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Week 9 Update: Avoiding Disaster

Well, after a fortnight of misery, we were able to get ourselves moving in the right direction again with a 3-0 win over relegation-bound Czech Frosties.  For once, we managed to get a game off to a good start, as Luis Aldair Misariscabme opened the scoring in the 11th minute and Nick King doubled our advantage three minutes later.  We then returned to our usual habit of blowing chances, though Emilusz Niemiec managed to add an insurance goal in the 55th minute.  More importantly, we managed to avoid any injuries and were able to keep the four or five fans who actually showed up from throwing things at us.

Next week, we travel up to New Hampshire to take on Cavaliers VFC in a match that will go a long way towards determining whether we can avoid the qualifiers.  Keeper Chris Masters is facing a late fitness test, while they’ve got a minor suspension crisis on their hands, so this one could really go either way.

Finally, a quick note to both readers of this blog: I’m going to be travelling this coming week, and will likely be unable to do an update next week.  Usual irregular service will resume the following week.

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Week 8 Recap: An Omnishambles In Paradise

Well, the one silver lining to last week’s shocking defeat to St. Croix Destroyers is that at least we had an immediate chance to travel down to their place to exact some revenge.  Surely, after last week’s debacle, we’d refocus, smack around a team we clearly outclass, and celebrate with some of those frozen drinks with the little umbrellas, right?

Not so much, as it turns out.  As before, we dominated midfield, but struggled to turn that into scoring chances, and missed the chances we got.  We might have managed to pull through anyway, but for three minutes of madness towards the end of the first half.  In the 36th minute, their winger took advantage of a miscommunication between Nick King and Leslaw Malolepszy to get free on the right and open the scoring, while things went from tragedy to farce in the next minute as a speculative shot from 35 yards out by Reggie Blunt somehow got by Chris Masters (and, no, this is not the kind of team that gears its tactics towards getting such shots).  Masters, of course, managed to injure himself in the process of not saving said long shot, and limped off in the following minute.  We added a consolation goal late, but were once again 2-1 losers.

The reaction to this disaster was swift and fierce.  Our chairman had to give Jorgensen the dreaded vote of confidence, while fans have started quitting the club in droves (not coincidentally, there are still plenty of good seats available for next week’s home match).  On the plus side, at least we can start printing up tickets for a relegation qualifier early.

Next week, our march back to Division V continues as we take on a Czech Frosties team with no discernible talent other than injuring people.  I’m starting a pool to see who joins Masters on the treatment table.

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Week 7 Recap: [Expletive Deleted]

We should have known we were in trouble when Terry King kept tweeting about our upcoming rematch with Cavaliers rather than this week’s game.  Or possibly when Alex Barton spent warm-ups practicing rabonas.  David Jorgensen giving a pre-match pep talk consisting of “Lads, it’s St. Croix Destroyers” probably didn’t help either.  In any event, Wanderers came into this week’s match expecting an easy three points and paid the price for their hubris.

After a first half where we passed the ball easily around the midfield but failed to press home any of our chances, a bad give-away left fullback Leslaw Malolepszy isolated on the wing with the speedy Fernando Rancan.  While Malolepszy is normally excellent at using the sideline to cut off wingers in this situation, in this case he was a half-step slow and Rancan created enough space to send in a cross that Jon Falkblom was able to knock home.  Five minutes later, Nikolai Tzevtkov was able to get a speculative shot past our keeper, and we went into halftime down 2-0.

Jorgensen delivered more than a few choice Danish epithets during the team talk, and we came out with a bit more intensity during the second half.  However, the Islanders understandably decided to park the bus and foul everything that moved.  We were able to pull one back, but Niemiec kept sending free kicks into the wall and no one was able to conjure up an equalizer from open play.  When the final whistle blew, we had 67% possession, but were on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline.

By any measure, this was a devastating loss for SSW, one that undid all of the good work we had done prior to it.  We entered the day as possible title contenders.  Now, we’ll be lucky to avoid a relegation playoff.  The rumblings of discontent with Jorgensen have become full-fledged howls.

At least we’ll have a chance of revenge next week, as we travel down to the Virgin Islands for the return fixture.  One can only assume the lads will be more focused this time.  If not, its possible that some of them won’t make it back to the mainland.

