Some Losses Send Me to Therapy, but Wins Like Last Night are Therapeutic
Every moment of yesterday was a massive win for the 3 Sparks. The high school match prior to the match was a massive success as a fan, the match itself was incredible, and the atmosphere? Oh man, it was a straight up vibe.
Prosper Kasim comes in and bags a brace, including one of the most well struck balls I’ve ever seen in-person. The defense was solid, while there were a couple of mistakes, the match still felt like it was there for the Legion to take all 3 Points. For the first time in a while, it felt like even though the match was tied 1-1 at half, it was inevitable that Legion would bag another and take all 3.
So many positives to the match last night. Instead of my normal 1′-30, 31′-60′, 60′-end, I want to talk about all that went right and the few things that went wrong, followed by some player reviews.
I never actually gave a formal prediction to this match, but I came in thinking that this is a match Legion should be winning. Preseason, I predicted this to be a draw, which I am more than happy to announce that I got incorrect.
Pre-match at the Mountain Brook v Indian Springs match, the atmosphere was already hyping up. It was building to be special. Thanks to a great deal for fans that they could stay for both matches.
As the Legion match was underway, the vibes were just incredible. It was honestly the best atmosphere we’ve had at Protective Stadium. From 60′, every time Legion got into the attacking third, the crowd would grow and get excited. The goal for Prosper? Pure bliss. Just inject it straight into my veins. For a Wednesday crowd? Incredible. Let’s build on this.
Legion came out in a 4-2-3-1 (but didn’t play like one… we’ll get there…) and Charleston came out in their 4-1-3-2. It was an interesting match up, for sure. This initial 4-2-3-1 for Legion has been a nice change of pace, but don’t look now, it was actually a 5-1-3-1 (or 3-2-1-3-1?).
The Match: The Good
If you look at the match and how the match went generally, this is the shape Legion stuck in. While Mikey did get involved in the attack, he was sitting back almost like a CB, allowing Anderson, Ryan, and Jonny to go forward. Our midfield played VERY narrow, but well over 80% of our attack came from the wing areas.
How does that work exactly? How can a team play so narrow but most of the attack come from wide areas? Basically, we played narrow but our midfielders would move out wide to exploit those spaces after sucking the defense in. Once a team respects the dribbler in the middle of the park, it leaves somebody wide open on the outside.
From the outside area, the Legion would pass the ball back into the middle of the pitch for a shot. That’s exactly what happened for Prosper’s first goal, with Enzo on the outside and then passing it in to Prosper.
Once again, you can see how Enzo exploited the wide area, and played the ball back in to Prosper. Prosper said in my post-match interview that this was something they had worked on in training. That he knew that when Enzo was in that position, that Prosper knew to make the diagonal run into the box.
While possession is a meaningless stat, Legion’s possession was meaningful. For 53% of the match, Legion held on to the ball and were constantly poking and jabbing at the Battery defense. Legion went for the “Death by Thousand Cuts” approach by holding on to the ball, try a ton of 1 touch passes, short passes up the pitch, and the lay the ball off onto the wing, often to Jonny Dean and Ryan James.
Legion took 16 shots and 8 were on target. Before, we have seen Legion take 16 shots, but barely put anything on target. This time, we went for shots on target and test the keeper rather than trying to place the perfect shot. This obviously worked out. That said, Prosper’s second goal? Banger is an understatement…
Overall, I loved what I saw. This worked against a “worse” opponent in Charleston, but I think this system would work against almost any team in the USL. Does that mean we’re going to go unbeaten from here? No, obviously not. That said, I believe this is a much more competitive system for Legion. If there comes a team that shuts us down, we can go back to the other system where we play wide and then bottle neck the ball into the box. We have options, folks.
The Match: The Bad
Alright, let’s talk about the goal. The goal was just not great. A cross came in, Jonny missed the header on the ball, MVO was expecting Jonny to head the ball, MVO was misfooted, and unable to catch or punch the ball. It was unfortunate. If MVO played the ball or Jonny got his head on it, this goal wouldn’t have happened.
Another issue that was evident throughout the match was Apodaca (#17 for Charleston) constantly breaking the offsides trap. Legion played a high line, allowing Apodaca to create a free chance on net. This happened several times, but Legion was able to keep Charleston from gaining the equalizer.
While Legion didn’t concede from these chances, it is absolutely something that fans need to keep their eyes on.
I mean, Prosper. What else can you say? A brace, and not just great goal scoring. He had great vision with passes as well. He did a great job winning possession, getting into dangerous spaces, and his finishing? Brilliant. That second goal dang near broke the goal. I might as well repost the goal…
Enzo had a solid match, creating a ton of chances for the team. He was an expert “it”houser, the highlight being the head official yelling, “Enzo, enough! Enzo, please! Enzo, please stop!” It’s stuff that is so interesting to hear when you’re right by the pitch.
