Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Radio Silence

Hey everybody!

I've been in London for a few days, and now it's time to go on vacation!  It's been a long season and it will be good to get away from soccer for a few weeks.  Me and Celia are headed to Morocco, so I doubt that there will be any blog posts up during the holiday.  I'm not even bringing a computer with me.  I'll try to put up one or two video updates, but I don't know if I'll be able to upload them.  I'm also gonna do a little travel article about each city we visit.  My hope is to then send those stories to various newspapers in the UK and America and be signed on as a freelance travel writer.  If I write well enough, I might just get to spend my offseason flying around the world writing about travel.  That's the dream!

So with that I'm gonna begin a bit of radio silence.  Most likely there won't be any posts between now and Nov. 9 when I get back.  And if I do post something, it's likely to just be a video and not some informative post.

See ya later!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Matchday 33: Relegated

Well, that didn’t go the way I thought it would.
That about says it all, doesn't it?

 
Before our last game of the season I ran through a handful of possible outcomes.  I looked at ways we could stay up, ways we could be relegated and even a specific situation where we’d be in a tie with Jaro in the final standings.  I also thought a lot about the last game against VPS, but I never considered the fact that we’d be playing on a frozen field.  It would be funny if it weren’t so sad:  I spent all week thinking and in the end everything I thought was wrong.

 

One thing I got right though was the result of our match.  We beat VPS, 1-0.  It was a hard fought game with a lot of emotion.  Obviously we wanted to win the game so our emotions were high.  Surprisingly though, VPS also played with a lot of emotion.  Too much really, as their right back got sent off in the first half for elbowing Piri and breaking his nose.  Another surprise was the strong team that VPS fielded.  I had suspected/hoped that they would play a 2nd choice team, but as far as I could tell they played at least most of their regular players.  Every player that I knew started the game, so they definitely weren’t in the mood to either do us any favors or to screw over their rivals Jaro.

 

As for the game itself, there’s not much to say.  We won 1-0 and maybe could have had a few more.  I could have had a few assists in the first half if not for some misfortune.  The most blatant case of this was when I played Obi clear in on the keeper.  His first touch took him around the stranded goalie, but before he could tap into the open net with his 2nd touch, he fell on the ice and couldn’t even get a shot off.  It is what it is though, and fortunately it didn’t cost us.

 

As a bit of a side note of our game I have to mention the incredible fan support we received.  The number is estimated at almost 400 people who made the four hour bus ride to Vaasa and cheered us to victory.  I’ll not soon forget looking at those fans and seeing them legitimately go wild after we scored.  It was like the scenes you see on tv every weekend around the big European leagues.  I know it was “only” a few hundred people, but it felt like all of Valkeakoski was behind us.  VPS didn’t have hardly any chances, and honestly I can’t imagine that we could have lost that game with the support that the fans showed us.  Unfortunately, winning alone wasn’t enough.  Jaro shockingly beat TPS in Turku and stayed one point ahead of us and in the league.

 

It’s easy after getting relegated to think about all the things that could have gone differently.  I’m sure every single fan has had those thoughts, and I know every player and coach has.  We only finished last by one point.  I mean so many tiny things going differently would have kept us safe:  I had a header saved in the last few minutes against MIFK.  We tied Jaro at home after they got a red card with 20 minutes to go.  We lost in the last second against FC Inter after missing multiple chances to win the game.  We gave up a lead at KuPS with three minutes left.  The list could go on and on.  But we can’t think like that.  We have to think about our time going forward.  This isn’t the first time Haka has been relegated, and it says a lot about the club that both of the previous times they went right back up.  I’m very confident that the third time will be no different.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

On a personal note, I am leaving Finland tomorrow.  I'll be leaving Europe on Nov. 14.

 

For those who care to know, over the next few weeks I will be in London, multiple cities in Morocco, London again and then Helsinki before I return to America for the winter.  I have no idea where I’ll be playing next year and I haven’t had any contact yet with Haka about returning.  All of that will be sorted soon enough though, and that’s why players have agents!  I’m very confident in the people who represent me and I’m sure they will help me decide what’s best.  But those conversations won’t happen for many weeks or months.  In the meantime I’m just worried about staying in shape and recharging my batteries after many months away from my family and old friends.  I can’t wait to return to America and spend a few months visiting them.  It will be good to put this past year behind me.