 

 

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Week 6: Visiting the Goon Squad

This week, we headed out to Michigan to take on the Czech Frosties.  The Marauding Moravians have yet to earn their first point since promoting, but do lead the league in one category: injuries inflicted.  Of late, they’ve apparently developed a taste for human flesh, much like a man-eating tiger or Luis Suarez, and have knocked at least one opponent out of their last four games, including a remarkable three reddinrdboyz players.  This hasn’t exactly helped them in terms of results (they lost that reddinrdboyz match 6-1), but they’ve certainly left a black-and-blue mark on the league thus far.

Before the game, told the lads to play this one cool, on the theory that Arijt Chitre and the rest of the medical staff would be slightly less busy if we weren’t flying in to every tackle.  But, at some point, the boys would just need to stand there and take it like men.  For us, that point came two whole minutes into the match, as the Battling Bohemians’ Taylor Willis scythed down Ron “Chopper” Sellers, leading to a red card for Willis and a week on the training tables from Sellers.

The only silver lining for us, is that we were able to send on our own enforcer, the powerful Janus Pailing.  Pailing did what he does best- running around kicking people- and had enough of a deterrent effect to turn the affray back into a football match, which is something we do much better than they do.   Emilusz Niemiec notched a brace, Terry King and Abel Jonas each scored after runs down their weakened right side, and we were comfortable 4-0 winners.

More importantly, the win puts in the middle of a stunningly tight title race, as just two points separate first and fifth place.  This coming week, we begin a home-and-home with sixth place St. Croix Destroyers.  The Islanders managed a shocking draw with Wife Collectors last week, but Jorgensen seems confident that we can get the three points.  Since the rest of the top four pair off with each other for home-and-homes of their own, this could well be our chance to make a move up the league table (a bunch of draws in those games would be greatly appreciated).  Stay tuned.

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Week 5 Recap: Growing Pains

This week’s 1-1 draw against Cavaliers VFC marked a turning point for us.  Coming into the season, the expectation was that we’d be trying to hang on in this division by our fingernails, making any point gained against a quality opponent a gift.  Now, however, the solid start to our season has raised expectations, with the sullen atmosphere at Slingsby Lane making clear that the fans thought this was a case of two points lost, rather than a point gained.

Distressingly, for the first time, there has started to be a bit of grumbling about David Jorgensen remaining as manager.  I mean, no one’s flying “Jorgy Out!” banners over the stadium or anything yet, but the first cracks are appearing.  SSW Twitter is starting to have some posts speculating about coaching changes.  Jorgensen himself got a couple questions in the post-game presser about whether he regretted selling Rolando Blackmon-Thomas and if he planned to bring in new forwards, which he reacted to with a testiness that did not endear himself to our beat writers.  Heck,  Club Captain Ruggero Panero picked this week to have his recently-completed coaching badge framed and hung up in his locker.

In fairness, you can kind of see their point, as we unquestionably got our tactics wrong in this match.  Basically, if we gave the back five a bit more license, we would have been able to establish the edge in midfield necessary to capitalize on our advantage on both wings.  Instead, Jorgensen kept everyone at home in an attempt to hit them on the counter, but also didn’t manage to suck them downfield enough to create any real counter-attacking opportunities.  All in all, a textbook case of turning a win into a draw (heck, were it not for a fantastic individual effort by Misariscambe to outrace his marker and set up Barton for our only goal, we’d be talking about a loss).

This was a costly draw, too, as we fell to fourth instead of moving up into second and significantly damaged an already unlikely bid for the league title.  Admittedly, we’d have been thrilled with fourth at the start of the season, but still.  In any event, we take on a thus-far winless Czech Frosties team next week.  For our increasingly-ambitious fans, only three points will do.

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Week 4 Recap: That Was The Week That Was

Just a quick update this week as your humble scribe has been forced to concentrate on his actual job for once:

The League: We comfortably beat bottom-of-the-table Sharks de San Jose 6-0.  Emiliusz Niemiec was the hero of the day, scoring a goal and assisting on two others with a well-placed corner and an indirect free kick.  The win, combined with favorable results elsewhere, pushes us up into third place.

The Cup:  Well, our cup season has come to an end with a loss on penalties to F.C. Westchester in the Sapphire Cup.  Despite playing an “experimental” line-up due to the exigencies of training, we nearly stole a win- Barton had the potential game-winner on his foot in the 84th minute and missed, followed by our taking a lead in extra time only to quickly relinquishing it.  Interestingly, Westchester is quickly becoming a bogey team for us, as they also knocked us out of the Sapphire last year.

