi’s play at the end of the first half and first few minutes of the second half earned himself more time and I came on instead for Jesper as the left winger.  The move turned out to be correct, as while we were changing the sub card Tomi scored the equalizing goal.  I like to think that, much like Lionel Messi, the mere suggestion of my substitution motivated the team to play better, but I don’t think I can take any credit for the first goal.  It was a good move to get the ball wide and crossed in, and then good composure by Tomi to settle himself and hit a good shot.  We were lucky to get a deflection for the goal, but who’s to say that Tomi’s initial shot wouldn’t have gone in anyway?


After our equalizer I was really proud of how we played.  Instead of going into a shell and just hoping to get a draw, we played even more aggressively and put pressure on the HJK players.  Ironically, the same external pressure that I complained about in my last post came on the HJK players in that game.  The crowd, instead of spurring their players on, starting to boo and hiss at them anytime something went wrong.  You could just look at some of the players and know that they were more worried about making a mistake than actually making a big play.  We VPS players on the other hand fed off that energy and forced HJK into mistake after mistake.  Finally, in a play that really sums up how good our team can possibly be, we scored a goal.  The play started with me, Antti and Anthony on the left side of the pitch.  HJK had the ball and was trying to go down their right side.  Antti stepped up to pressure the ball and I did the hard running to cover him in case he didn’t get the ball.  Then Anthony ran over and made a great tackle to win the ball and start us going up field.  Antti picked up the ball and ran 60 yards with it, drawing three HJK defenders.  Instead of working together and doing a bit extra work, all three of the HJK guys just kind of jogged alongside Antti assuming that one of their teammates would make a play.  Instead, Antii found a gap and slipped the ball to Jarno, who unselfishly played the ball over to Sebastian (who had sprinted 70 yards to get there, by the way) and “Seba-star” scored his first goal of the season.  It was a great counterattacking move that was worthy of winning a game like that.  When the final whistle came, I learned that this was VPS’s first victory away to HJK in 51 years.  I was surprised by that, but then again Sonera Stadium is not an easy place to win games.
Going for a run the day after HJK.


Heading to MYPA.

Three days later, we played MYPA and got killed 3-0.  There’s a lot of things you can say about that game, but I’ll only mention a couple.  First, MYPA is a really good team, much better than I thought they were.  They were fresh after a 9 day break between matches and we were playing our 4th game in like 11 days or something.  Second, I think that the HJK win meant so much to some of the players and staff that we could never get ourselves mentally ready for the challenge that MYPA posed just a few days later.  While beating HJK wasn’t a big deal to me (I’ve played them twice now without losing), it was a very big deal to a lot of guys in this club.  It was the kind of win that you need to have a week to refocus, but we only had three days.  Hence we didn’t even start playing against MYPA until the second half.  By then, it was 2-0 and there wasn’t much that we could do.

The brofriends on the bus.  There were plenty of open seats but they sat together.

Tomorrow we play our hated rivals Jaro.  I don’t really have any ill will toward them, but if VPS hates them then I guess I gotta hate them, at least tomorrow.  I’ll be interested to see how physical or nasty this game gets.  Maybe a physical game will suit me since I seem to be the dirtiest player in the league at the moment.  I get called for two or three fouls every single game despite not playing any differently than I did when I was in America.  I think I was called for maybe 10 fouls in the entire three years I played in the US.  Meanwhile apparently nothing that happens to me is a foul anymore.  Against MYPA I got crushed three times and only once was anything called.  One of the three times I got elbowed in the eye and the foul was called on me.  Maybe tomorrow’s game will be one of the few that my normal playing style isn’t considered rough.  I hope so.


The meme and GIF:

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