Okay okay, I know. Why haven’t I posted yet after two big games this week. It’s a fair question. Can I use the I’m busy excuse…probably not, everyone is busy. Can I use the work got in thew way excuse, probably not, I have used that one a few times. Can I use the fact I was bummed out after the tie to North this week, because that is all I have really. Was hoping for a big Hudson win to pick me back up.
It was an interesting week for Memorial. Coming off their best weekend of the year and facing a city rivalry game and then their biggest conference game of the year against Hudson. Let’s get into it.
Memorial vs. North 0-0
First, let’s discuss North a bit. Maybe the best North team I have sen in a number of years, maybe ever. I have followed High School soccer seriously since 2008-2009. In my time, North has never seriously challenged Memorial in the standings or on the pitch. It has been a one-sided affair. I may not have it exact, but I think 20+ wins in a row for the Abes. And most of those were not very competitive yo be honest. So what is different.
-North has some players. I think their midfielder, #10, sorry I did not get the name, but will research, was the best player on the field on Tuesday. I hear he is on St. Croix’s top academy team and it showed. Fast, quick, great feet, great vision, great field awareness. Really impressive. He game Memorial trouble all night, and not just one player, their midfield was really good. Their defense has improved and is a strong unit. They play smart. Their GK made some impressive stops and played aggressive. They have some speed up top and can be dangerous on the counter attack. I think their forwards have outscored Memorial this year.
-North brought some attitude and swag. North did not sit back in the low block and just defend all night. North possessed. North counter attacked, North found space in the midfield and out wide to put pressure on Memorials defense. North looked dangerous. Lots and lots of previous games North really was not in the game. You would just wait for Memorial to score. You knew it was coming, it was just a matter of time. 10 North players behind the ball all night. The ball in the Memorial zone all night. Not on Tuesday. It was a very competitive game. Kudos to North. Well played.
-Memorial was just a step slow or a step off all night. After watching them over the weekend, this one felt a little different. Not sure. Just speculating, but they were coming off their best soccer of the year, maybe thinking about Hudson on Thursday, maybe overlooking an opponent they have defeated for like 10 years straight, they are a young and inexperienced team, they are still learning….you get it. It is a process. You need to learn tough lessons. Bringing it every night and playing your best is critical. They did not play bad….just not quite the level required. They out shot North but a large margin. They left a few goals on the pitch. They were just a little off their game.
-North only had 5-6 shots but it seemed like everyone was a one on one vs. Tyler Hanson. Tyler had a highlight reel of saves. On another day with another GK, I could see North scoring 2-3 goals. Dangerous thru balls, dangerous balls over the top, dangerous crosses into the box. North looked more dangerous tonight than usual. In the past, it was dump and run and hope for a break. Not on Tuesday. It was calculated and precise and dangerous. It was a good game. 0-0 sounds boring, but this game was anything but boring. Maybe this is the start of a new rivalry. It would be great for city soccer. No more taking North lightly.
Lets check out some highlights. Almost got one at the end of the first half.
This was a tight call. If you watch the ball when it is passed, Brenner is very close to being on side. After a bunch of views I am leaning to it being a good call, but pretty close. On this night, Memorial was just one step from a PK.
Brenner with the flick. Just wide.
I know Zumwalt has a big goal coming soon. Painful to see how close he has gotten this year in some big moments. Keep shooting kid, you are due. A nice play and just needs another few inches wide and it is a goal.
This is the game right here. A great sequence for both teams. After some nice passing combinations, Brenner finds Peloquin in the box but a great kick save by the North keeper. The ball deflects to Zumwalt., yes, Zumwalt, and I am thinking this is it, this is the one, an open net. He hits it good, the goal is open, the keeper out of the play, but at the last moment a North defender slides into the space, turns his back and BAM….a butt shot….goal denied. Wow. Just wow. Clearly it was not meant to be on this night for Memorial; North steps up and breaks the Streak. Bummer dude!
