Not All Results Are Equal, and Not All Referee Decisions are Wrong…
So, I’m going to try something new and write my thoughts on the match as they happen in real time. I normally take notes, but I normally don’t post them so this is something a little bit different. Let me know what you think.
Starting Line Ups
As a fan, it’s really nice to see how FC Tulsa does their graphics. No guessing what formation or what to expect… Just saying…
Second week in a row we have gone with this formation and system. It’s a bit confusing considering we were playing on a baseball field that it much narrower, but overall was a successful formation for the club. The biggest change was the change from having Macky Diop being the solo striker to having Prosper Kasim and Marlon becoming a striking partnership. Which, spoilers, I LOVED.
Well. The first 10′, the Legion have been on the backfoot. Tulsa with fluid attacks, carving apart our defense and midfield. Jonny came close to a pretty own goal, BARELY pushing the ball wide of the post.
The goal came on a initial free kick that resulted from an Alex Crognale yellow (that was a foul, not a card). The free kick lead to a corner that was cleared straight to an on running midfielder who put in a PERFECT cross. Keeper Matt VanOekel had no chance.
Early on, Marlon and Enzo have been the offensive engines that can, but just haven’t gotten the right shot yet. Both of their dribbling has been wonderful for holding possession but the rest of the midfield has been arriving much later than it seems like they should be. Is it system or is it a slower team? I’m not sure yet.
Toward the end of the first 30′, the 3 Sparks began to open up play and look like the team we expected. The offense moving as a unit and defense dealing with issues early, allowing the midfield to move higher up the pitch. For Legion to be successful, I personally believe that a high offensive line is necessary.
We started the next 30′ with more fouls. This is a good time to remember that the PRO Refs have given out 12 red cards in 16 matches. But Legion have had a flurry of chances with Save of the Week/Month candidate by Sean Lewis and Prosper quite literally missing a wide open goal with a whiff that I could do. Granted, he is still much better than me…
Around the 36′, Freddy Kleemann goes down with a leg injury which is absolutely not what we want to see. The young center back has been an absolute fortress in the backline. It will be interesting to see how the 3 Sparks carry on without him. Possibly moving back to the 4-2-3-1 that Tommy Soehn is very comfortable with. Thomas Vancaeyezeele coming in for the center back, a center back by trade but has been used as holding midfielder so far in his Legion tenure.
In the 40′, PROSER KASIM EQUALIZES. The Man With a Magical Left gets the Legion Right with a goal rocketed into the top corner of the goal. It was a long time coming with how the Legion attack had been ramping up.
In the 45+3′, MVO is given a yellow in the box. Very much deserved. On the issuing penalty, VanOekel guesses the right way but that is an absolutely unsavable kick. What VanOekel was thinking? I have no idea. Mistakes happen, but that was just bizarre… Hard to say that the 2-1 deficit is undeserved.
The second half begins with what looks like a change putting Enzo has the target man up top, but the Legion still look to work with the 3 center back system. 3 Sparks had the option to use Vancaeyezeele has a holding midfielder but this was a true 1-for-1 sub.
Throughout all the match, the Legion have seen some unusually poor crosses. The pitch is several feet shorter in width than the Legion wingers are used to, meaning natural instincts can’t really be trusted as much as normal. This is something that should only be issues on baseball pitches.
I will say, I am super happy to see Anderson put more shots on target. They’ll go in eventually, but even if they don’t go on target, they need to respect the show.
To start the final third of play, Bruno comes in for Anderson. While it is obvious that Legion is looking for more centralized offensive play, I’m not positive if taking off Anderson was the correct move, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Since the beginning of the second half, Legion have looked the much stronger team, but Sean Lewis has just been barely one better. Including a BEAUTIFUL ball from Mikey to Bruno that was a wonderful near post save by Sean.
Almost every single attacking play by the 3 Sparks from 46′-60′ has been a real scoring opportunity. We are truly starting to see just how dominant this Legion midfield can be. I would be shocked if a Legion goal does not come of this. In the 68′, Enzo and Lapa link up for a goal scoring opportunity but Lapa bounces the shot, leading to what was a relatively easy save, but those offensive channels are wide open.
In the 74′, the Legion attack and especially Prosper just tattooed the right goal post. It was an absolutely stunning strike denied by the woodwork. Immediately following, Macky came in for Marlon and Eli in for Mikey.
Tactics Change: 75′
Around the 75′, Coach Soehn made the decision to move to what looked like an extension of the 4-2-3-1, which was more a 4-1-1-3-1. This was to allow Macky to be the target man and let us put in ariel crosses to try and beat the low block that Tulsa was utilizing.
And in the 78′, Alex Crognale gets his second yellow, sending the Legion down to 10 men. Let’s make that 14 red cards in 18 matches at the time of writing this. I will refrain from giving an opinion here.
As time has gone on, there is A LOT to be frustrated about. Admittedly, we can call referee bull all we want, but we were losing before we went down to ten men.
Finally, an empty net goal to seal it. 3-1 win for FC Tulsa. This is a situation where not all results are equal. Last week’s draw 100% felt like a win. This week’s loss does not feel like a loss. We saw a TON of growth from the team and a tactic that seemed to work for both Tampa and Tulsa.
Matt Van Oekel
It’s hard to put the entire blame on this match on MVO. He was put in tough positions by his defense several times, including the first goal. That said, the penalty was just unacceptable. It’s one thing to get physical and shoulder somebody off the ball. It’s another thing to extend the arm. Just like pass interference in American Football. They usually will not call anything until they see an arm extend. Same with that foul. Just silly.
