Figured I'd wait for a loss to write a recap--Niagara 4, Polonia 2

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Figured I'd wait for a loss to write a recap--Niagara 4, Polonia 2 Empty Figured I'd wait for a loss to write a recap--Niagara 4, Polonia 2

Post  Matt Marcin...z on Mon Jun 03, 2019 1:27 am

In reality, it's more a function of the fact that I wasn't motivated till now, in terms of the season or even this very night...as of right this minute, I've got two Hayburners consumed and four remaining; given that that was the score of tonight's contest, now's the time to start composing the recap.

First, a little background.  Consult the front page of the site here and you'll see what grade league president-not-dictator (ok, maybe dictator--the jury might still be out on that, not that dictators have any use for juries) Mike Schieber gave Polonia for the month of May--A f*cking plus.  It was a good month--5 wins in 5 games across league and cup; all but one being by multiple goals; one being by ten goals.  Had I brought up a mercy rule to Nate Holler while I talked to him during that particular game I'm not sure he would've taken too kindly to it, so I kept that thought to myself.  Anyway, good month.  

Now, that said, our worst game of the month was the final game, a 4-2 win v Buff Celtic at Kenmore East.  All prior games had been played on turf; that was our first taste of grass for the season, and although you could argue that the fact we'd played Hoops the day before was the bigger factor for a suboptimal performance, most of us were blaming the grass (me personally, I was blaming the back-to-back, as I strained/pulled/did something to my hamstring two minutes after entering that game).  Our ever-valuable sweeper Derek Andrews also took a double yellow in that game, leaving him unavailable for the Niagara contest.

Despite his unavailability, we actually had 17 for this one (counting me, questionable/a gametime decision), a bit more than the 14-15 we typically have on hand.  Niagara had similar, possibly 16 if not 17.  The benches are pretty close at Walden Pond's soccer field, but I didn't take an exact head count.  I was too worried about the state of the hamstring; self-absorption at its finest.

I did though take care to look for #30 of Niagara FC, Mr. Kyle Jones, one of the best forwards participating at the Championship level of the Buffalo and District Soccer League.  Unlike our game v Niagara last year, when we eked out a 1-0 victory at Sahlen's vs. a Jones-less (but Suitorful, as in Ross Suitor) Niagara side, Jones was on hand for the proceedings today.  My man Jamel, former SPAL teammate from the pre-Crimson Fire merger SPAL glory days (although if you look at the historical records, you probably wouldn't use the term 'glory days') was also on hand as an assistant referee, and given that he's now retired to the over 35 division, he and I exchanged a few vague plans about joining forces there in year 2021 (when I turn 35).  Then he walked away towards the Niagara bench and the game more or less got underway.

It didn't take long for those of us on the Polonia sideline to begin declaring grass to once again be our enemy.  Niagara referred to Walden Pond as 'haunting' or something funny like that in their tweet, but in all honesty it was a little bit better than I expected, given the weekend's rain.  It was, uh, moist, sure, but I didn't think the mud/water was much affecting the players' traction or the path of the ball.  The ball was still bouncing up semi-unpredictably, classic grass field-style, as I watched certain Polonia touches and thought, 'yeah, we'd not be doing that on turf'.  But I don't want to turn into a turf snob--we've played on grass all our lives, right?  Even if BDSL does go to turf next year, I want to win on grass this year.  Turf might be better for the 'game' itself but I like the ambience of a nice grass field in a park like Walden Pond or even behind some deserted school or uh indoor soccer facility...feels more pastoral.  Nature, man.  

Anyway.  I'm not disagreeing with anyone today from our squad who said that we're a worse grass team than a turf team.  The on-field product was a 90-minute exercise in proving them/us right for thinking that.  We still controlled possession overall, but Niagara packed the center pretty well, and when they won the ball back anywhere close to midfield, they'd usually counter quickly, often opting for a direct approach.  I honestly didn't think Jones touched the ball all that much, but he made every touch count, and #95, although at times maybe guilty of a late tackle, played well and applied lots of high pressure for them when he didn't have the ball.  Does Niagara not have Mcintosh anymore on D?  He used to be really solid at CB, and without him they were more exploitable, but we had several chances we left on the table, including a header from F Jake Kowalewski that hit the crossbar in the first half and a couple crosses that kinda went through everyone, all the way to the back post where we'd have someone waiting who didn't want to take the shot from a tough angle, perhaps earning a corner or something, but ultimately a disappointing result.  