 

The meme:

outside my apartment

Seinajoki

 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Matchday 32: Losing is so last week

What the...

...f*ck?

Oh shit.

 Now I’m no rocket scientist, but you don’t have to be to know what these pictures imply.

 
(What, you say?  You can’t believe I’m not a rocket scientist?  I know I seem pretty smart, but c’mon…could it really be possible that I have these movie star good looks, incredible soccer skills, AND super intelligence?  I can’t have it all, even though it seems like it ;) )

 
For those who maybe don’t get it, the shovel and swing cover are for impending snow.  I had hoped to avoid snow during my time in Finland, but now it’s looking like I will have no choice!  Fortunately though our last game is gonna be in the afternoon and the weather in Vaasa is warmer anyway.  Speaking of our last game…

 
We played Honka last night and for my first time in Finland…WE WON!

 

(Just play this song as you read the rest of the post.  It will help set the mood.)

 
This win was obviously a very big boost for us.  We closed the gap on Jaro to just one point, meaning that with the right result in Jaro’s game we could survive with just a draw.  We’re not playing for a draw, mind you, but if we find out that Jaro is losing 6-0 and we’re tied then I wouldn’t be surprised if we subbed in a few extra defenders and held out for a draw.  At this point it doesn’t have to be pretty.  Any combination of results that keeps us in the league will do.  It will be difficult, especially since our captain and leader Shane Robinson won’t be playing because of his red card (I’ll get to that), but we’ve got no choice.  This club is too important to go down.  We’re confident that TPS will do us a favor and beat Jaro which means that all we have to do is focus on winning our game.

 
As for the Honka game itself, we did just enough to win.  In my experience (I’ve been on more losing teams than I care to admit) the first win is always the hardest to get.  For anyone watching, you could tell that we never seemed fully comfortable with a lead, whether it be over HJK, KuPS, Inter, Mariehamn, etc.  Last night though was good because we kind of turned a corner.  Even though we were winning, we still attacked and put pressure on Honka all over the field.  We rarely sunk back and absorbed pressure, which is the only thing we did in the second halves against HJK and KuPS.  As a result, Kert wasn’t forced to make any big saves until the very end of the match when we had a bit of a goalline scramble, cleared away by your truly!  So the first big talking point of this game was our ability to close out.

 
The second point was the referee.  To be honest, we’ve had our fair share of bad refs during the season, but this guy was the worst.  We’ve also had quite a few very good refs in my opinion, but those guys must have been on vacation because we got stuck with a center ref who only saw one team.  Dema slides the ball and gets stepped on?  Yellow card on him.  Kris gets hit in the nose and starts bleeding?  Oh no problem we won’t even bother to stop the play to check on a guy on the ground holding his head.  Robbo gets taken down in the box?  Of course not we’ll just give him a 2nd yellow card for diving.  I get across my defender and will be free on goal but get pushed in the back?  Nope it must have just been a bad dream I was having.  The worst thing for a player is having to play by a different set of rules than the other team.  It’s even more infuriating than an inconsistent ref, which is the 2nd worst thing that can happen.  Nothing makes players madder and risks the game getting out of hand more than something being a foul at one end and then the exact same thing is not a foul at the other.  That unfairness happened all night and made the referee as big of a story as the players, which is never good.

 
The third talking point was Honka’s team selection.  They fielded a team of kids.  All of them are full professionals and first team players as far as I know, but the team we faced was certainly not the full strength Honka team.  I think all the new players in Honka’s team helped us to hold our lead late on, as they were probably pretty tired by the end.  Half their starting team wasn’t used to playing 90 minutes, so they couldn’t press us as hard as some other teams have in the last 20 minutes.

 
The last thing I’ll talk about before I go is my own play.  I definitely did not have my best game, but I made a few good plays for the team.  I assisted the goal after running about 60 yards with the ball and near the end I cleared a ball that was rolling perilously close to our goalline.  For my efforts (and specifically those two plays, I assume) I was awarded one star in the 3 stars presentation.  Yet again, I didn’t receive my prize!  I’m gonna have to go to the Haka office and claim my prizes from these games!

