Well it’s been over a year but it finally happened: I scored an official goal!
|that's about right.|
|Well, that's a little passive-aggressive.|
Now to be fair to myself, I spent the entirety of my first year in Europe playing games where my team was being dominated for large stretches. I also didn’t feature as a striker at all last year, so there probably wasn’t an expectation that I’d score a ton of goals. Still, to go over a year without scoring is really bad for an attacking player, and I don’t intend to wait another year to get the next one (or two).
Adding even more satisfaction to my goal was that it turned out to be the game winner in a 1-0 triumph over JJK. The game wasn’t very good for us, but we held strong at the back and snuck a goal. I could even have had one or two more had the ball bounced my way. Maybe it was best I didn’t score again, as my celebration has been taking a pounding among my friends and family! But if they think for one second that I’m not going back to it when I score again they are sadly mistaken.
Our most recent game was against KuPS. We lost, 2-1 and played poorly throughout the match. There’s not really much to say about the game as it was so poor, but I do have some general talking points that aren’t necessarily specific only to the KuPS game, but to all difficult games. First, I heard all week leading up to the KuPS game about how proud everyone in Vaasa was of our team and how we’d have such great support at the game. It was true that we got a good attendance, but the mood of the fans struck me as a bit odd. From the first bad touch of the game there were moans and groans. Anytime something didn’t work out perfectly, there were people calling to the field. Not that there was much to cheer, we did play poorly, but fans are there to cheer their team. We probably deserved to be booed at the final whistle (we weren’t), but for a team that hadn’t lost on the year we had a surprisingly short leash with some fans. It felt almost as if the crowd expected things to go wrong.
I don’t think that fans of teams realize the effect they have on players, especially their own players. When I’m away, people are supposed to criticize my every mistake (and I make enough to become fan favorites at some opposition clubs J). But it’s true that the only place harder to play than in front of a hostile away crowd is a hostile home crowd. Our crowd is far from hostile obviously, but the anxiety was plain to see and I’m not sure why. We are a good team and we will win a lot of games this year. We are at the business end of the table. But that doesn’t mean that we won’t have bad days. We had great support throughout from GH98 supporters group at least. “The Geezers” are pretty incredible despite their relatively small numbers. I’ll take the 50 guys and gals from our Geezers over 500 of the fair weather fans other clubs seem to have. The Geezers even traveled to Jyvaskala (I can’t be bothered to find the proper spelling) to cheer us on last week. That’s commitment. I wouldn’t go to that town of my own free will for any reason.
A second point that stood out from the game was how inexperienced we are in coming from behind. Now, this is a good problem to have because it means we are normally winning, but I think it’s something we’ll be working on more once we have time to actually train and not just prepare and recover from games. When I came on around 60 minutes, I was put as the right winger. But after a few minutes I was switched to striker and I don’t think I touched the ball again. Normally when we attack we are trying to break down anywhere from 6-8 players. But against KuPS we were trying to get past all 10 + the goalkeeper and we just didn’t have any ideas. We have the players to break down any team; between the starting attacking players and the guys who have played those spots off the bench we have every attribute you’d want to score goals: speed, strength, size, technique, accuracy, cleverness, etc. We’re also getting an understanding with each other that will pay dividends as the season rolls along. We may not be the greatest at breaking down 10 guys, but hey, even Barcelona struggle to break down numbers sometimes. If we keep getting leads on teams we won’t have to worry about playing against 10 defenders anyway.
The third and final thought I’ll mention has to do with this game in particular. For the first time all season, we played on a pitch that was watered before kickoff and at halftime. While this is normally a good thing, I think it kind of made things more difficult for us. We’ve been training for three weeks on a bumpy grass pitch not dissimilar from the match pitch at the moment. As a result, we’ve gotten accustomed to playing on that kind of surface. With the field watered and a lot of the grass on the pitch still not deeply rooted, the field played very quickly and the ball skipped as if we were playing on turf. Ironically, KuPS play every game (and presumably train) on turf and had no problem with the surface. It was almost as if we sabotaged ourselves by making the field as nice as possible. This won’t be a problem going forward though, because the stadium and the training ground are both getting to be really good.
Our next game is tomorrow in Turku. I’m not sure how things will go, but to be honest I’ve seen a bit of Inter Turku and I’m not overly impressed. They have some really good individuals, but so does just about every team in the league. It’s never easy to go on the road and get a win, but we’ve already gone to Turku and won so why not do it again? Plus I owe Inter a bit of revenge for beating me at Haka last year with a last second goal. My season this year is sort of a mini Haka revenge tour, and Inter is the next target on my list!