Memorial vs. Hudson 1-1
So, sometime a tie feels like a loss, see notes above for North game. But sometimes a tie almost feels like a win. See notes below on Hudson game.
First Half. A cold rainy night for soccer but it did not seem to impact the play on the field. Hudson showed why they are undefeated in the first half and looked the better team. Their midfield is very impressive. Kolton Prater can really dominate a game from midfield. His possession, his field vision, his passing and sometimes his shooting make him my choice for the Player of the Year in Conference. Hudson’s defense is big, fast, athletic, skilled, aggressive and tough to deal with. They really shut down Memorials first half attacks.
The first half Memorial was on their heels a bit. Hudson found space in midfield, connected with wing players and narrowly missed on two shots they just rolled wide by inches. I think the first one from Prater hit the right post. GK Hanson had to play sweeper keeper on a few occasions to keep the score at 0-0. Hudson just looked a little better across the pitch. Memorial’s most dangerous moments came on set plays. They earned a handful of corners and each time, there were chances to score. Hudson cleaned things up each time, but the corners looked dangerous. Not many shots from the regular course of play. Too many thru balls that did not connect or balls into space that the Hudson defense cleaned up. It feels this defense is too good to beat that way. Combination play and passing to feet seems the ticket against Hudson. Late in the half on a long free kick (35-40 yards), Hudson struck gold. A floated ball from Prater found the head of a Hudson player and it just floated into the goal. Hanson just missed a punch to clear the ball. A game of inches, but Hudson took advantage and went into half up 1-0.
Second Half. Would love to hear the halftime talk. Kite has done a great job with this team and it showed again in the second half last night. The team looked different to start the second half. They were energized. They were pressing all over the field. They were winning balls and improving their possession and passing. If you walked into the game in the second half, you would have thought Memorial was the leader of the conference and the better team. It was a good sign.
After Tuesday’s tie, the Conference crown seemed lost. No way Hudson would lose a game and tie a game with only a few left. The real focus now was to keep improving and be at the peak of your season entering the playoffs. Conference titles are nice, but lets move on to getting ready for post season. There was a lesson that needed to be learned. Overcome a tough game (tie to North) and overcome a deficit against a very good team (down 1-0 at the half to Hudson). Find a way and lift your game. And that is what happened. You could feel the energy swing, you could feel it with players and as well on the bench. The coaches were fully engaged. The players were working hard. And it showed! Memorials started connecting and improving their possession. Balls were going to feet. Players were moving better. More players were in the attack. Fewer long balls into space. Harder tackles, quicker stepping to deny possession to Hudson. More precise play to break down the defense. I think the team can take their second half against Hudson and build on it. I know this…I would not want to play Memorial in the playoffs as the higher seeded team. They have been right there all year and if they put it together….watch out.
Lets take a look at some highlights.
Jared is going to score on one of these again this year. Another close one in the first half.
Sulzer narrowly misses the equalizer. Memorial was pressing all half. Set plays were dangerous all half. Almost!!
So, a little foreshadowing for you. Take a look at this play from Peloquin. A ball near the end line , a shot rifled across the box, Brenner lurking dangerously in the box…but a save by the GK. Just sayin, maybe something like this might happen again later.
Sometimes you forget the play before the play. Here it is. If not for the constant pressure from Peloquin and the hustle from Rosenberger, the throw in that results might never have happened. Sometimes the play before the play is as important or more important.
Look familiar. Peloquin along the line, a cross rifled into the box, Brenner lurking…..BAM. Beautiful header….GOOOOAAAAALLLL!
Memorial kept pressing and almost got a game winner. Bummer dude!
So an interesting week. Two ties…two very competitive games. I hope the lingering memory will be the second half comeback against Hudson, out playing the conference leaders and coming from a goal down. Let’s build off that and be a very dangerous team in the playoffs. Go Abes. Trust the process!