Friday, August 31, 2007

Out with the old?

Socceroos squad to face Argentina, MCG, September 11:Mark Bresciano (Palermo), Vincenzo Grella (Torino), Mark Schwarzer (Middlesbrough), Nick Carle (Genclerbirligi), Josip Skoko (Wigan), Michael Beauchamp (Nuremburg), Luke Wilkshire (Twente), Josh Kennedy (Nuremburg), Brett Holman (NEC Nijmegen), Carl Valeri (Grosseto), David Carney (Sheffield United), Archie Thompson (Melbourne Victory), Jason Culina (PSV Eindhoven), Michael Thwaite (Wisla Krakow), Scott McDonald (Celtic), Clint Bolton (Sydney FC), Alex Brosque (Sydney FC), Patrick Kisnorbo (Leicester City), Simon Colosimo (Perth Glory), Lucas Neill (West Ham), Dean Heffernan (Central Coast).

Honestly, not too many complaints about the squad. It’s good to see that Arnold (and whoever else has a hand to play in player selection) has decided to do a bit of a clean-out. Of course, it could be the non-availability of

some of the big names that have been omitted from the list that caused the selection of this young squad.

There are still question marks over some of the older players who aren't here… Out of those guys, there are two that have said they want to carry on to 2010 and the World Cup, but physically will it be possible?

-Graham Arnold (source)

There is still significant experience in the squad, with a nice spine to the team in Schwarzer, Neill, Grella, Bresciano and Culina. Hopefully they can be a solid structure for the rest of the team to form around to.

I am a little disappointed that Danny Allsopp missed out, and that Archie has made the squad. I simply think that Danny is a superior player, with an amazing work ethic. There’s so much that Danny can do, which Archie can’t (memories of Danny helping out in the defense at times through Season 1 pop into mind), and aside from the quick footwork of Archie (and I mean the speed that he has for moving the ball about when at his feet) there’s nothing that Archie does that Danny can’t do.

Happy to have Pantelidis back in the squad for tomorrow’s match. Not only is he an awesome hole-plug for pretty much any spot on the squad (I’m sure he’d make an excellent goalkeeper!), but he’s quite a talented player. He’s hole-plugging abilities often overshadow his never-say-die attitude, quality passes and brilliant tackles. For the past two seasons he has shut out many attacks with a solid well timed tackle. Splendid stuff! :)

Quick note: it just got into my head that Colosimo's in the squad. Colosimo! Uugh! I'd rather have Thompson. Enough said.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Completely off-topic, but...

... I simply had to write about it!

16 years ago, Mike Powell broke the long jump world record. In doing so, he defeated Carl Lewis - who himself had performed an admirable feat in producing 6 high quality jumps (8.68m, ???, 8.83m, 8.91m, 8.87m [with a head wind!], 8.84) - consistent but none of them could beat Powell's 2nd-last jump of the competition.

The reason why I wanted to write, is that Powell was discussing how his mind set 16 years ago was to only have to produce one jump that Carl simply could not beat. Lewis was something like the Mr Consistency of long jump - his series in the 1991 World Championships shows it.

And it reminded me of my old hammer throwing coach (who I still randomly think of these days, even though I stopped competing a few years ago). You had to throw say, 40m regularly in order to get that one 45m throw (and from there keep building your PBs) - or perhaps that's just how I interpreted his coaching.

As I said, completely off topic. Just feeling a bit wistful at the moment with the World Championships on (happens every WCs and Olympic Games), I really do miss athletics at times - I started when I was about 8 and kept going for another 12 or 13 years. If you're curious, I only picked up playing football when 15. So really, athletics is a bit like my first love. Don't think about it too much, but I do miss it.

I suppose one thing you could take away from Powell and Gus (my old coach) is that you need to be consistently great in order to have that brilliant moment. Anyway football fans, take what you want from that post - perhaps that brilliant moment is a goal or a penalty save. :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tiatto doesn't quite get away with it...

...but we'll find out for sure on Thursday evening.

While McFlynn also gets a disciplinary call up, Heffernan has managed to get away with the body-check Milligan.

Regardless of if Tiatto is suspended or not, how did the assistant referee miss it?! Especially since it was more than a moment of madness - a number of steps on Djite is more than a moment and surely not difficult to not see.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Oh so exciting!

Have I written about how happy I am for the A-League to be back yet?!?

So, the first match... Sydney vs. Central Coast
A rare Bolton error allows Gumprecht to intercept the ball, pass it off to Petrovski who does a fairly decent job of ensuring the ball gets to the far post and in for a goal. Anyone who's read my blogs realises that I'm far more interested in defences and particularly goalkeeping. With Vukovic in goals for the Mariners I really wasn't going to pay too much attention to the Sydney defence (which looked shakier than I expected!)

