Polonia 3, Buffalo Bantu 0

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Polonia 3, Buffalo Bantu 0

Post  Matt Marcin...z on Mon May 21, 2018 3:52 pm

There's something a bit disconcerting about playing (or even spectating) at the D'Youville turf. It feels like Buffalo's Field of Dreams when you're actually on the field, but then you remember where you are, boxed in by the 190 on one side and housing projects on the other. Not exactly the cornfields of Iowa. I always have issues with incongruences like that--Columbia being in Harlem, University of Southern California being in South Central LA...I could go on with examples but I won't.

Showed up around 5:50 and immediately ran to the bathroom across the street from the field, as a pregame drive regimen of alternating between swigs of tea and Gatorade is likely to induce such a stop. A Bantu player was in there putting his pads on, and as I went to wash my hands, he asked how our season has gone so far. I could've gone the false intel route and made things sound either absolutely terrible (to try to promote the false sense of security) or I could've gone for the even bigger lie and made things sound flawless (to go for the intimidation factor), but instead I took the boring honest response route, told him the scores of our first two games. We wished each other a good upcoming game in the semi-awkward confines of the bathroom and I made my way back across...uh...I guess I'll have to StreetView it to see what street that actually is (I parked near the intersection of Jersey, but that's not the issue here) and to the field to pick up my jersey (small J this time) from Grandpa Polonia and get a few minutes of warm-up running in.

Putting my jersey and cleats on, I took inventory of who was on hand, and I counted 13 Polonians, including an actively warming up Aaron Andrews, who'd played only 15-20 minutes of game time through two weeks of play. Perfect, I thought--I like having 13 or 14 guys. Alas, the Aaron warm-up was a bit of a bluff, as he ended up serving one more game in 'emergency duty'. So in reality we only had 12, and our actual active sub was George's son Jared, making his season debut. We were also missing some key players in D/M/F Nick Donner, M Dan Helman, and D/M/F (yeah, some versatility among these guys--given his Polonia history, I really could've given the 'D/M/F' designation to Dan Helman as well) Justin Bracci.

Bantu looked to have decent numbers, but much like what Sean Fallon said about Ukraine, it was tough to tell exactly how many guys they had because of a few coaches/fans/possibly injured players being around the bench. Based on the way the game played out, they had several subs, we can say that much.

Right before the game started, AR Steph Serrano called me over to clarify that she was in fact Steph, which I knew, but apparently there'd been misunderstanding based on a previous write-up where she thought I thought she was someone else, or something. I went back to my unusual spot of left defense-not-right defense scratching my head a bit, or at least attempting to through the thicket of hair on my skull.

Game kicked off, and Bantu had the better of the play for the first few minutes. They have M Benti Jodi back in the side after an interlude playing outside back for Yemen Elite, and he was back to being his composed midfield presence for them. Bantu moved the ball pretty well right off the start, whereas we came out a bit slow. Given that I barely touched the ball during warm-ups, it took me a few minutes to get into the flow of the game, as my first couple attempted clearances weren't particularly good, and I was starting to have visions of week 1 versus BSC Inter as Bantu took a couple ultimately harmless shots from outside the 18.

We eventually got flowing a bit, though, some errant passes in the back/midfield notwithstanding. The bigger turf field might well play to our advantage (we beat/somewhat dominated NMB on this same field last season), as we are ultimately a possession-oriented team, when allowed/capable. That being said, some of our more dangerous chances in the first half involved longballs (or at least through balls) up mostly to F John Lorigo, who was a step away on a few where either the GK would get there just in time near the top of the box or the defender would clear out of bounds.

Relatively early on, I got a rare chance to be a playmaker from my spot at outside back when I threw it in to CM George Wallenfels, who was checking back to the ball and who quickly returned it back to me. I touched it upfield, within reach of a lunging Bantu defender, but I managed to drag it past him just in time turning the corner and dribbling towards the near-post, a Devonte clone minus the speed. Slotted it back to Josh Donner who was standing near the corner of the six for what looked like a great opportunity, but a Bantu defender closed well and got the block. Josh did however collect the rebound, but he I believe put the second shot over the bar (it was that or right at the keeper, something harmless).

About midway through the first half we got a 'water break' in unfortunate fashion as Bantu's solid CB (Schmidt I believe?) was injured near the Bantu goal, and the way he stayed down, it didn't look all that good. I ran over to the sideline for some Gatorade and to get word from Aaron about his status, and he informed me was good to give it a shot if needed, but that he'd rather sit out one more if possible, as he didn't know how his injury would react to actual gameplay. Now, I myself didn't feel all that great yesterday, as I've been suffering from a strange combination of symptoms (facial numbness, pangs of pain in my face, wrist pain) of late that I ultimately chalk up to stress but which at times leave me feeling like I'm on the verge of having a stroke, but it was at this point that I reaffirmed to myself that if I'm going to stroke out, it might as well be on the pitch. So I was mentally committed to the cause after that break.