Niagara got on the board first, with a counter maybe 20 minutes into the first half down their attacking right side, eventually leading to a waist-level cross that was just the right height for substitute Polonia sweeper Jordan Mullen to not be able to clear (and I hate to bring him up in a negative context given that I'd nominate that dude for MVP of the division to this point--he's been a terrific addition, normally playing stopper for us).  I was feeling every stride I took with the hamstring; I managed a decent 20 minutes of play today overall before calling it quits, but this was a play where if I was 100% I probably would've gotten a toe to the play from right back, although given the positioning of the Niagara striker, I might not have even at full strength.  He tapped the ball past our charging keeper Conner Golley, and rolled one in to make it 1-0).  

We answered not long after with a great run by F Shayer Khan, who's had a terrific six-month stint with us dating back to Sahlens 11v11 in the winter but appears poised to return to his native Bangladesh sometime in the immediate future, down the left wing who set up F Josh Donner (the younger of Chuck's two sons) for what was I think a tap-in, but if not a pretty easy finish.  1-1 as I explained to substitute sweeper Jordan that I was playing 'at 60%' and that #30 was the guy from Niagara to watch, lol.  

I personally called it quits not long thereafter and perhaps my attention lapsed from the sidelines because I'm having a hard time recalling...ah, ok, got it.  It was maybe 1 minute before halftime, if not 30 seconds, when Niagara once again countered after winning the ball near midfield off a Polonia turnover, eventually ending up with our last defender beaten and a once-again-charging Connor (our GK, if you forgot) going hard after the bouncing ball, instead getting their forward.  PK taker stepped up to the spot and hit a well-placed penalty near the right post, maybe upper 90-ish, hard to tell from my angle.  2-1 at half.

At this point, I still felt like we'd be winning this game.  Not to take anything away from Niagara, who played a strong first half, but we've been doing too well this season not to warrant the confidence.  A few other players seemed more down about our play to that point, which was fair, but I thought we'd recover.

The cynics were closer to being right than I.  Although we had our fair share of chances in the second half, including a goal that was taken off the board due to a foul called on a corner kick (was the keeper pushed?  None of us at the bench could tell from our angles), our defending seemed worse, and Niagara took advantage.  Their third goal was like a 1v4, seemingly, where we thought that uh #24 I believe it was committed a foul in charging through one of the Polonia defenders involved, but credit to him for his fight and tenacity as he won the ball and I believe finished, although I could be wrong (might've been a rebound or one pass involved here).  3-1 Niag, as it would remain until somewhere in the 10-5 min remaining range, when young Polonia gun Alex Sarick whipped in a cross to now-forward Jordan Mullen (from sweeper to forward, all in one game!), who found the corner as the keeper didn't even move, having no chance.  3-2 with signs of hope late...but alas, with Polonia pushing forward a bit and good ol' #30 Kyle Jones still lurking, there was a defensive vulnerability, and Niagara made a nice tic-tac-toe sort of play where #95 I believe volleyed a square pass near midfield to his teammate who played a ball forward into space for Jones, who had a yard on a charging Nick Donner and who with his speed kept that yard long enough to get near the corner of the six, finishing on the ground from a sharp angle.  4-2 as the game neared a close; 4-2, final.

Polonia's problems today notwithstanding, I think Niagara showed they had no business being dead last in the division coming in, and they might well continue moving up the board as the season progresses.  Good game to them.

Matt Marcin...z
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Number of posts : 309
Team : Polonia
Full Name : Matt Marcinkiewicz
Registration date : 2013-06-28

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