I'm a bit worried about Vukovic's goalkicks. Towards the end of the first half the ones from the right side of the goalbox kept veering off to the right and out of play. Then in the second half they weren't getting any distance! And then there was that moment when he came right of the box and my heart was in my mouth. I think everyone knows the moment when he came to the edge of the box for the initial save and then came right out for the second save - which he completely missed.

But he was otherwise awesome, especially when Juninho made that run in the first half down to the goalline and Vukovic kept covering - nice and low, stayed on his feet and didn't commit himself until he lost his balalnce. Juninho cut the ball back, can't remember who shot (Zadkovic?) and Vukovic was back on his line where he needed to be. I think he was a little annoyed that he lost his balance against Juninho, but I commend his effort in not committing and staying on this feet - top piece of work there.

Boogard and Wilkinson both had solid games, was very happy with them. However, my Dad pointed out that McKinna was a bit amateur regarding Jedinak marking Juninho for the whole of the match. Perhaps something for a post later down the track!

Let's move onto the refereeing. First, Talay should've been carded sooner - he was fouling all over the shop. Second, Heffernan's body check against Milligan needs to be dealt with. It's worse in the replay as you can see Heffernan keeping an eye on Milligan, waiting for the run towards him!

And while we're on referees... Queensland vs. Adelaide. What a dirty match! The thing that annoyed me most about this match was Tiatto stomping on Djite. IN FRONT OF THE ASSISTANT! And well, he's blind and perhaps deaf, he wants be a ref, but had to settle for waving a flag about. It was happening during last season too - assistants so caught up in determining if a player is offside or if the ball is out that they miss the things that occur right under their noses. It's really quite disgusting to see players get away with things such as that right in front of officials. Disgusting from the point of view of how inept our referees are!

Keeping things short - onto Wellington vs. Melbourne. I have not been very nice to Mr Theoklitos in the past (see labels Goalkeepers and Melbourne Rant), but I was willing to turn over a new leaf. This obviously will not happen - I completely blame the second Wellington goal on him (and what a turn around were Wellington in the last 15 minutes!).

I'll try to start positively - Muscat's penalty taking skills are well known, so I'll talk about the second goal. Awesome run by Keenan down the left flank. Has two Wellington players coming at him, slots the ball between them to play a one-two with a team-mate (I'll have to rewatch the match to remember). So that's two opposition players dealt with. Upon receiving the ball, we ducks and weaves past 2 and a bit players, falling down at that 3rd player and passing the ball off to Super Dan who ensure that it's a goal by slotting it past Moss. A total of 6 Wellington players dealt with between Keenan, the 'wall' player and Allsopp. Lovely sight that was. Beautiful finish too, but a wonderful run down the left flank. Unfortunately, aside from that gorgeous run I thought Keenan wasn't all that extraordinary...

Broxham was one of my top players from the match. Stocky and short, his low centre of gravity is going to make him a difficult player to stop when running at you. :)

I'm not too fussed about the first Wellington goal, a bit unlucky from the Melbourne player who headed the ball back to where Daniel was, and once that happened there was nothing that could really be done.

But the second goal... First Theoklitos comes out to the edge of the box for some reason. Broxham had his eye on the high ball, puts it under control and seemed to have the intention of playing it back to the keeper. By the time, Theoklitos was right next to Broxham, so there was no keeper to pass to! It means that Broxham had to do something quickly and played it out to the sideline. The resulting throw-in goes down the sideline and is knocked back into the goalbox. When the play is far away - say, outside the box, then the keeper has the time to be off his line. But as the play moves closer, the keeper ought to be on his line. I think there was more than enough time for Theoklitos to get back into his proper position. But he's so used to NOT being on his line... AARRRGGGHHH!!!! He ended up being about 2m off his line when the ball reached its target of Smeltz. Headed over the massive gap between the goal and the keeper - thank you very much!

Other things occurred too (Allsopp's handball comes to mind), but I have a pet hate of keepers not sitting on their line. The ironic part is that I used to do this all the time... shhh!

Friday, August 24, 2007

A-League Season Three Preview

It's been a long off-season, but the third season of the A-League is finally kicking off this evening! I'm very excited, and I'm sure I'm not the only fired-up football fan.

During the off-season, I started my coaching career, and I have three matches to go, but don't be suprised if you never hear about that until the A-League's off-season is upon us again!

