Friday, July 25
To truly blog today in full would take more than the word count allowed……..and I honestly don’t think I could do today as much justice as the boys have experiences the boys will take from today. I am going to begin where we finished, which is on the 4th floor above the cafeteria in a theater style lecture room, with rows of seats leading down to a flat staged area and projected screen. It is here that we have just seen evidence that these young boys from New Jersey have captured the essence of this experience and brought nations from around the world together. With the exception of the Russian teams, our young American side are the furthest away from home by a country mile with the biggest gap in culture and yet couldn’t seem more at ease in their surroundings. I believe that hey are on course to make the biggest impact on this tournament and its participants in the 4 year history, through the way they have represented themselves on and off the field.
Before we get to the game, we started with a short trip down the Subway line to the Beijing Zoo to meet one of China’s most famous inhabitants the Panda. Again, there may have been as many photos taken of the team as there was of the animals during our brief visit.
Round 3 saw both games in Group A kick off at 4.00pm with all still to play for. The ALLSTARS found themselves starting in 3rd place but knowing that their fate lay in the 80 minutes ahead of them. The physical and technical Korean side topping the group at kick off looked well drilled and prepared during warm up. We knew we were in for a game.
The game started a little cagey with both sides testing each others resolve, putting feelers out when in possession trying to probe and find space in the opponents half. Coaches from each side were out in to their technical area early with fresh instructions for the players. The Korean side looked the more dangerous and likely to make something happen having the majority of possession higher up the field. From a cleared set piece onto the right hand side number 5 picked up the ball and swung it back into the area with NJ goalie Karimen colliding with Cadena as he came to win the ball in the air, which in turned dropped just outside the area. It was struck on the half volley so sweetly that the crossbar may still be vibrating. The ALLSTARS were not without chances as if it was not for some good defending Bell would have finished from a cross after a sweeping move down the right at the 30 minute mark. The better of the first half chances were crafted by the Korean select side and if it not for the at times galliant defending of Golden, Lowe, Zapata and Thorsheim the score of 0-0 may have been different.
Asked to be more positive at the break by Coach Donovan the NJ ALLSTARS started to find space around the midfield early in the second period with players starting to make breaks through the midfield. Free kick USA. An innocuous handball on the left hand side and the boys rolled into the area looking to make the most of a clear height advantage. A floated ball in, a great darting run and leap from Moylan saw him raise above the defenders and glance the ball over an advancing goalie. Suddenly the boys kick into a different gear and we are finding space across the field. With Fabricants movement opening up spaces on the field players are breaking through and finding room to beat players as Moylan skips passed the challenge of two players, holds, holds, stands a defender up before setting Bell up for a sweeping left foot finish into the far corner. Advantage NJ.
Bell a constant driving force with the ball at his feet is upended just inside the opposition half. Free kick USA. This time Bull delivers a driven ball into the 18 where the aerial threat of Fabricant unsettles the goalkeeper who drops the ball as it falls to Lowe’s feet facing away from the goal. The captain reacts quickest as he pounces on the loose ball to drive home with a third for the ALLSTARS 3-0. 3 goals in 20 minutes and the NJ ALLSTARS have drawn spectators from across the facility.
3 goals down and the Korean’s make changes. They began to press higher and faster leaving the ALLSTARS isolated and struggling to string passes together. Contained pressure brought chances from both sides including one off the crossbar and one into the into the side netting. GOAL Korea. The pressure finally tells with a forward skipping in front of a NJ defender and finishing past Kaminer. Korea again continue to press after the goal with the ALLSTARS dropping into a more solid looking 4-5-1 formation. Aunger and Bednarsky doing a fantastic job of neutralizing the threat of the Korean no.20, one of the players of the tournament so far. At the final whistle the NJ ALLSTARS had seen out the worst of the pressure, producing a mature 10 minutes to see out the victory whilst almost adding to their total on the break.
After losing the first game the boys finish top of Group A setting up a quarter final encounter with a 3rd placed wild card entry team. Due to the way the competition if formatted the top two teams from group A, B and C, with the best two third place teams make up the Quarter final. As top seed we will now face a wild card entry from China in the form of the Henan Province Experimental Middle School.
The game will be played on field 1, Sunday 8.30am Kick off.
Tomorrow will be a Great Wall and Summer Palace day trip.