Looking Ahead: We have one of our key league matches of the year coming up against Cavaliers VFC.  A win puts us in second and, with a favorable schedule over the next four weeks, may well set us up for a title challenge.  A loss means that we’re probably aiming for fourth.  It’ll be pretty even, but hopefully a hyped-up Slingsby Lane crowd will put us over the top.

We also resume Golden League action this week, flying to India to take on Mighty Karak Chai with hopes of positioning ourselves for a first-ever GL Masters appearance.

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Week 3 Recap: They Also Serve Who Stand Around On Defense

As regular readers of this journal will recognize, the story of the season for us is manager David Jorgensen’s insistence in drumming some defensive discipline into the squad.  So far, this has led to our selling our only real forward, playing our keeper in central defense during cup matches, dogs and cats living together, and other assorted oddities.  However, nothing during this time has been odder than watching Alex Barton attempt to play fullback during our cup matches- as a defender, he’s been a heck of an attacker with two cup goals, a tally which exceeds his number of successful tackles by three (Jorgensen instructed our statistician to give Barton a minus-one in that category after he accidentally dispossessed Abel Jonas with an especially belated slide).  In any event, due to poor opposition, we’re still alive despite three fairly gruesome displays.  Our luck’s likely to run out this week, but our focus is squarely on the league this year anyway.

In any event, its the league where Barton has continued to shine this year.  We’ve generally been playing him in the middle, but with license to drift wide and interchange with our wings when the spirit moves him (which is often).  This has worked fairly well so far, producing the few offensive bright spots in the somewhat dour draws we notched in the first few games, but really came into its own against the mighty Celtic SFO.  Why?  Well, in large part, Barton was helped by our taking a more expansive approach.  I mean, we didn’t do anything crazy- we still rolled out a 5-4-1, but it was an attacking (if oxymoronic) 5-4-1, as we abandoned counter-attacks and instead gave the central defenders license to contest possession in mid-field.  As a result, we saw more of the ball, which gave Barton a platform to unleash a little magic in the 75th minute when he sped between two defenders to score the opening goal.  He was also instrumental in our other goal, making an intelligent run to drag a Celtic wingback out of position, opening space for Niemiec score from just inside the 18 and complete a 2-0 victory (which the media heralded by somehow putting six of their players and none of ours on the Team of the Week, but I digress).

Our coaching staff is still trying to tamp down expectations, insisting that anything better than auto-demotion is a success.  This effort may have convinced our beat writers, which put six Celtic players and none of our lads on the Team of the Week.  However, its clear that the fans are having none of it, with some brave sparks suggesting on the call-in shows that we have a chance to win the league!  Are they right?  Of course not!  We’re talking about jobless layabouts calling chat shows, after all.  That said, even our sober and sensible fan thinks that a top-four finish is now a viable goal (and, yes, after dealing with that lot all week, I do believe that just one of our fans is both sober and sensible).

Anyway, next week we take on a desperate Sharks de San Jose team still looking for its first points of the season.  Also, if we’re still in the cup after Wednesday, I’ll need to actually write about it.  Jorgensen’s threatening to have Barton man-mark someone though, so don’t hold your breath.

 

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Week 2 Recap: A Conversation With David Jorgensen

This week, we managed a 1-1 draw in our home opener against the defending league champions reddinrdboyz.  After the match, David Jorgensen took me to the pub and reflected on the season so far.

Me: Congrats on a good result!  I know you’d never tell the lads this, but you must be happy with that performance.

DJ:  Actually, no.  I’m a bit disappointed that we didn’t get all three points.  The defense was good, and we created chances, we just couldn’t finish them.  So annoying.

Me:  We’ve actually held up really well defensively in the first two games.  Are you thinking about changing the training away from defense?

DJ: Its tempting, but I just can’t do it.  Its great that we can defend well with five at the back, but we can’t do that every game in the long run.  It limits us to counter-attacking against anyone half decent, which will keep us in IV but won’t get us much beyond that.  So we need to be able to play well defensively with only four or even three at the back.  We’re not there yet.  Also, Alex [Barton] and Nick [King] are both liabilities on defense at the moment, which needs to be fixed.

