Archive for March, 2018

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Week 14: Champions!

There are seasons packed with high drama from beginning to end, seasons like last year, which turned on a 118th minute goal in a qualifier.  This season was not one of those.  Instead, after being champions-elect since beating Rusko in Week 9, this week Steeple Sinderby Wanderers completed its title campaign and clinched auto-promotion in the most anti-climatic way possible, with a 10-0 win over bot Steel City Chaos.  Such a pasting does not require a deep analysis, but there were a couple incidents worthy of note.  First, Roberto Blackmon-Thomas put up a couple more goals, clinching the Golden Boot Award.  Second, it turns out that I made a mistake in not noting the mid-week signing of Emiliusz Niemiec a defensive forward who, for the nominal sum of $500,000, will bring veteran nous and solid leadership to our attack.  Niemiec, of course, made me regret the omission by notching four goals in his debut.

Of course, every success brings a new set of challenges, and this victory is no exception.  Next year promises to be a grim struggle to survive in Division IV, with manager David Jorgensen’s plan to switch to defensive training likely to dovetail nicely with what should be a long season of pressing and counter-attacking football.

Actually, it was this planned switch that brought about the only sour note of the day.  During his post-match press conference, Blackmon-Thomas decided to channel his inner Romario and announce that, now that he was an anointed Golden Boot winner, he would henceforth only practice in the penalty area.  Then, ignoring the striking shade of red that Jorgensen had turned, the Back Bay Bull then gave a testy “No Comment” to what should have been a soft-ball question about what he hoped to gain from the upcoming defensive training.

That said, these are problems for another day.  For now, SSW can bask in the glow of their hard-won title as we head into our offseason slate of Golden League match-ups and the Heroes of 2016 and Supporter Week tournaments.

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Week 13: Barton Wins HTUM Talent Of The Season

The last home match of the season is always a busy time for the back-office staff here at Slingsby Lane.  The Operations crew has to deal with a larger than usual crowd and the need to sell off the remaining supply of knishes, Recruitment has to begin finalizing the short list of transfer prospects for next season and to lay in earplugs against Finance’s inevitable shrieks of pain, Security needs to convince our ultras that this is not the appropriate time to set any portion of the stands ablaze and so on.  This year, I had one additional duty thrust upon me: organizing a pre-game ceremony so that some Golden League oligarch could present Alex Barton with the trophy for winning the HTUM U20 Talent of the Season Award (and to drink all the good scotch, but I digress).

Most of us here were quite pleased for Alex- this could easily have been a lost season for him after he narrowly missed out on making the USA U20 team, but instead he buckled down, focused on improving his playmaking abilities, and played a key role in our campaign.  In fact, his 85th minute goal in a 1-0 win over Owls was arguably the turning point of the season.  The one dissenting voice was manager David Jorgensen who, like the possibly apocryphal Roman slave of old, could be heard muttering “Remember, you are mortal” to Barton during his triumph.  Ok, it may have actually been “keep tracking back on defense or I’ll smack you.”  Same thing, really.

Turning to the match itself, it demonstrated precisely why Barton is both so frustrating and tantalizing as a prospect.  Asked to play in an unaccustomed forward role due to our putting Rolando Blackmon-Thomas in midfield to work on his playmaking and because Ruggero Panero is still out injured, Barton promptly embarked on a display of spin moves, rabonas and general hot-doggery that had Jorgensen gnashing his teeth in frustration.  He also chipped in two of the nicer goals you’ll ever see and sparked us to an easy 8-0 win over Dybesciaki Batory that all but clinched auto-promotion.

In the post-match press briefing, Jorgensen was asked about his plans for Division IV.  After dispensing with the obligatory cliches about not looking past bot team Steel City Chaos next week, he said “we’ll be buckling down next year and focusing on defense.  It’ll be a shock to the system for a certain Fancy Dan who shall remain nameless, but he’ll just have to adjust.  Or else.”

While this might be chalked up as a mere motivational ploy, we shortly demonstrated that it was not, as Jorgensen announced the signing of 23-year-old Ronald Sellers, a powerful Chicagoan described as our central defender of the future, for a club-record fee of $4.3 million.  So, I guess we’ll see how Barton adjusts to playing wingback next year.  It’ll be, um, interesting.

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Week 12 Recap: Sinking the Rafters

Jimmy Cannon once wrote “the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet.” Such was the case yesterday, as we dispatched AC Poudre Rafters, the last human team on our schedule.

Personally, I will admit to some nerves before the match since we were clearly going to bear the burden of attacking, meaning that one fortunate counter-attack and some inspired defending from the scrappy Rafters could undo all that we’ve accomplished so far.  However, when I tried to ask manager David Jorgensen after training on Saturday how he planned to handle this, he  “Relax, it’ll be fine. Jere [Halla, our form coach] did some Finnish voodoo thing and the boys are spitting fire.  We’re going to stomp them.”  Jorgensen declined to further comment on what constituted a “Finnish voodoo thing” and, terrifyingly, only winked when I informed him that the club would not be reimbursing any reindeer-related cleaning expenses.

In any event, whatever Halla did worked.  Yesterday was the kind of day that everything just clicked for us- every pass found its target, our chances were taken with aplomb and our defense mopped up their few attacks with ease.  When the dust settled, we were 6-0 victors, as Misariscabame and Blackmon-Thomas notched a brace each, with Barton and Nick King rounding out the score sheet.  Our analytics department had it as easily our best match ever, and noted it was the first time we had ever cracked the 300-hatstat barrier.  (Our analytics department then had to sit down and attempt to explain to me what a hatstat was.  Let us just note that it involves math in some capacity and move on to happier things.).

Moving forward, we finish up with two bot teams so the league title should be secure [knock wood] and the question becomes whether we’ll have to play a qualifier afterwards.  Right now, we are above the auto-promote line by just one goal, so we may be sweating this one out.  Stay tuned.

 

 

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Week 11 Recap: The Legend of Frenchy King

This past week saw another comprehensive victory for SSW, a 11-0 thrashing of Boston Celtix in a match that never saw us have to get out of second gear.  Rather than spend time analyzing every last kick of the ball, I figured that this would be the opportune time to shine the spotlight on the man of the match winner: Terry “Frenchy” King.
Terry King

Terry’s been with us for four seasons now, joining us as a 19-year-old defender from his hometown Vancouver Patriots.  Nicknamed “Frenchy” by his teammates after a certain club secretary, who shall remain nameless, accidentally typed “Quebec” instead of  “British Columbia” in the press release.  Terry decided to lean in to his new heritage, adopting a sneer worthy of a Parisian headwaiter, exclaiming “Tabernac” at opportune moments, and learning several of the words to “Alouette,” all to the immense amusement of his teammates.

On the pitch, Terry’s been nearly as adaptable, moving from central defense to wingback with aplomb and even showing some aptitude as a winger.  In all of these roles, he’s been an intelligent defender with a knack for rising above what he insists on calling “le grand achalandage” to head in set pieces.  Sadly, his progress has stalled a bit over the last couple seasons, as Jorgensen switched our training focus to playmaking and focused his efforts on others.  Nevertheless, Terry accepted the lesser role with a pseudo-Gallic shrug, has consistently been one of our best players on the pitch and has continued to be the life and soul of our clubhouse parties.

Going forward, however, there are questions as to whether Terry will be with us once this group hits its prime.  He’s a couple years older than the rest of our core trainees and the Payroll Department grumbles every time we have to pay the 20% premium for international talent, so I happen to know that our scouts have their eyes out for an American replacement.  But, whatever, the future may hold, Terry’s played a key role in making SSW what it is today, and it’ll take a heck of a player to replace him.