Until the injury, Freddy is honestly looking like a revelation for this backline. Athletic, good ball carrying ability, and puts in a good, clean tackle. He is the perfect libero for this system, and we were obviously hurting when we lost that role. Hopefully all is well with the injury and it was entirely precautionary.
It was a fairly quiet match for Captain Phantastic, but we certainly felt his ariel presence. Other that the one ball into the box that lead to the opening FC Tulsa goal, Phanuel was almost solely the reason the Legion 18 yard box was a No Fly Zone.
Call it a boneheaded mistake. Call it bad reffing. Call it anything. Alex could not afford to put himself in that position to get sent off. After getting a very early card, which was fairly soft, you cannot get caught up in what looked to be another challenge from behind. Granted, I wouldn’t know. We never saw replays. The center referee showed that he was going to call a VERY tight match and Alex continued to toe that line after his early booking. Again, Alex isn’t the reason we lost, but that is a mistake that cannot happen again.
To be honest, after I learned to properly spell his name, it’s so much fun to write his name. After tonight’s match, I could write a love story about how to come in for an injured player. Vancaeyzeele could not quite play the libero role that Kleemann could, but that does not mean he was ineffective. Quite the opposite. Thomas was our best defender for much of the match. While Kavita shut down the ariel attacks, Vancaeyzeele didn’t get many ground chances get by him. Eventually we saw FC Tulsa completely avoiding him. No matter what, I will assume we will be seeing Thomas start next week.
I really, REALLY, REALLY like Mikey the Left Back. He was defensively solid. In a 3/5 man back line, he could push higher up the pitch, allowing him to put in some BEAUTIFUL balls in for this Legion attack. He has the perfect build and style of play for this Legion 3/5 man backline. Very excited to see how he is utilized moving forward.
I don’t really know how to say this, but we are starting to see the issues with letting Jonny have free roam in the offensive side of the ball. There have been several times this season, and a couple of times against Tulsa where Jonny was out of position in transition and it nearly lead to a goal. The reason Jonny was able to put in a sliding tackle early in the match to just push the ball wide of the goal is because he was initially out of position. It’s something that needs to be fixed. Fast.
Anderson Asiedu had a very underrated match last night. While his tackling and ground play left something to be desired, his passing was quite literally perfect. Every ball he played would land at the feet of his teammate. He even got a couple of shots off, which I’ve been screaming for lately. Teams have been learning that Asiedu isn’t going to shoot the ball. Taking a couple of shots will at least force teams to respect the threat of either a pass or a shot.
If it wasn’t for one Prosper Kasim, Herivaux should be the Man of the Match for the Legion. He played some of the best defense you’ll see all weekend. He played great passes. His hold up play was sublime. He stole possessions right from underneath FC Tulsa’s nose. Herivaux might not get all the love he deserves, but know that he absolutely deserves the love he’s getting right now.
It’s hard to explain what Enzo did through stats. He has one of the highest work rates I’ve ever seen. He never quit. We saw perfect ball after perfect ball. On the ground or in the air, every single pass he made was perfection. He also found himself at the end of some passes that could have been goals but he was either dispossessed or it was his right at the keeper. Overall, it was a good match but the finishing left a lot to be desired.
Per usual, Bruno’s on and off the ball movement was near perfection. His ability to find extra space in areas I didn’t know existed was amazing. He was also a threat with scoring, but his finishing was very lackluster. He had his shots, but they were either skied or right at Sean Lewis, the Tulsa keeper.
This was a VERY frustrating match to watch from Eli. His passing was not bad. His vision wasn’t bad. What was so frustrating is that he almost always picked the second best option. There were moments when the 3 Sparks had the Tulsa defense on their last leg and he chose to move laterally rather than go for the open channel to the goal. Was that confidence or just lack of vision? I don’t know.
There was a moment where Legion won a free kick and Eli booted the ball down field to try and catch the Tulsa defense sleeping. That seems like a good play until you realize the center referee was actively holding up play for the “injured” player, so him booting the ball long lost the 3 Sparks over a minute of time.
I don’t say this to completely trash on Eli. He was not the reason we lost last night, but it was a frustrating performance.
Last week’s hero returns home in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His dribbling ability was an absolute game changer. He got into dangerous areas, forced his former club to foul him, and made some very clever passes. Just like everybody else, I wish we could’ve seen more clinical finishing but that will sort itself eventually.
The Prosper we have seen these last two years is the Prosper we knew he could be. His ability to being the pass first winger then take a shot has completely changed his game. It’s hard to explain how changing the mindset from shot first to pass first could change a career outlook, but Prosper looks like a proper USL attacker now, and he’s been our Team MVP so far this season.
It’s very hard to judge Macky off of this performance. I do believe that playing Macky in this match was the wrong decision, but that is on the coaching staff, not Macky. We were completely disrobing the Tulsa defense with balls on the ground. While Macky can make those plays, he simply is not as good of a dribbler or as fast as Marlon. Macky’s worth in this system is getting his head on the ball, which just wasn’t going to happen in this match.
Do not get it twisted: Macky is not a bust. This was just the wrong match to play him.
Legion made mistakes that cost the 3 Sparks at least a share of the spoils. The between silly fouls, soft cards, and lackluster finishing, it was hard to see another goal for the 3 Sparks. This match could’ve been 5-2 if the finishing was just a little, and I mean a little, bit better. It’s too early to panic, but it is important to pick up on these trends early.
See you all next week for Legion v Switchbacks. If you need tickets, DM me on Twitter! I will not be able to attend due to playing The Firebird Suite with the Huxford Symphony Orchestra (Weird Flex, I know…)