 The meme:

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Matchday 31: Devastation at the death...again and Tampere Trip

Most of you reading this will know about the last game Haka played, so I won’t go into it in so much detail.  We lost 1-2 to Inter Turku after leading 1-0 at halftime.  It was the most devastating defeat we’ve had since I’ve been here.  That’s because the winning goal for Inter came in the last second of the game and with us playing up a man after a red card ten minutes earlier.  We had every possible chance to win in those last ten minutes but we didn’t and in the end we paid for it.  Inter finished the game like champions and we finished the game like a team at the bottom of the table.  Fortunately for us though, Jaro also lost so we didn’t lose any ground there.  As little as one win could easily be enough to save us from relegation.  Talk is cheap though, and we only have two games to get that win (and we may need more than that).

 

The day after the game we had a short recovery training.  I was planning on going home and sitting there for the rest of the day, but instead I ended up going to Tampere with Juha to watch a playoff game for the 2nd division (3rd tier).  The game was hosted by Ilves, a team in Tampere.  There was a big attendance for this game considering the level it was.  Over 4000 people showed up to see Ilves destroy their opponents (IFK something) by 4-1.  In all honesty, the score could just have easily been 10-0, such was Ilves’ domination.

 

Before the match, I had about an hour and a half to stroll around Tampere.  Juha dropped me off in the city center and went directly to the stadium.  Of course, I went straight to the McDonald’s because I love that place and there’s not one in Valkeakoski.  Honestly, I love any form of fast food.  The less healthy the better.  Don’t give me a salad unless there’s bacon on it!  I ordered a quarter pounder with cheese meal and devoured it in about two seconds.  The food tasted even better because the cashier, in true Scandinavian fashion, was very courteous and upbeat.  In short, she was the polar opposite of the asshole who took my order in London.  I’m still upset about that and it was like two months ago.  I wanna punch that kid in the face.

 

After eating I walked around the center just kind of taking in the sights.  I haven’t left Valkeakoski at all since I was in London so it felt so refreshing to be in a bigger city like Tampere.  I’m from a big city in America and always lived in large cities, so to be in that kind of place put me at ease a bit.  I like the hustle and bustle.  I like the big open markets.  I like dozens of options of places to go, things to do.  If Haka offers me a contract for next season I think I would be tempted to live in or closer to Tampere rather than staying in Valkeakoski.  But those thoughts and choices are for another time.  They depend on me and my teammates’ ability to keep us in the league anyway!

 

Today we had another training and it was pretty simple.  We talked about a few things that we want to do against FC Honka tomorrow, but nothing major.  It’s our last home game, so there is really a lot of pressure to win the game.  I can’t say enough about how much we need a win.  By the end of tomorrow night, we could have moved ahead of Jaro, or be relegated.  If we win, then the league will certainly come down to the last day.  Losing, or even drawing, is not an option.  I hope that a lot of people come out to the game.  It’s on a Monday night, but we could use all the support we can get!

 

The meme:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Milestone Post: #100

It’s my 100th post!!!!

I've very recently re-discovered GIFs.  They will be a staple of this blog in the future so deal with it.

Honest to God it feels like I’ve written closer to 500 of these, but I’ll use this post mostly to reflect.  You can consider this the “flashback episode” that every sitcom in history has done and every person who ever watched the sitcom hated.  But before I reflect, I’ll go over some stats.

I have no interest in getting these figures exactly right, but they’ll be close enough to make my point.  Since this is my 100th post, and I average about 750-800 words a post, I can safely estimate that I’ve written close to 80,000 words about my nine months in Europe.  I don’t know if that means I’m thorough or if I’m obsessed with myself!  (I’m gonna go with thorough.)  I guess that degree in Journalism wasn’t for nothing!  My time here has led me to meet three new fellow Yanks, though I haven’t kept in touch with any of them.  My time here also allowed me to be in touch with fellow Yanks/Canucks that I already knew which of course is quite nice.

On the field, I’ve played 24 regular season games, scoring 0 L goals and recording 5 assists.  In my defense, I’ve been playing almost exclusively as a winger this year on teams that have only won 1 game between them in six months, so I can be forgiven for not having amazing statistics.  I have also had two goals wrongly disallowed and about a half dozen more denied by the frame of the goal or some sort of great save.  A cynic might suggest that the only things Haka and Enkoping SK have in common are losing and me.  I would argue against that, but when you consider that the only other European club that I have any association with is GAIS Goteborg, even I have to wonder (to be clear, GAIS is also in last place in their league and has already been relegated.  ESK has also been relegated already and Haka is desperately fighting relegation.)  I’ve played 24 games and won only once.  If you include GAIS, then every team I’ve been involved with (while I’ve been at the club) has played 60+ games and won 3 of them.  My career winning percentage, which already wasn’t great, has taken a big hit.  At only 25 I’m almost guaranteed of having a career losing record.

