Monday, May 28, 2012

BYU - Fresno Fuego 2015-05-26

BYU's Saturday night game against the Fresno Fuego was a chilly, wet affair played in front of a smaller crowd. I'd love to see Provo get behind our local PDL team, but I wonder what that's going to take.

BYU had a couple of changes to their normal line-up. Dallin Cutler was sitting out due to a silly red card at the end of Thursday's game and Jace Green was off after getting married — there are some things more important than soccer after all. David Gates was also held out at first because the coaches thought he needed some rest with this game coming on two days rest.

The Fuego were a tough match-up for BYU. They played an undefeated regular season last year and already had 11 points out of 6 games (3-1-2) with a +4 goal differential this year.

Here's my break down of the game in fifteen minute chunks:

Kick-15 — Fuego looked to be faster and tidier with the ball. Their coach was very vocal calling out guidance to his club. Brent Hale looked steady as he was called upon to clean up a couple of chances from Fresno.

16-30 — BYU's passing and distribution are a little off. The seem to win a fair share of challenges only to give them away. Both team traded chances in this block, but the Fuego's was much better, only being stopped by the cross bar.

31-45 — "We'll solve it, just be patient." was the call from the Fresno bench, and it seemed likely to be true, then BYU's Toni Nicolli nearly got onto the end of a long ball as they countered.

Halftime Thoughts — Garrett Losee is still being treated for a mouth injury of some type that occured in the closing minutes of the half. BYU has been playing with fire, too much of their possession has been in the defensive third, and too many of their passes forward have gone to the feet of Fuego players. BYU ended the half lagging Fresno's possession 43% - 57%. The BYU coaching staff pulled together after the halftime whistle to talk about ways they could open up the game.

46-60 — Fresno finally broke through the BYU defense in the opening moments of the half with a goal by Andrew Campbell. The poured on the pressure with several close calls in the following minutes. It really looked like the Fuego were going to blow the game open until David Gates and Sterling Hancock came in. Coach Watkins later said that they were the game changers for BYU.

61-75 — In the 62nd minute, Fresno's Andrew Campbell undercut BYU Goal Keeper Brian Hale as he went up for a ball and received a yellow card. Adding insult to inury, he also either fell hard or was landed on by Hale and had to be subbed off after receiving treatment both on and off the pitch.
In the 71st minute, sub David Gates broke free on a counter and leveled the score with a well taken goal on a 1v1 against the keeper..

76-90 — Following BYU's goal, they've looked confident and dangerous. Bryson Pope was able to really stretch the field, with several break aways, but just wasn't able to finish. Seven minutes of added time (two Fresno injuries and several subs) made for an exciting finish with both teams pushing hard and getting some good looks on goal — though neither side was able to wrap up the win.

Closing Thoughts & Coaches Comments — BYU played hard in the second half after a disappointing first half and deserved the tie.  While the crowd was thin, they certainly had an entertaining game to watch and should have gone home happy.

Fresno's Coach, Scott Alcom:
"They [BYU] have a real team this year. That was a good result by them. We've got some soul searching to do. We're rebuilding, we've got a lot of young kids, but I'm not happy with the result."

BYU's Coach, Chris Watkins:
"I was really pleased with the last 35 minutes, but disappointed that we gave them too much in the first 55."

"Our plan, Coach Sackett's plan came together. We wanted to hold out Gates until the second half, then put him in with Pope and make this a track meet. We thought if we could hold them in the second half we could win this thing."

"Sometimes it was like we thought we were Barcelona and we didn't need to work to get the win — but we're not. We're not skill guys, we're a blue collar team."

I think Brian Hale got wrong footed on the goal — he's such a great athelate, I can't believe that went in on him."

BYU's Coach Sackett:
"It's hard, it's frustrating to get the tie, but we did well. We did what we needed to do. Maybe a little more in the first half and we might have had the win."

Monday, May 21, 2012

BYU - RSL Friendly 5/19 2012

What a surprising result! But Coach Watkins put it into perspective after the game saying, "It's one of those things, you play a team that you should beat, and every once in a while they get lucky." That's not to say that BYU doesn't feel pretty good about (an admittedly lucky) point against RSL. I was also surprised to see James Rust and Brian Kamler, the ESPN 700 team, in the media area calling the game.

You can check out the highlights here. If you prefer video highlights, YouTube is your friend.

Instead of a full game summary, let me share some of the things that stood out to me. Before the game started, we saw La Barra ReAL march in with flags flying and drumming as they went. They kept up the songs most of the game. I hope it helped the BYU faithful see the kind of presence engaged (no, not that kind) fans can bring to a game. I was a bit bummed to see Javi and Chris Wingert in civvies, but it was worse to not see Nat at all. It was good to see a starting line-up that featured a nice mix of regular starters and guys getting some looks.

The first 15 minutes of the match really set the tone for the game. BYU seemed capable of defending the final third even if they gave up a lot of possession. The Cougars did launch a couple of counters, but RSL just soaked up the pressure and would eventually win the ball back. Several times RSL came close to getting a goal only to be denied by a superb play by a BYU defender, like a nice goal-line clearance by Will Burton of a shot by Will Johnson.

I was a little shocked at how much success BYU found down the right side of the field. It looked like they were able to turn Estridge more than a couple of times. On the other hand, Olave was normally there to clean things up as soon as the ball was crossed in. He really looked like a beast out there.

As the first half waned, Fabi played a nice assist to Will Johnson who netted the opening goal. It was something you just felt was coming with RSL's superiority. Poor shots and some nifty defending were all that had kept them off the score sheet for so long.

During the half-time break, I was entranced by Javi playing kick arond with his son. Pretty soon, Olave came out and joined the game. As the break neared the close, Sabo took a turn playing as well.

The second half was marked by a different RSL line-up, but also a good mix of players — including a trialist from New York, Adrian Cronis (not sure of the spelling on this, I got his name from Jeff Cassar as he was headed to the bus -- update, it's Andreas Chronis). I also liked seeing Sebastian Velasquez getting some time and showing pretty well. The game continued, looking much like the first half. RSL might have looked a bit more dangerous, but too many shots ended up either just wide or off the wood work.

La Barra Real seemed to lose a little steam with about 15 minutes left in the match. About the RSL also seemed to back off the pressure, as though they were content with a 1-0 lead. In the closing minutes, BYU made them pay for it with a well taken goal by David Gates, who pulled off his shirt in celebration and earned a yellow card.

As normal at these affairs, the best part came afterward, when the RSL players and coaches graciously hung around a tiny little pitch and signed autographs, posed for pictures, and talked with fans. PDL might not be the draw (or the soccer) that is MLS, but these friendlies and RSL's willingness to spend some time with the fans can only help increase the sport's visibility at all levels.