If there’s anything I was frustrated with, it would be the fact he was called offsides four times and most of his dribbles seemed to last just a second too long. If he could time his run a little later and get rid of the ball a little sooner, he could have had the perfect match.
Juan came very close to grabbing his first open play goal. He had a chance at the end of the match at Fauroux managed to get a paw on. That said, I was a little frustrated last night. There was at one point where he had a wide open goal to shoot in the box, but chose to hold the ball up to pass. I would like to see Juan let it fly more often.
I’m not going to shy away from the fact I love this dude. There’s something that I just love about the dude. That said, he clearly needed more match fitness. His touch was a little bit heavy, but it looked obvious to me that he has the talent to fix that. He came in and instantly got two fouls, and one yellow. Should I be frustrated about that? Yeah, I am supposed to, but I absolutely love it. Big body and the man uses it.
No, Marlon didn’t get the counting stats, but watching him play is so pretty, and this match was no different. He won fouls in dangerous places thanks to his brilliant dribbling ability. I wish that he would take that next step with passing. The biggest issue is that his dribbling is great and he really relies on that, but like Enzo, he holds onto the ball for just a second too long.
I liked what I saw out of Bruno. He’s our string puller still. While he may not have gotten the assists, he set up almost every single opportunity we hade. His passing was great, his communication was brilliant, and was just beyond fun to watch.
He’s 5’6″ and he’s going to dribble the crap out of the ball. I swear every single match he gets more and more dangerous on the ball. His vision is only getting better, you will never dispossess him, and defensively sound. I think dropping down Anderson a little bit more defensively would allow our back line to sit back a little bit more, but even then, I still liked what I saw.
Much like Enzo Martinez has Mikey was probably the most “fluid” player on the pitch. He spent most of his time playing essentially center back, but he was often in the attack. You could call him a “box-to-box midfielder”, but it was more like 6 yard box-to-6 yard box midfielder. It was impressive. I thought it was a great showing for Mikey, and I want to see him stay as the defensive midfielder.
Ryan James is a major reason I want to see Mikey move. That sounds harsh, but we killed two birds with one stone. Mikey moving to defensive midfield allowed Ryan James back in the line up, and it has been incredible. While Ryan’s passing left a little bit be desired, the way he opened up space for his teammates to fill was masterful. More Ryan James PLEASE.
O’ Captain, my Captain. It’s hard to be disappointed by Phanuel Kavita. Unless I missed something, I don’t think he made a single step that was out of place. While you could blame him or Zach for some of the chances Charleston got toward the second half, I think that was a product of the high line. Was that Phanuel’s choice or Tommy’s? I don’t know, so I will just call it a tactical choice.
While I’m not exactly happy with Zach playing center back, that’s not really because Zach is bad at it. I would rather see him in the midfield, but I really liked what I saw out of Zach. Phanuel said it best, “We plug and we go.” I liked that he got forward and took a few shots, but if I were to nitpick? More efficient passing would be great. And maybe closer man marking on that goal, but that goal was a total defensive breakdown.
Another day, another Jonny Dean performance where he torches literally everybody in his path. Offensively, this was his best match that he’s had this year. His ability to not only hold up the ball, but finally find that “second option” was brilliant. That said, defensively, he’s been far from stellar and that continued against Charleston. Obviously we saw that missed header, which sucks.
I would probably be more understanding if this was his first or even second major defensive mistake, but it hasn’t been. That said, he was man marked and it is hard to completely blame him for the goal. Like I said, it was three players with mistakes there so it’s hard to blame him entirely.
Matt Van Oekel
Other than the goal, Matt had a great night. He made two massive saves, one being a 1-on-1 chance for Charleston that saved the 3 points for the 3 Sparks. I was also happy with his distribution.
Thomas Vancaeyzeele and Jake Rufe
Not much to say here. They locked it down when they came in, not allowing the Battery a breakthrough. I also could not be happier with Jake Rufe getting more time. He’s shown that he belongs at this level along with Thomas Vancaeyzeele who can play literally anywhere he wants.
It’s well over 12 hours since the final whistle and I am still smiling ear-to-ear. Should my mood be tied to the success of my club? No, but here we are. Obviously a shutout would’ve been brilliant, but the offense looked dangerous and creative. I am beyond happy.
I am also beyond excited for the match next Wednesday, May 4th. Legion are taking on The Miami FC where two former Legion players come home, Ben Ofeimu and Bolu Akinyode. Love those guys so much. Cannot wait to see everybody there!