Back to the blog.  I’ve gotten just about 7000 views on my blog thus far.  That’s about 70 hits per post.  I’m very excited about that number.  I don’t know how interesting I am, but I must be doing something right to keep people reading.  I’m still undecided as to whether or not I’ll keep the blog going while I’m in America, but I probably will.  I just won’t update as much.  My posts in America though will probably be way more interesting than many of my posts here in Europe.  That’s because in America everything is kind of new again and I have to jam a year of living into six weeks.  During my offseason in America I will probably visit Chicago, New York City and Tampa, FL.  I might even visit my buddies in Las Vegas.  Needless to say, posts from those places will be more interesting than my typical Valkeakoski or Enkoping post!

This post isn’t meant to be informative in any way so I’ll end it now.  But not before saying a big THANK YOU to everyone who has read my blog.  I know I’m not a celebrity, but it does feel good to know that people actually kind of care what I have to say, or at least care to know a bit more about my experiences.  Knowing that people (many or just a few) will be checking my blog a few times a week has kept me motivated to continue to try and be interesting.  The boring moments of my life would be even worse if I couldn’t drag you into it with me!  Thanks again and a new post will be up in a few days.

El meme:

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Holiday and Sunset Soccer

Hey guys and gals,

 
We just got back into training today after a few days of holiday.  Days that for me were spent in Valkeakoski’s gym and my apartment, so not very exciting.  I did however get a chance to do some good workouts so I feel very good heading into these last three games.

 

Even though I didn’t go anywhere, I still did have some fun.  I went out with a few of the guys and had a few beers on Wednesday.  We were just about the only people in the bar, but it was nice to spend time with my teammates, especially the ones I don’t see outside of training that much.  The next night me and the foreign contingent got together and played FIFA 13 and ate pizza.  It was a bit reminiscent of my middle school and high school days, but a great time all the same.  Friday I don’t think I moved off my couch the whole day and Saturday I went for a run.  That was the most interesting thing I did that day.  Holidays are probably pretty glamorous for some soccer players, but for us a holiday is nothing but a few days off.  I’m gonna need to get a lot more assists before I can afford to vacation on islands in the Mediterranean!

 

Today we had our first training back, and in an effort to maximize our holiday time, the training was scheduled for 6pm.  I nicknamed the training “Sunset Soccer” for obvious reasons.  I actually don’t mind training that late (normally we train either at 11am or 2pm).  In Sweden we trained at 5:30pm every day because a lot of our players either worked or went to school during the day.  I thought it made it easier to keep the same routine on game days.  In America we always trained at 9 or 10 in the morning, so when we played games our daily routine was completely different than when we trained.  I always felt like that put us at a slight disadvantage.  Anyway, the training was at 6pm today.  The only problem was that our field didn’t have lights!  As a result we couldn’t train for too long before nobody could see anymore.  A positive though was that my terrible shots that normally get saved were all going in the goal because the goalkeepers could barely see the ball!  I guess there are advantages to Sunset Soccer!

 

After my last post where I mentioned the pimp cup I got from KuPS for being one of the stars of the game, a buddy informed me that I actually had already been named as one of the stars of the game against HJK.  So I thought that the KuPS game was the first time I had earned the award, but it was actually the second game in a row!  Which begs a single question: Where is my Haka Pimp Cup?!

 

Looking forward, we’ve got three games left in two weeks.  The good news is that our last two games are against teams that really have nothing to play for.  The bad news is that we don’t control our destiny, meaning we need Jaro to lose at least one game.  The next game is of course important and will be difficult as we’re playing FC Inter who is competing for the league title.  I’ve seen Inter play a few times and I know the names of a few of their players, but honestly I don’t know too much about the team.  I watched them play Haka when I first arrived 11 weeks ago and they didn’t seem amazing.  Good but not intimidating.  The coach says he has a plan so I’m sure he has a good path to victory for us.  I don’t know what the plan is yet, but I’m fairly certain my role in it will be to, “Run Forest, Run!”


