We’re starting to get to the business end of the season.
VPS is still in third place, a position it seems like we’ve held for months. That position looks to be in a bit of danger though, as the rest of the top half of the table has effectively caught up to us during July. We had a bit of a rough patch, then bounced back with a great comeback performance against MYPA before losing to Jaro in what turned out to be a fantastic match even though we lost.
Of the two games, I’m only going to talk about Jaro because I was at the center of a bit of controversy. The game itself started out really poorly for us, though that was kind of to be expected with the crowd in Jakobstad one of the biggest in Jaro history. Any game on the road is difficult in the beginning, but it’s just a matter of weathering the storm. We did that against JJK and HJK, but we didn’t do so well against Jaro. They put a lot of pressure on us and scored a goal early. I have to apologize to the assistant referee in that game because it looks like he got it right not calling offsides. I said some things to him at halftime that would have been appropriate if he got the call wrong, but based on the video I don’t think he did. We got better after the goal and put 2-3 good moves together before things got even worse and Jarno had to come off injured. That meant that I was in as a first half substitute for the 4th time this season, which must be close to a record in this league.
Before I talk about my role in this game, I’ll mention that I finally got my hands on some of the game footage from previous games. Watching myself on video exposed a lot of things in my game that weren’t as good as I thought they were. Namely, I felt like I looked incredibly lazy in most of the footage. I always give my best effort, but it certainly didn’t look like it. For this game I gave myself a few goals: first, I wanted to make more assertive runs and use my legs to show when/where I want the ball rather than just pointing like I’ve been doing. Second, I wanted to keep moving constantly rather than playing so stop/start. I haven’t watched the match video yet, but hopefully I did a better job with my movement.
As I’ve mentioned more than once before on this blog, when I play striker I’m looking almost exclusively to get in behind the defense. That makes what happened halfway through the second half as frustrating as it is embarrassing. I made a good run on the back shoulder of the central defender and the team (namely Tomi Ameobi) played a perfect early ball behind the defense. I took a good first touch and was clean in on the goalie. My striker instincts took over and I felt no nerves whatsoever. I could have probably scored by slotting to the keepers right or between his legs, but because I was so clean through I decided to round him and score in the open net. Unfortunately, after I touched the ball past him and went to run around, I slipped, got halfway up and slipped again, losing the chance. That goal would have changed the game completely and I’m sure we would have won the game had I scored. Jaro always fades at the end of games, so to tie the score with 25-30 minutes left would have been a big hit psychologically for them. Instead that miss probably served to give them more energy. For me personally it really sucked because I’ve been asking for that exact pass for a month, and when it came I screwed it up. People must be wondering what I was screaming for all this time!
Anyway, after the miss life went on and after a second Jaro goal I was again involved in one of the game’s talking points. There were about five minutes left in normal time and we were chasing a goal. Henka played a long pass that I chased along with a defender. The defender headed the ball then started screaming, but I wasn’t thinking about him. I got the ball and immediately threw it in to Sebastian. He gave the ball back to me and I one timed a low shot that found it’s way into the net. There was no time to celebrate so I turned straight back to the center line only to almost step on the defender, who was still down on the ground. The reaction of the Jaro players and seeing the player down made it kind of click to me that he was injured the whole time and that I had played on despite it. That made me feel horrible because I consider myself to be a fair player. With the exception of yelling at referees, I don’t do anything unsporting. No sneaky elbows, no trash talk, no stepping on people’s ankles, etc. But now I pretty much did the most unsporting thing possible without even realizing.
In my defense, it’s been a few years now since FIFA declared definitively that it is not the responsibility of any player to stop playing if someone is injured. If the referee thought that the defender was seriously injured, then he had the authority to stop the play at any time. Also, I didn’t see the defender so it wasn’t like I intentionally broke any unwritten rules. To their credit, no player from Jaro blamed me for continuing to play even though they must have assumed that I played on with knowledge of the injured player.
After everything was sorted, we continued playing against Jaro’s 10 men since they had no subs left to replace the injured player. In the ensuing 3 minutes plus an extraordinary 8 minutes of stoppage time, we seiged Jaro’s goal and had at least three great chances to score. In the end we didn’t get the goal, but we showed great heart in how we finished the match. That doesn’t do us any good on the day, but I promise that it matters in the long run. It was the first time since the Honka match last month that I thought we really dug our heels in and fought til the end. If we keep that spirit then we’ll win games. Jaro was only able to repel us because the crowd gave them a good fighting spirit as well. Even then, they needed a bit of luck at the end.
We’ve got two games in the next week that will go a long way towards determining what position we’re fighting for this year. Two wins and we’d probably be the favorites to finish third. Anything less and we’ll fall into a crowd of teams and obviously we don’t want that. The first game is against Lahti. They’ve been playing really well lately, but I think we’re better than they are. If we play like we did against MYPA then we should win. After that comes IFK Mariehamn, who are struggling to figure out their identity since losing their two top scorers. We should be looking to win that game as well.
That’s all for now. We’ll be looking to bounce back against Lahti this week and I hope that there’s a big crowd there to cheer us on!