I am sure the frustration that we felt in the locker room on Saturday night, you felt as well. To say that we felt cheated was an understatement. I have said it many times before, but this game is just sometimes cruel. In watching the video afterwards, I am still amazed that at our level that mistake can happen. That said, we didn’t do a good job of preventing that dangerous situation from occurring and this continues to be a problem with our team. The only thing that I can tell you is that we work on these exact situations in training. That gives me hope that our young team can learn a valuable lesson from the Columbus game and improve from it.
To give you some insight into our thoughts before the Columbus game, I need to give you some inside information. We knew that we were going to have to make a change to our starting lineup from the Houston game due to Freddy’s thigh injury. Long story short, Freddy’s thigh did not heal as quickly as we thought it would. Despite the fact that our medical staff worked on him throughout the week, some soft tissue injuries just take time to heal. This was one of those times. We did think that Freddy would be available for the 18 man game day roster, but knew that starting him would be a risk. As it turns out, Freddy passed a physical test on Saturday morning, but when we got to the stadium and he started to knock the ball around, it was evident that he wasn’t going to be able to play. In any case, we decided to start Garfan in the midfield on the left side and moved Marfan up to partner with Josue. Thus, we started the game in the same formation as we did against Houston.
Now for the game itself. We knew that Columbus was going to come out strong and push from the opening whistle. Our game plan was to absorb their initial pressure and then try to establish our rhythm and put the game on our terms. For the first 20 minutes, Columbus was in fact the better team, but as the half went on, we felt good about our composure on the ball. Our passing game started to take over and we felt that we were in control of the game. IF, we had gotten to halftime at 0-0, we felt that would have the advantage in the second half. Well, we obviously didn’t get into the locker room with zeros on the board. The “letdown” at the end of halves happened again. Inexcusable! We went into the locker room at half-time in disbelief that we were suddenly down by two goals.
I’m sure many of you have wondered what goes on in the locker room at halftime; about what coaches say and what the team discusses. After some “what the [heck just] happened”, the first thing we talked about was the belief that we have in this squad – the belief that we could roll up our sleeves and go out and get two goals (and to their credit, that’s what the players did). The second thing we discussed was how tactically we had to play in order to get the first goal. Finally, we talked about the possible changes we would make depending on how the game went. Leaving that locker room, we all felt confident that we would get back into the game.
Early in the second half, we decided to put on Mr. Super Sub himself, Antoine Hoppenot. He immediately made an impact with his pace and dangerous runs. Ultimately, Antoine drew the penalty that Danny Cruz converted. Note, the ball that sent Antoine into the box was a superbly weighted pass from Michael Lahoud, which occurred after some good buildup play from our own half of the field. After the goal, we brought on Jack McInerney to put two true forwards on the field and press for the equalizer. Again, we felt it worked well. We thought that we earned a 2nd penalty in the 75th minute, but shockingly, it was not given. For our final change, we brought on Roger Torres. Again, after some great passing and build up, a classic Roger “chip” into the box was finished by Jack.
Well, I am not going to write about what happened next. I am still upset and don’t think that we will forget that feeling for a long time. Hopefully, we can use it to motivate ourselves for the last five games. While I am proud of the players’ effort and commitment to getting back into the game, I was upset that we let ourselves get put in dangerous position (again). We can debate offside calls and look at things that we can’t control, but we are also an honest team. We spoke about our own problems in the build up to that final goal. As I stated earlier, all we can do is learn from our mistakes.
We play a strong Chicago team tonight, so there’s no more time for us to whine about what happened before. We have to go out and immediately prove ourselves at every opportunity in every game that we play, irrespective of where we are in the standings.
We also have four tough games after Wednesday and two of those, starting with Saturday evening, are big games at home where we are at our strongest with you right behind us. We may now be mathematically unable to reach the Playoffs, but with your backing in mind, players for this club will always have a lot to play for and we will be doing everything within our power to finish the season as strongly as possible.
Thank you for your continued support – The U Thank U!
Jungite Aut Perite
P.S. Thanks for all the name suggestions. Our staff got a kick out of the almost 700 entries. We’ll be in contact with the winner.