In unrelated news, I got home after training tonight just in time to watch some guy named Felix Baumgartner do a skydive-type jump from the edge of outer space.  I have absolutely no idea why anyone would want to do something like this, and I was nervous just watching him open the door to his little capsule.  You couldn't convince me to jump down a flight of stairs, nevermind out of a small space capsule.  I don't really have anything to say about the space jump, other than that Mr. Baumgartner is insane.

The meme, in honor of US Vice President Joe Biden:
 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Matchday 30: Devastation at the Death


I’m back!

 

For those who care, sorry I was away for so long.  The internet stick at my house stopped working and I couldn’t figure out why.  I feel like an idiot now, because it turned out that I just needed to buy more credit.  I actually bought credit about two weeks ago, but instead of purchasing a one month unlimited package for 19.80 I just bought 20 in general credit.  As a result I had to buy a new monthly package.  I’ve had to effectively pay double for my internet access this month.  Not a thing I like to admit since I’m trying to live on as small a budget as possible!


On the way to Kuopio
 

I don’t even know when my last post was, so I’ll just talk about the match against KuPS.  For those who don’t know, we tied 1-1 in a game that felt like a loss.  That’s because we were up 1-0 for most of the game, but conceded a goal with three minutes left.  It was a tough blow to take and became tougher once we got back into the locker room and saw that Jaro had won their game.  That means that Jaro is now three points ahead of us with three matches left to play.  I don’t know what the tiebreaker is, but Jaro lead us pretty comfortably in goal difference.  If it’s head-to-head, then I think we would have the advantage.

 

The KuPS game was actually pretty good for us.  I know I might sound like a broken record, but we’ve been playing really well the last few weeks.  We dominated large parts of the first half and after 11 minutes scored a great goal.  It was the best goal that we’ve scored since I’ve been at the club.  It involved five or six players and looked like it came straight from the training ground.  It culminated with Jonne scoring a tap-in.  At halftime, we went in feeling pretty good about ourselves.

 

At halftime we spoke about a few things and pretty much we wanted to continue with what we were doing.  There wasn’t really any reason to change anything as KuPS hadn’t created much of anything in the first 45.  However when we came out, we played with fear and slowly fell further and further back.  By the last 15 minutes we weren’t even attempting to attack anymore.  As a result we invited a bunch of pressure on ourselves.  Long story short, right at the end they scored.

 

After every game, the home team awards 3 stars of the game.  I think this is something that the Finnish league has borrowed from hockey, since I remember hockey having 3 stars.  But I might have made that up since I remember it only from a hockey video game I had when I was a little kid.  Anyway I only mention it because in the KuPS game I was awarded 2 stars for my performance.  I knew I had played ok, but I definitely did not expect to be awarded one of the stars.  Jonne got 1 star and a KuPS player got 3 stars.  When someone gets awarded a star, they normally get some sort of prize/gift.  KuPS gave me something that can only be described as a pimp cup.  I took a picture and posted it below:

I'm such a pimp.
 

KuPS is a bit unique among Finnish clubs for me in that they have a couple players who are Americans: Johann Smith and Etchu Tabe.  Even though neither played, I had a chance to talk to them.  I literally only said hello to Johann who was much more interested in talking to Nana Attakora as they played together at Toronto FC in MLS.  I ran into Tabe though after the match and had a brief word with him.  He was suspended from a red card in an earlier match and so he didn’t dress for the game.  We just chatted about basic stuff about getting on living in Finland.  He seems to be pretty well settled where he is and enjoying himself.  Even though we only spoke for a short time I’m happy we spoke.  Any foreign players from the same country tend to be friendly with one another.  It helps just a little bit to make living abroad more comfortable by having another person who can relate to what you’re going through, even if you don’t ever talk to them.

 

In other news, I’ve started betting again and things are going better.  I won a 67:1 bet with a tried and true tactic: betting against Liverpool.  I won’t get into specifics of this particular bet, but pretty much I bet against Liverpool in one way or another every week and they never let me down.  My account started with $40 dollars and now I’m up to about $90 so I’m happy with how I’ve been doing.  One worry I have though is that I’m starting to make ridiculous bets just because I have the money to do so.  I bet on an FA Cup match last night between two teams I’ve never heard of.  I just looked at the odds and picked a team (and won, by the way).  I’ve also made about a dozen bets for the international games next week.  I don’t think I’ll get bored of sports betting the way I get bored of online poker because it’s much less hands-on and it’s a lot more fun to bet on games even if you lose.  Losing in poker just makes you feel bad about yourself.