Some of you may be aware that I tend to sit at halfway during my Melbourne Victory matches so that I can get a really good view of the match. As I have half-baked plans to go on some away trips this year I've decided that I had better get into the MV fan culture and get to know some of my fellow supporters. My ventures started with the pre-season friendlies against Victorian Premier League teams Oakleigh and South Melbourne. They continued with the pre-season tournament, joining the 'South End' for a bit of the Geelong match against Newcastle and back at our true home ground at Olympic Park for the Wellington and Sydney matches.

While I had a lot of fun singing with that lot I will be returning to my prawn sandwich area at half-way when the season starts proper. In short, if you've never spent an entire 90 minute period singing, go do it at some point. You may lose your voice, but it's fun and you can go home with a smile on your face no matter how poorly your team play.

So, now for the preview. I've noted quite a lot of previews popping up all over the place, so this will be what I am looking forward to this season, perhaps with a bit of swooning banter thrown in.

Sydney - I have to admit that I just stare at their defensive line-up these days. Bolton's an awesome goalkeeper - not just as a shot stopper, but he really seems to create a settled defense. Add Popovic and Rudan, and that's a solid central defensive unit. Milligan should continue to improve and I was also a bit impressed with Fyfe during the Asia Cup, hopefully he can keep doing whatever he's doing. Swoon-worthy players: outdated swoon, but John Filan's on the bench tonight!

Central Coast - Looking forward to Vukovic's development as a player and his combination with Wilko. Should be interesting to see how Heffernan's return affects things. I am still concerned with McKinna's insistance on using Mrja... too injury prone in my opinion, and hence a 'wasted' player. Hopefully, I can be proved wrong! Swoon-worthy players: Last year's best-looking player and runner-up are now on the same team! So Central Coast should be a delight to watch from a non-football point of view. Greg Owens, Danny Vukovic and a late favourite last year for me in Wilko...

Queensland - No Spase! What am I going to do without those occasional wonderful through-balls? Well, at least I won't get annoyed at his occasional losses in temper and stupidity... Happy to see that Grossman has been signed up, and hopefully the Matty and Mass show will get back on the road. With a large fan base, I'm hoping that Queensland make a top 4 finish. Swoon-worthy players: Although the Roar have lost Spase, Wedau and Willis, Reddy's still about. And I know a certain someone loves McKay, and that Murdocca has a bit of a female following.

Adelaide - COSTANZO!!!! My favourite player to watch last season - so much poise and an amazing ability to read the game. Although I'd hate to think that a team relies on one player, I find that if Costanzo has a bad day, so does Adelaide. Looking forward to the Burns and Djite partnership flourishing and I'm hoping that Sarkies adds a bit of heart to his game - frustrated me too often last season. Swoon-worthy players: None really do it for me...

Wellington - Mark Paston olé! One of my favourite players last season, often raised to hero-like status at home due to his goalkeeping often keeing the now dead Knights in the game. After not playing much of last season I'm hoping Ferrante gets some game time and due acknowledgement. One of my favourite players from season one, there was simply no room for him at Melbourne. Swoon-worthy players: Steven Old! [grrr... no photo yet] Might be on the bench a bit, but if given a run will be in the defense. I suspect Herbert might give him more of a run than Van Egmond did.

Melbourne - Patafta. This kid has been a wonder every time that he's stepped onto the park. A little creative dynamo that may be what we need to fill the hole vacated by Fred. Caceres has also been impressive in pre-season - he seems to have added a bit of grit to his game. He just needs to use his right peg a bit more, and he can use it, he did so in Geelong during the first half! I was so delighted that I went home with a smile on my face, even though me lost through some AWFUL defending (mumble, mumble, Ljubo, mumble, mumble). Looking forward to Muscat and Brebs putting Ljubo in his place. I don't like Ljubo - can you tell? Keenan also impressed my early against the VPL teams, but only occasionally shined during the pre-season competition. Swoon-worthy players: Danny Allsopp, Adrian Caceres, Kaz Patafta, Mitchell Langerak, Grant Brebner, Kevin Muscat (hahaha!)

Perth - Velaphi. He was awesome last year for Queensland while they had their goalkeeping crisis (*glaring at Reddy*). Should also be interesting to see how Nick Rizzo goes - injury stalled his career over in England and was consequently left in the wilderness - should be a happy return to football action for him. Hayden Foxe seems to be injured... again... see minor Nick Mrdja rant in Central Coast section. Swoon-worthy players: Hmmm... another tough area... oooh!!! Petkovic?

Newcastle - A beautiful team to watch under Van Egmond. Kennedy's injured at the moment, but hopefully he'll get some game time throughout the season - might be difficult with Covic about. But that kid just needs some confidence. I'm also hoping Joel Griffiths can control his temper. Swoon-worthy players: I'll get back to you later in the season.

My thoughts for round 1? You'll have to visit Football Down Under and Beyond!