Not long after the break, F Jake Kowalewski, who was dangerous all game against the not-always-organized Bantu defense, received the ball just inside the 18, took a stride towards goal with a defender nearby, and was tripped up on what wasn't the hardest of fouls but what did appear to be a foul from where I stood. The referee almost reluctantly pointed to the spot to the protests of a couple Bantu players (understandable protests IMO, even though I do agree with the call ultimately). Ageless midfielder Chuck Donner stepped up to the spot and rocketed his attempt to 'stage right' (shooter's left, keeper's right); the keeper, however, guessed correctly and got a solid hand to the ball, but he only managed to redirect the shot as far as the inside of the post. I still wasn't sure it was crossing the line, but Chuck celebrated, and I watched it eventually trickle to the other side netting. 1-0, Team Donner.

Not many other chances of note occurred before half, although there was one Bantu cross that caught me flush in the temple, leading the center ref to administer a makeshift concussion test, which I appreciated. Once it was determined I knew it was Sunday and not seeing double, Bantu took their corner and the game went on.

Halftime arrived, and we felt pretty good about how we'd played, especially in the latter stages of the half. Chuck went into coaching mode and delivered a bit of a halftime speech that I mostly tuned out, as I was partially 'in the zone' and partially distracted by random facial pain and non-random pain from the blocked cross 10 minutes earlier.

Before the second half began, fellow outside back Aaron Calabrese requested a switch from right back to left back, so I obliged and returned to my more familiar right back position. This meant that I'd be lined up across from Bantu M/F George Yapa, and given a couple runs I saw him make in the first half I was a bit wary of his speed, so I went immediately into full-on 'do not get cleanly beat' mode--a mode which can only take one so far, as week 1 versus Devonte and co. showed.

This time, though, we held up pretty well defensively. Bantu certainly had their chances, with 2 of them being especially good, but before I get to that, I must first mention Chuck's second goal, as it occurred relatively early in the half and kind of caught the majority of us by surprise. Jake Kowalewski played a bouncing ball across to Chuck, and Chuck, facing the left sideline, touched it with the outside of his right foot over Bantu's keeper, who was a ways off the line. I'm not sure why their keeper was so far off the line at that time, but Chuck was obviously aware of that and lobbed it over him to make it 2-0, Team Donner.

As for the 2 high quality Bantu chances: both of those were in fact courtesy of Yapa, although luckily neither were at my expense in open play--on one, he made a crossfield run, got a diagonal ball played towards him near the other corner of the 18. Derek, facing our own goal/endline, looked to have a half-step on him, but they battled towards the endline, and eventually, probably because of a jersey tug more than anything, Yapa got on the end of it as Derek fell off balance and called for a foul. Myself and GK Matt Gabalski converged, but Yapa toepoked it to a teammate in front of goal in the nick of time, and I checked out of the play mentally, resigned to losing the clean sheet...but apparently the Bantu player took a touch rather than finishing one-time, and that gave stopper Chase Sorrentino enough time to intercept the ball and clear it out of danger. I couldn't believe we escaped that one; had I been allowed to livebet from the fence just beyond the endline in the nanosecond after Yapa made the pass, i would've made the maximum allowable amount on their having scored, no matter how small the payout I may have been offered. So that was a nice surprise.

Yapa also managed a header off the underside of the bar (and this one was as I marked him)--like with Niagara, Bantu worried me on corners, and this was their best chance off of one. The corner was a good outswinging ball from the offensive right side which went pretty much directly to Yapa, and he connected well with it. There was some initial confusion with the AR's signal where people thought he may have been calling for a goal on the play, but eventually it was confirmed that the ball had not crossed the line before being cleared out of harm's way.

With less than 10 minutes to go, Chuck's son Josh was played in on as clear of a breakaway as you'll see--the Bantu defender who held him on must've been 25 yards away laterally, because there was zero challenge from any defender as Josh almost literally walked in on goal, eventually stopping to bury a finish off the left post and in, almost in dad-like fashion. 3-0 Team Donner and the icing that we needed.

Whistle blew not long after as Bantu continued to apply the pressure till time ran out. Good game to them and best of luck for the rest of the season; don't think they'll continue to go winless much longer.

Matt Marcin...z
EPL
EPL

Number of posts : 299
Team : Polonia
Full Name : Matt Marcinkiewicz
Registration date : 2013-06-28

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