Those Who Don’t Learn From History are Doomed to Repeat It
Stop me if you have heard this before: Legion look to take points from the top team in the league in a match we must get points from, look content with a draw, and lose in the 80’+ because they take their foot off the gas.
Some of you may be thinking about last year’s 1-0 loss to Louisville City FC that cost the team a division title and an opportunity to host home playoff throughout the playoffs. Some of you are thinking about Sunday’s loss against San Antonio where the 3 Sparks took an early lead and look content to sit back and absorb pressure from the best team in the league for 70′.
While only taking 1 point from this match did not change our outlook very much, it still means that this Wednesday’s match is a must win. Furthermore, it brings back the fear from years past that contentment of a draw outweighs the desire for a win. A loss, is a loss, is a loss, but losing because you were not trying to win leaves a sour taste in the mouth of the fans.
From the start, it was clear that Coach Soehn and Company decided that the best way to attack this match is by, well, not attacking. The 3 Sparks opted to drop midfielder Bruno Lapa in favor of wide center back/left back Jake Rufe. This, itself, is not a bad decision in a vacuum. There are matches that this would make A LOT of sense, but not against San Antonio.
When I first saw the line up, this is a bit of what I expected:
Again, we have seen this line up before. Mikey and Jonny play a Wing Back position that allowed Mikey to pinch in defensively if needed, pushes Enzo out wide, while allows Anderson to control the ball but move back defensively in case of a counter attack.
This made a lot of sense to me and I could make it make sense. Not what I would have done, personally, but I understand it. What we actually got makes zero sense me.
We ended up in a bizarre asymmetrical… thing. Enzo Martinez was dropping VERY far back to play distributor for Anderson and Marlon, who were cutting the ball in to get the ball to Agudelo. Jonny was in on attacks, Herivaux was just sorta floating, and Mikey was sorta lost in the midfield, not at the fault of his own.
In order to cover for the massive space on the left side, we often saw the team in this weird position:
We would see Enzo and Mikey float left to protect that side from a counter attack, but it meant we completely lost control of the central midfield. How many times did we see an attack get stopped dead in the midfield because NOBODY was there in the center of the park? It just made zero sense.
Well, Kaylor. Since you’re so smart with your zero professional soccer experience and zero coaching badges, what would you have done differently? Well, I was the Tuscaloosa Adult League Golden Glove winner, thank you very much hypothetical reader who probably wasn’t thinking that at all. But I’m glad you asked.
If you wanted Jake Rufe’s wide center back role to stop a crazy effective San Antonio attack, here is what I would have done:
It’s the same thing you saw earlier, but Bruno Lapa does everything in that distribution role better than Anderson. Is this a situation that you drop Anderson and bring him in later? I think so. You can afford to bring off Marlon and you have a choice of bringing on Prosper or Asiedu, depending on what is needed for the match. Better system, more flexibility.
What about what I would have done?
If it ain’t broke, do. not. fix. it. I know the fear is that the counter attack can break through this, but this is a team built on its defense. Trust the defense.
And yes, I started Prosper. Why? Because we can bring in Sadik Balarabe, Anderson Asiedu, or Mataeo Bunbury. We have 3 players that can come in and make an impact, all three in different ways. More flexibility. You can take out Juan for Sadik at 60′, as is tradition. You can bring in Jake Rufe for Mikey Lopez if you have a lead or bring in Ryan James if you want to go even more attacking. This system just allows for more flexibility, allows the team to do what they do best: press and attack.
The most important part is getting Enzo in as the shadow striker. Frankly, Juan was in the back pocket of the entire San Antonio Defense. That’s not anything to do with Juan, rather he was on a complete island. This is why a solo striker has never worked with this club. The dribbling based offense cannot getting a solo striker open, it just can’t. This San Antonio team is too good to be beaten by that. Overall, this team need to figure out its identity, after we already found it.
Our intentions were clear when we subbed out Mikey Lopez for Bruno Lapa. On the surface is makes sense. Defender for attacking midfielder. Perfect, right? No. We want to pass the ball more efficiently, but clearly wanted to sit back and defense. The idea of attacking was never the priority when we left Jake Rufe in the match.
Leaving Jake in the match meant one thing, and one thing only. We still wanted to sit back and absorb pressure. Frankly, this line up
Is a whole lot scarier offensively than this one
We never found ourselves “going for it” until after we went down and we brought in Prosper Kasim and Mataeo Bunbury. We had conceded the flow of the game for more defense. This team is built on defense, but there is not a team in the USL or even MLS who can sit back and try and absorb pressure from San Antonio for 70′ straight.
Our intent was clear: Draw at all costs.
Every single year since we signed Matt VanOekel, fans have been speculating that each year would be his last year. It’s obvious, right? He’s getting older, losing a step, he’s the coach, we’ll just bring in somebody new. Well, every year the Donut King tells us to shove it and puts up his best season in his career.
This match for VanOekel was incredible. It took two amazing shots and perfect balls in to beat the Brisket Lover. His shot stopping ability and the ability to hold on to the hardest of shots is just amazing. On top of that, he always seems to be at all of his kids’ events and makes the most for his family. What a keeper. What a man.
Win and We Host
As this team begins its playoff run, we have our final regular season match of the season. The objective is simple: win. The 3 Sparks host Indy Eleven, a team who has had our number in the past, including a 7 goal thriller just one month ago. This Mark Lowry team is so much fun to watch, but never fun to be on the other side of. If you want a breakdown of how they play and how to counter it, check out the post match reactions from September 11th.
The 3 Sparks need to win. I said it, and I’ll forever say it again, it’s Home Playoffs or Failure. We need to win. This city will get behind a winner, and it is time for this squad to play in front of a home crowd in the playoffs.
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