yesterday, got my first goal in a real match.
its been a long time coming. started about a year ago, on and off with a social team. they don`t play in a league, but they do matches twice a month against other local teams. i don`t really have much to compare it to, having not played at home. but they seem pretty good. we keep the ball. short, simple passes. lots of small, fit, quick players who don`t stop moving. and everyone seems to have a good touch and good technique. a backline that stays pretty high, with the ball and without it. and its social. there is room for everyone. your`e not that good? come have a run anyway. a couple of the guys ain`t great, but they play within their skills and contribute to the team despite that. and we need everyone. we play 3 or 4 sets of 40 minute games, so the subs are needed. a couple of the guys bring their sons. one is 13 and another 15 i think. they get a run.
the facilities we use are excellent, an indoor half field with artificial grass, and a full field with artificial grass. yesterday it rained all night, and was raining when we played, but it all just drains away. played rugby on grass, and yes, a beautiful grass pitch is better. but you don`t need to water the plastic, and you don`t need the groundsman to do so much upkeep, and you don`t damage it playing in the wet. last year we used a dirt field (no grass, just a patch of dirt), which was actually pretty nice, but any rain and you can`t play.
i started playing left midfield, more because there is less defensive responsibility than anything i think. then once they were comfortable i went to right back, where i could help out with covering. and depending on who the centre backs were each week, i would play right back or right mid. the less vocal centrebacks liked to use the regular right winger at right back, cos he`s more experienced and they don`t have to talk to him so much. this guy rocks. he`s my senpai (like senior/big brother? kinda). back when i started playing i spent a lot of time on the bench, and he would go up to the coach and say like “hey, is clayton playing the next half, he`s starting, isn`t he?”. and he explained a lot of things about the game to me, both on the field and off it.
ok, this week. i started at left back. we took on a very smooth, very slick team on a wet pitch. we usually don`t get outpassed/outskilled. but they made us look pretty bad in the first 20 minutes. we couldn`t keep the ball, usually on the backfoot. and they made 2 really easy goals. 1st one was my fault (yay!) i shoulda been helping my closest centreback with his striker, but i was in line with their winger (who was gonna overlap, but was pretty deep at the time). it wasn`t all bad though. i helped cover a couple of their counters. brought the ball into attack a couple of times. i started our best attack of the first 20 minutes (i thought). came in from the left with the ball, passed it to the attacking mid, and he set up one of the strikers for a decent shot. it felt cool cos i kinda put the ball in the best spot for the attacking mid, he could turn and take the ball at speed, and then he did the same thing for the striker. i think it was our best movement; at the break, the coach said “what`s going on? simple passes. make simple passes. this is too fancy. ok, that movement from clayton to (i forgot his name) to ken was good, but don`t be fancy all the time.”
aaargh! i have this fixation with playing on the left. i want to be 2 footed. in basketball i can dribble with either, so i want to have the same skills in soccer. but as a leftback, i continually cut in. i never once attacked the line. part of it is my rightfootedness, but also there was a huge space to the right. it was a vacuum just waiting to be filled. in training, i can attack the sideline, playing left of right wide. but in a game, its “go right”. still trying to get my hardwiring sorted i guess.
i was benched for the next 20min (only a couple of people don`t rest). i came on for the next though, and, to my surprise, i was up top. i think the captain decided to give me a crack there because i was bringing the ball up well from left back, and most of my passes were useful. i think my work up top was more useful than everyone was expecting. i backheeled the ball into the net in a goal mouth scramble (but the ball had just crossed the byline before the guy cut it in … grrrr, a backheel as a first goal would have been pretty cool). umm, i hassled the other team into an own goal. i got past my marker, but he eventually caught me and got the ball. but i stayed on my feet and hassled him. then he made a poor pass to another defender, and i was getting close and that guy backpassed to where he thought his goalkeeper was. and it slowly rolled into the net. it was a bit embarressing really. golden retriever play. but i guess a goal is a goal. then we got into the match. now, my goal. a cross at speed from the right back (my senpai) and i just had to jump forward and stick my leg out. the keeper is coming, but he is too slow. the ball boings off my leg. goal. everyone was happy for me, to get my first. what else was useful … hmmm, post passes to my midfielders, that seemed pretty effective. they lost their markers pretty much everytime using that one. eventually i started asking for the ball behind the defenders. that was dangerous. and just taking up space in the middle when we were attacking. my size gives the defenders another thing to think about (dunno how to use it yet, but they don`t know that), and gives my teammates a target. ummm, the misses. sidefooted a shot into a defenders leg. another time i passed when i should have shot. and the pass got intercepted. and a couple of times i was a couple of feet from where the ball bobbled to.
some of the forward work reminded me of netball. and that is not an insult. you drift towards your marker, get moving, tell your midfield where you want the ball. then attack that space. and the post play also felt similar.
i am really happy that i have found such a great environment (good style of play, friendly people) to learn how to play the world game. some time next year, me and my girlfriend will leave the countryside and move closer to tokyo or osaka. i will miss some things about the countryside, but i am looking forward to week in, week out soccer.