Me:  Speaking of which, how is Alex adapting to the defense training?

DJ:  Well, I’ll say this for him: the lad’s trying.  He sucks, but he’s trying.  At least, when he screws up, which is often, I have Chopper [Ron Sellers] to yell at him, saving me from having to get hoarse all the time.

Me: Speaking of Chopper, that was a hell of a game for him wasn’t it?  Scored the only goal, Man of the Match, elected to the Team of the Week.  A harbinger of things to come?

DJ:  Well, probably not the goal scoring part.  The man’s no Beckenbauer, but he can and should keep defending like that.  Plus, he’s turned out to be a better playmaker than we expected.  That said, even if all he does is yell at Alex all year, he’d be worth the price.

Me:  So, are we going to smack around Celtic next week or what?

DJ:  Heck, yeah.  Cheers!  Actually, its going to be a really tough one for us- they looked really strong last week and, honestly, just getting a point would be a positive result.  That said, if we can win that one, then we can probably stop worrying about auto-demotion and instead take a whack at making the top four.

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Week 1 Recap: The Journey Begins

After all the drama of the off-season, Steeple Sinderby Wanderers returned to the pitch this week.  For us, as a newly promoted team, anything better than auto-relegation back to Division V qualifies as a success this year.  Realistically, our survival depends on beating out two of the other three newly-promoted teams, with any points we can take from the more-established sides a greatly appreciated bonus.

To make matters worse, we have no chance to ease into the division this year, as we play last year’s top three teams in our first three matches.  This week’s opponents, the misguidedly affectionate Amish Wife Collectors, last season’s third-place finishers, are an all-out attacking juggernaut, with an offense that would not be out of place in the MLS and a midfield stronger than anything we could hope to match.  Notably, our manager decided not to try and fire up the lads overmuch.  Instead, we would stay cool, collected and organized, allowing the five at the back to soak up the pressure as best they could, and try to hit them on the break.

The key to this plan was the two newest Wanderers:  Ronald Sellers was responsible for marshaling our backline, making sure that none of their star forwards had the time or space necessary to work their magic, while keeper Chris Masters would need to be at his best in order to turn away the chances they did get.

In any event, the Wife Collectors unsurprisingly controlled the early going, and their defenders naturally began to keep a higher and higher line.  This proved to be their undoing when, in the 22nd minute, Sellers was able to send a long ball down the left flank, setting up a footrace between the Flying Typo, Luis Aldair Misarscabame, and two shocked Polygamist defenders.  There could only be one winner in that scenario, and Misariscabame finished off the move by rounding the keeper and slotting the ball home, giving SSW a shock 1-0 lead.

For the next few minutes, we had the giants off balance, and the chances started to come.  Koszarek had an open shot from the edge of the box, while Jonas was able to get on the end of a free kick.  However we could not get the second goal and, by halftime, there was a sense of an opportunity lost.

By the second half, it was clear that the Polygamists had righted the ship, and it seemed like nearly the entire 45 minutes were played in our end.  After a couple top-notch saves from Masters, the inevitable breakthrough came in the 59th minute, as Victor Molleda got free on the right and was able to knock in a cross for the equalizing goal.

However, that equalizer would be all they would get.  We were able to play with a composure belying our youth and choke the remaining life out of the game, holding on for what may well be a critical 1-1 draw.

 

 

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Blackmon-Thomas Sold!

Well, the Rolando Blackmon-Thomas saga ended with a bang, as we reached an agreement to sell him to Luxembourgian side Hogan’s Zeroes for a club record fee of $6.9 million.  However, this battle also seems to have left manager David Jorgensen drained, as he seems to have lost some of the easy authority he used to project.  Hopefully this malaise will not persist, since the lads will need every drop of inspiration we can muster as we tackle a higher division, but we shall see.

In any event, at least we put most of the money to immediate use, bringing in 23-year-old Chris Masters, who is an immensely talented keeper but, evidently, not a man to suffer fools gladly.  The latter attribute was on full display during his first practice with the side, much of which he spent expounding on the many positional failings of our defenders.  My ears are still ringing from the tongue-lashing he gave young Nick King after the latter blew an offside trap.  All of this will hopefully help us tighten up on defense in the long run, but it certainly did not endear Masters to the rest of the side, and makes for a somewhat deflated Wanderers side as we head into our season opener.