Note: I have a class to run off to - will link Qld profiles later, perhaps this afternoon.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Round 14: trying to get it together.

Another loss - this time 4-0 against Team 3. Before the match started I organised for my goalkeeper to get a run on the field in the 2nd half. It's about time I gave her some playing time. So I spoke to one of the players before the match and told her I was going to put her in goals for the second half. The deal was that she'd play the full 40 min of the first half.

I also told her not to tell the rest of the team. I explained that I was going to ask the team for a volunteer. Essentially, if I had a volunteer then that player would be 'safe.' Otherwise, it would be her. No-one volunteered. Great team spirit (sarcasm.)

Thing is, at half-time we were only 1-0 down. Pretty much thanks to the goalkeeper and the left back - who was going to go into goals in the second half. Easily the two best players on the park for us. But I had made arrangements for the second half... and I stuck to them. The replacement keeper did a good job for someone completely unsure of what they were doing. The normal goalkeeper ran out of puff, so I ended subbing her off. Which was good, as I want her to be aware that if she doesn't play in goals she's unlikely to get a full game.

We have so much wrong in the team, and I don't have enough time to fix it. The players can't tell when is the time to simply clear the ball and when they have time to do something with the ball. If they do want to clear the ball, they want to smash it out of the park. Rather than just make a connection with the ball and letting the ball's momentum do the rest. They ball-watch. A lot. They're extremely one-footed. I only have one player who can kick long balls. I only have one player who can pass the ball - she's also picked up some crazy (in a VERY good way) turns from somewhere since the start of the season. I really ought to follow that up...

All I want is more time... but the girls can only generally commit to the one training session per night. I need quality time with each of them, not 1.5 hours for all of them. I'm hoping for a wet summer and an early pre-season so I can cover basic skills next season.

Oh, and the girl who hurt herself last week is due to miss three weeks. She did her medial ligament in her right knee (exactly the same as what I did), so I'm inclined to give her all the time she needs + more to recover. I'm hoping the fact that she's 16 and that I was 22 when I hurt my knee makes a significant difference.

Last Thursday I conducted an extra training session. Only five girls turned up... Anyway, at one point I set up a 2 (defenders) vs. 3 exercise to try and get the girls used to the concept of first defender and second defender. First defender to pressure the player with the ball, second defender to sit and see what's going on and enter the game once the first defender is out through error or being beaten.

One girl in particular was very half-hearted about pressuring the ball. Instead of giving the player with the ball perhaps half a metre of space, she'd give two. So the player with the ball had all the time in the world.
After some frustrating watching of what was going on, I demonstrated what I wanted from the first defender when outnumbered i.e. pressuring the player with the ball but not committing. The next time she did the exercise was a marked improvement and so when I played her as the first line of defence (I tend to play with five defenders in two rows at the moment - the first of two and then a row of three) she had an improved game. So I'm really happy about that - especially since I pushed my knee a bit during the demonstration and ended up very sore on Friday evening when the temperature dropped. At least the pain was worth it.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

My first match back

My first match back at coaching on Sunday was an absolute disaster. Morale and energy were low, lots of ball watching, and there was no cohesion in the team. It was watch and I didn't really know what to do to turn things around.

Perhaps it was because the first match against this team was a close loss (3-4) and the second match was a win (2-1). Perhaps the girls thought Sunday was going to be an easy win? We also had a late afternoon kick-off (3.15pm) and I know some of the girls had a VERY late night. Reminds me of my drunk team days...

We ended up losing 2-1, a goal thanks to a penalty we didn't even deserve. I have a couple of girls with an accurate kick that has a bit of power on it. One of the girls hurt herself 2 minutes into the match - won't really know the damage until Friday. The other one took the penalty.

I was very disappointed to see the team in this state. So I had a bit of a talk to them after the match, but only properly discussed the low energy on Tuesday at training. The late night party group did say that perhaps they had abused the late kick-off time, so that was good. Better than them denying what I already knew.

During training I focused on trying to get the team passing to each other again. It essentially took the full 1.5 hours. Perhaps they always played like this and it was only not watching them and seeing the U-20 World Cup instead that highlighted it. But I doubt it. I made them play in two teams against each other. I let them know that if one team makes five passes in a row, the other team does five sit-ups, push-ups, burpees or whatever.

For a good few minutes the record was 2 passes. Eventually 3 were achieved and we only once got to five. This wasn't because the non-possesion team had a superior defensive skills - they team with the ball were never once looking for the pass. Blindly kicking the ball forward was their method of choice. My current pet hate.

We have a second training session each week now. A bit more passing work tonight to try and keep the small bit of cohesion they had at Tuesday's training and some basic defensive work. Knowing the caretaker coach he probably didn't do any of that...