 

We got back into training today and I’m encouraged by the mood of the team.  There doesn’t seem to be any panic or anger in the group, which is good.  We are in a very difficult position right now, but turning on each other isn’t going to help.  As long as we stick together and keep playing as well or better than we have been we should be ok when the final whistle blows on October 27.  I’m going to declare myself the star of today’s training, which consisted mostly of a small-sided match. My team won 7-5, with me scoring two goals and assisting four.  It was a rather difficult training, but perhaps that’s what we need to turn all of these draws into victory.  Juha is a great coach so I trust his judgment in designing the trainings.

 

Tomorrow we have training in the morning and then we’re off for three days.  I originally planned on travelling during this time, but now it looks like I’m going to stay in Valkeakoski with a few of the other foreign guys and train through the break.  I don’t want to skip the break, but I know that if I stay and train I will be better prepared to help Haka win the last three games and stay in Veikkausliiga.  If that means I miss out on a few days holiday, then I will gladly do it.

 

That’s all folks.  Here’s the meme:

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Happy Days


Hello!

 
It’s been a few days now since our draw with HJK.  Things have been going well with me, as this game was something of a coming out party for me.  For the first time since I got to Finland I’m starting to be known a bit.  Of course I’m by no means an established player in this league, but I can guarantee that our next opponents know my name now.  Another cool thing is that I was interviewed for a magazine that covers the league (I’m not 100% sure of the name so I won’t put it just yet).  It’s always nice to be appreciated.  Between the trust that the coach showed me, the appreciation from the fans during the match and now some media attention, I’m quite happy with how the last week has gone.  I’m too cool for school now.  I’ll be walking around Valkeakoski with sunglasses even if it’s raining! J

 

A few days ago the team was tasked with running a clinic for local children.  Since I don’t speak a word of Finnish, I was teamed up with Santu (one of my teammates) and given the easiest station which was just letting the kids play a regular match.  The kids were great and didn’t cause any problems.  Some couldn’t have been less interested, but it was still fun for all involved I think.
A few of the stations from the clinic.


posing

New goalkeeping style

video
 

After the clinic we had training which was just a football tennis tournament and some stretching.  Me and my teammate Obi were the worst team.  We lost every game.  To be more precise, I am the worst football tennis player of all time apparently.    I couldn’t even get my serves in by the end of our last game.  All I can say is that Obi lost the football tennis player lottery when he got paired with me.

 

Another thing that happened at that training was that I was given a new nickname by the coach.  I’m a bit reluctant to reveal what it is because over the years I’ve been given many nicknames and come to hate all of them.  The only nickname I’ve ever liked it “GITS” and I gave that to myself so it doesn’t count.  Also, GITS means “Give it to Seabrook” so it’s not so much a nickname as a catchphrase.  Anyway, the nickname the coach gave me is “Forest Gump”, or “FG” for short, because I just run run run!  Some might take offense to having a nickname that only mentions running in a team game with a ball, but I don’t mind at all.  I mean, it is true that when I play I do a lot of running, so why not embrace it?  No team would want a winger nicknamed “Garfield” or “Sloth”!
Notice the right winger?

 

I’ve also started betting again and I’m once again cementing my status as worst bettor of all time.  At this point, I’m close to making bets that I think will lose just to keep my losing streak going.  Then I would be able to have great stories about how terrible I am at betting and be able to laugh about.  Ironically though if I try to pick loser, then I’ll likely win a bunch of bets but probably not a lot of money.  Then I won’t have either a good story OR much tangible winnings.  As you can see, I have a life full of real problems… ;)

 

As for the next game against KuPS, I don’t know how things will go.  I think I will start, but I’m not sure.  That decision is up to the coaching staff.  It might depend as much on how we think they’ll play as how we want to play.  At our club we really are a bit spoiled for choice at the winger position, so we can tailor our flank players to succeed against just about any setup the opposing team throws at us.  We have pacey wingers, technical winger, wingers who come inside and wingers who stay wide.  We have wingers that score goals and wingers that make assists so every week it’s a battle to win or keep your spot.  Since I’ve been here, we haven’t started the same two wingers in back-to-back games, so that tells you a lot about the competition for the position. 

 

I don’t know anything about KuPS except that they play in Koupio (sp), wear yellow and have an American central defender, though I don’t know him.  If I play I’m sure we’ll know each other by the final whistle.  We have today off, but tomorrow the preparation for our next game gets serious.  It’s really a must-win for us so the stakes are high!  I’m ready!

