Well, the season started out with a disappointing 4-2 loss. On the bright side, it was only the first half that was disastrous for my team as they outscored us 4-0. Much of the problem, I think, was due to the fact that we are a new team. The team consists entirely of people who could not find a team of their own. We are, in other words, a ragtag bunch of misfits. There seemed to be some organizational problems in the first half, primarily with defense. I was primarily playing forward or midfield, but saw that the defenders were doing a horrible job marking up. I can recall at least one of those first two goals being the result of a cross to our right side of the field because the right defender moved too much to the middle and let a man go unmarked in his area. I later noticed that substitutions appeared to be causing some trouble...
I was playing forward when they scored their third goal. I noticed that there were not enough defenders back, so I sprinted to get down field to try to assist. This ended up being necessary, as the last defender got beat, leaving me as the last person who could get between their forward and our goalie. I did make it down in time, however, I made lousy contact with the ball. I was trying to kick it out the back, as I saw that as the best option. I went down from colliding with the attacking forward, but he managed to stay up and go after the ball that was still in play after my failed attempt to kick it out. I did get back up, but I was not really in any condition to get properly set for defending as their forward was threatening to take a shot. So I hustled to get in the way. However, he backed off and then was able to dribble around me and score. I felt a little bad for going as hard at him as I did, but I feel he would have gone threw with that shot had I not. I was also hoping I would maybe have some backup from the defender who had been beat earlier. And he was indeed in the area, just not quite to where he could be effective. So, that was frustrating, but I'm not really blaming myself for that one as (1) it was not my responsibility to even be there and (2) their forward would have likely scored had I not done anything.
After that, I got a hint of what the problem really was. It was to be our ball, but I noticed we had too many people playing forward. I looked back and saw that there was no longer a right defender! (By the way, their forward came down our right side of the field.) I decided I had better play defense then!
A while later was when I made a mistake for which I do take blame. The middle defender had pushed up further than he probably should have, considering that the forward who had gotten the third goal has pretty good ball-control skills. I ended up being the furthest back defender, and I had to be where I was because I was up to the mid-field line. (Moving up any further would have not caused the forward to be offside as he was on his half of the field.) Their right defender got the ball, and he hit the ball up and crossed it over to the guy I was defending. I got this stupid idea in my head that I could break up the pass. I failed to do so. He managed to play off the first bounce and headed the ball over me. As my momentum was carrying me to the sideline, I had to switch directions. As he was already going the way he wanted to, I had to play catch-up. At this point, there was not a whole lot I could do. I did manage to get back in front of him and made him pull back the ball. The problem was he still had a lot of advantage over me. Again, I had a problem with having to change direction. I grant that perhaps it would have been better if I had looped around instead of trying to cut back. I did some quick drawing in Paint on how I remember the play going down. I drew the opposing player's general path in black and mine in red. At this point, he went to his left, as my momentum had carried me off to his right. I tried cutting back, but then he pulled up again and went around me the other way. I put an alternative in gray. Perhaps instead of trying to cut straight back, I needed to loop backwards a bit, just to create some space and to give me time to be able to react to his moves. By cutting back like I did, I was bound to get beat again. I put myself in a position where if I did not charge hard at the ball, he would have likely moved around further left and still beat me. Yet, by charging in hard, he was able to pull up again and maneuver around my back side. At any rate, my first mistake was playing too aggressively instead of just being sure I stayed in front. After that, my options were limited.
I apologized to the middle defender for playing too aggressively instead of just trying to get in the way until he could back me up. Shortly after this, it was halftime and things became slightly frustrating. This is because two of my teammates thought they should bring it to my attention that I overplayed the ball. Yeah, thanks, but I knew that already! Not that they knew that I knew, of course, but it's not necessarily pleasing to have other people on your case, even though I'm sure they meant it only as friendly advice, when you are on your own case. Though, the most frustrating part was when one of them suggested I was overreacting to the first move, allowing the forward to juke around me. That was not quite accurate. While I grant I'm a bit rusty when it comes to outdoor soccer, I'm not one to bite hard on a juke move. No, it probably looked that way because I had gotten myself in such a bad position that I had to react to any move because I was unbalanced from having to play catch-up.
On a bit of a side note, that forward may not fully understand the offside rule. One time, his teammate tried to pass him the ball when he was offside (which was because I noticed I was furthest back defender and moved up to play the ball). I got slightly in the way of the ball, but only just enough to deflect the ball and not actually stop it. He then intercepted the ball and got called. Then he complained to the ref about how it hit my foot. So I went about searching the internet and could not find anything that suggested a deflection off an opponent would nullify the offside rule. Actually, I found a page confirming that a deflection does not count; it appears I would have had to have control of the ball first, which I did not.
The second half went better. One of those guys who talked to me at half decided he had better play center defense. This helped maintain some order, though there still seemed to be a number of changes on the outside defender positions. The one slightly scary moment was when he decided to sub out when the other team had the ball on our side of the field! Granted, the ball was out of play at that time, but I didn't know if the sub was going to make it in in time. (I strangely don't even remember who that sub was. Honestly, I remember having different defenders at different times, but I didn't really notice when they went in and out.)
I played goalie that second half and managed to keep them scoreless! Though the improved defense really helped out. They really only had two reasonable shots on goal. Most of their shots went high over the net. I managed one save that for sure would have otherwise gone in. The forward was to my right and dribbled around the left side of the defender on him. I was keeping in mind some tips I read at the time. Before he had gotten around the defender, I had actually moved up a little to put on some pressure, yet stayed back so that I could react to his moves. Once I saw him start to get around the defender, I moved slightly in the left direction toward the far post, realizing he would have a better shot at the far post than the near post. This turned out to be a wise assessment as his shot was going for the wide post, but I managed to dive for the ball and hit it with my left palm. This caused the ball to roll out behind the goal line giving them a corner kick.
Now on that corner kick, I did not play so well. The kick was plenty high and I may have had an opportunity to punch it out. After all, I can use my hands, giving me more reach than anyone else. Yet, perhaps that screw up in the first half caused me to be cautious. I stayed back, which may have been a worse idea because the person who got his head on the ball had quite the opening. (The other part was that the defense was not marking up correctly. The left midfielder was playing outside of his mark instead of inside.)
But that was most of the excitement. There was a weird moment when they took a shot that may have been going wide, but I wasn't sure where the far post was, so I pursued and punched the ball away. I thought I saw a white jersey, so I backed off to get back in the net. Then no one came. Not even my defense. I guess I did suggest that the ball was going out. It interestingly stopped rolling pretty much on top of the line. (Actually, the bottom of the ball was outside the line. Does the ball need to cross the line completely to be considered out? Apparently so!) Eventually someone got it. It probably should have been me once I realized no one was actually coming for the ball, because I could have picked it up and cleared the ball more safely than anyone else on my team.
Other notes are that my punts are quite monstrous. I can really boot the ball that way. My goal kicks still need work. They could use a bit more height yet. And I need to work on my aim. I had a situation where the right midfielder was being left open along the right sideline two goal kicks in a row. The first time I kicked the ball too much in the middle. The next time I over-corrected and kicked it out.
The last thing I can recall wanting to mention is that I had a moment where I was pleased that I won the psychological game. There is one woman on our team who has never played before. Her ball-control skills are non-existent. I had the ball and saw that she was open down the left sideline. There was also a guy in the middle who has good ball skills, but had a defender monitoring him. I looked and motioned toward the open woman on my team. I had no real intention of throwing to her; I was really hoping to draw defenders to her. It worked. The defender in the middle shifted that way, allowing me to pass to the teammate I really wanted to go to.
So that's pretty much all I can remember for now. The only other thing to say is that it appears a number of people on my team are not in good shape! I guess that just means I need to improve more! And I will. Amy and I are taking outdoor basic training (pdf)!!!