In the History Books....
To this point, "the Yanks" have done a pretty good job of impressing and beating the Europeans at their own game. But, with the table set today for a match against the Aberdeen reserve squad, the town was ready for their hometown favorites to reassert dominance over the Americans.
We awoke today to a beautiful sunshine. Wake-up wasn't until 10, but I was out at nine in the grassy area in front of our flats doing a bit of shirtless ball work and enjoying the morning shine. About that time, our hardworking staff were once again going beyond the call of duty and returning from a trip to the grocery store after an early-morning run.
The rest of the boys began moving about closer to 10 and several of us went to work in the kitchen in an attempt to put together a pre-game meal. Believe it or not, we're all really getting the hang of this cooking business, despite disastrous conditions - messes we've made, but failed to clean up!
After a quick team meeting in our usual spot around the corner, we all loaded into our goofy 16-passenger van, the extras set off on foot. We played at one of the university grounds that was only a five-minute drive away. The pitch was wonderful, green and VERY short - a southern boy loves that! We arrived at 1:00 p.m. for the 2:00 kickoff and began fiddling about with the ball, only to begin wondering if the other side was going to show at all. But coach Clark assured us that with all the hype that has been going around, this game was definitely going to be played. He was right; the Aberdeen side showed at half past one, and quickly things got underway.
They came with a very strong team, starting three players that served as substitutes in the first-team's game on Saturday against Celtic. They played a style very similar to our style: short, quick combinations with long fading balls to the forwards. Finally, we found a real test - a team that could really expose us and finish us off if we weren't all in good form.
The reds [Aberdeen] got off to a good start and dealt us plenty of problems in the first 20 minutes of the match. Despite having little possession and defending on quite a few corner kicks, we still managed to put together a few moments of brilliance. The shining moments gave the Irish all the confidence we needed to know that this was a team that we could play with, and even beat.
The class of these young professional we played against showed early on, as they played crisp passes and spot-on long balls over our defense. But it wasn't long before the excitement and determination of the Irish began to take over.
Towards the end of the half, several Irish players began to get good chances on goal, but unfortunately we didn't convert. Chad just missed a nicely-taken free kick from about 20 yards out, I, picked the pocket of a defender within the box but failed to finish a point-blank shot, and Rafa even got through on a ball behind the defense and finished it off, only to hear the offside whistle blow.
We went into the halftime chat knowing that we were playing a good team, but confident that we could win the game. The Avery-Wiese-Clark trio gave excellent advice and made a few changes by sending on Flip for Detter and Devo for Rafa. The Boss came to me just before the beginning of the second half and gave some reassuring words that convinced me that we would win this game.
On we went and the first 20 minutes showed a complete change of momentum. The Irish had the Scots on their heels, and we were picking balls off left and right. With Chris "Stifler" Sawyer in goal making some crucial saves, we had weathered the storm and began to see several scoring opportunities.
Erich Braun took a thru ball from Devo and went on a short breakaway, making no mistake about slotting one past the keeper. One nil … and the rout was on. Shortly thereafter, Braun slipped Devo thru and his breakaway was saved to the left, right to the foot of an oncoming Filippo Chillemi who calmly banged it into the back of the net. The 2-0 lead was good enough for us today, and we went on to control the rest of the game, winning comfortably.
Coach Clark was gleaming, as were they others on the staff after doing a great job of coaching their team through this victory. But for Clark it was even more special. He walked across the pitch and shook hands with the other manager, his former teammate. Then all his other friends came congratulating him on his first team to beat the Aberdeen side that he used to be the star of. His cell phone was ringing off the hook once the news got round. It was quite a game.
We ended the night at the Sportsman's Bar & Restaurant, with a special thanks to Mr. Ian Winkle who helped set everything up for us here in Aberdeen. It was then that associate athletic director Tony Yelovich presented Clark with an old-school Aberdeen jersey, with his name on it and the years of his Scottish Cup victories.
A tired group of futbollers will get to bed tonite and rest up for the North Sea in the morning. This postgame activity was fun once, even twice, but it's really lost its luster the fourth time!!! But it'll make us better, so we'll do it. Then another session of Clark Criticism and no real practices.
It should be a light day to let the legs come back under us. We'll sleep well tonite knowing that we are the only of four of coach's teams to beat Aberdeen, the local powerhouse!
- Greg Martin -