 

The meme:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Matchday 29: Playing with the Big Boys

What’s up guys.

 
Tonight we played league leaders HJK and tied 2-2.  I don’t really like to use the blog to talk about games normally, but I’ll spend a bit of time on this game.  I am bitterly disappointed because we had a 2-0 lead at halftime.  Anytime you have a two goal lead at home you have to win, so to end up with a tie instead is a bit of a kick in the gut.  At the same time though, we did just get a point against the top team in Finland.  If you would have looked at this game on the schedule 3 months ago and told us we’d get a point from the game then we probably would have taken it.  In addition, Jaro lost their game tonight so we are now only a point behind them and safety.

 

The game itself was a bit of a tale of two halves.  We started the match very brightly and I think we caught HJK a bit by surprise.  Maybe they expected the game to be easier than it turned out to be.  Also, HJK was missing both of their starting center backs, so they probably had to play a bit more conservatively than they normally do to protect the players back there.  Regardless of the reason, we started out on top and around the 15th minute our work was rewarded with a penalty kick.  Kris was brought down in the box after a cheeky touch over his defender.  Shane Robinson (Robbo) stepped up and scored and we were up 1-0.  After that we had our tails up and were really pressuring.  A few minutes after the penalty, Robbo played a great pass to me and I centered it for Kris who finished from 6-7 yards at the far post.  At that point we were all over them and HJK made a double substitution just 25 minutes into the game.  That was something I’ve literally never seen before but they knew they had to change something.  A few minutes later I was inches from being in on the goalkeeper after a great pass from Jonne, but the central defender got to the ball an instant before me and we both went tumbling to the ground.

 

The rest of the half was pretty pedestrian and we went into the half up 2-0.
 
Nice and muddy.

 

I knew I played pretty well in the first half, but as I walked out to the right sideline for the second half something very unexpected and quite nice happened: the fans on that sideline started to applaud me as I came out.  It was the best feeling that I’ve had since I got to Finland.  Maybe that’s selfish to rank that moment above, say, getting valuable points but it really felt good to have that appreciation from the fans.  They probably were a bit skeptical of me since I haven’t played much but tonight I think I proved that I can help this great club stay up.  Fans like the ones here at HAKA are great and deserve to have a team competing for the top prizes in Finland.

 

The second half began much the way the first half ended: HJK was mostly on top but not creating any dangerous chances.  On 57 minutes though that all changed and the game had its talking point.  The situation actually started with me.  I tracked back and won the ball off the winger then turned around and saw nobody so I just booted the ball up the line and (unintentionally) out of bounds up near midfield.  As everyone started to trudge towards the throw in spot a weird thing happened:

 

TWO GUYS THREW THE BALL IN!              

 

The referee was clearly unaware that there were two balls in play so he didn’t blow the whistle.  Our team however did see the 2nd ball and was actually paying more attention to that one since it was thrown in where the ball went out.  The ball that was used to score was thrown in from a spot even to where I kicked the ball.  I clearly didn’t kick it sideways, so the throw in should have been 20 yards further away from our goal than it was even if the 2nd ball hadn’t been played.  To be honest we got a pretty raw deal.  To prove that I’m not just being biased, I actually recorded the highlights of the game on my phone.  See for yourself…

 EDIT: I'm including a YouTube video as well since it shows the incident much more clearly than my cameraphone.
 
video

That moment I think really took a lot out of us.  HJK was starting to get a bit desperate and the longer we held out the more chances they would have taken.  I think ten more minutes without a goal and HJK would have opened themselves up so much that we could have caught them with their pants down on the counterattack.  If we could have done that then we would have won the game.  Instead they scored the equalizer from a header.  From that point on we were essentially just playing to keep a tie.  I was subbed off at 75 minutes and we almost tragically lost the game after that when we gave up a penalty kick.  Luckily for us though the guy put his shot over the crossbar and we held out for 2-2.

 

Despite our disappointment at the tie, we can be happy with our point I think.  We wanted more, but that’s always the case.  Our team can take this good result and use that momentum to go and win our next game against KuPS.  If we win that game then we will be in a good place for our last three games after the international break.  The goal is survival in this league and if we play our last four games like tonight, then we will survive!  Keep cheering us on!
 
Ze meme: