For our last DA league game we had to travel to Arizona to play against Barcelona Academy. We already played against them in San Diego couple months ago and although we won that game 3:1, they definitely played better quality football so by no means we expected an easy game in Arizona. On top of that since our U19 team fighting for playoff spot, for last 2 months two my top players plays for them and two other players were not able to go with us to Arizona. Long story short, we came to play Barca U17 DA academy with two subs, one of which is second GK... Barca started to dominate the game and by the end of first half we were down 0:2. This was not the end of the world as we all understood that one goal can change the flow of the game so I made both subs (GK and center forward) and we went on the field to compete. Well... by the minute 65 the score was 0:5, and honestly the only thought I had is how to finish the game without embarrassing ourselves. We made 3 position changes (no subs left!) but the goal was solely to finish the game with decent score (scoring 2 or 3 goals in this situation would be considered decent). We still had to play for 25 minutes. Shortly after that we scored our first goal but nobody really celebrated it - 1:5 with 23 minutes left in the game is not a reason to celebrate! Then the same player scored second goal but again not a big deal. We missed great opportunity from corner kick but then Barca center back made a big mistake playing out of the back and the score became 3:5! Now we could feel that Barca players started to get nervous and our players got little bit more excited! We had 12 minutes to play (plus extra time) - plenty of time to create scoring opportunities. We had one more good shot from outside the box but unfortunately at the GK! But on 85 minute my center back scored from free kick and we had 5 minutes to equalize. On the last minute of the game, while I was busy chasing the ball out of bounce so it will be ready in case Barca players clear the ball out of bounce, the moment of brilliance came from the kid who scored 2 and assisted 1 - he received the ball little bit inside attacking half, moved into the center of the field and played perfect diagonal ball behind Barca full back so my forward got there before GK and passed the ball by him into the net! So in 25 minutes 0:5 became 5:5!! We are talking about DA U17 game, not U7 rec league soccer!! The boys wanted to continue to attack but I remembered how two months ago we tied the game on last minute and then got scored on in extra time to lose the game (and because of that loss we lost our chances to make playoffs), so last two minutes we were protecting our goals and got the tie! But considering how the game went we were happy as if we won, so on the way back home I bought boys ice cream as a thank yo for their effort and spirit!
Now I think that this game actually summarizes the whole season - we had very bad start and in first half of the season, out of 12 games we won 3 games and tied 1. This placed us at the last place of our group. In the Spring part of the season out of 13 games we won 6 and tied 1. Now we are 8th in our group. Also as I said before, after losing the crucial game couple months ago, remaining of the season we played without our top two players and often had one or two subs. But I think the key part was that the quality of soccer got significantly better in the spring part of the season. even some of the games that we lost in Spring, we dominated most part of the game and created number of great scoring opportunities but couldn't finish. This happens even at professional level (Liverpool vs Barca game in Barcelona?)... and it happened this weekend with Barcelona academy - they definitely deserved to win that game. But we also demonstrated great spirit and a bit of luck never hurts! Our quality of soccer during last game against Barca was not great by any means, but when we had that string of wins in Spring we also demonstrated good soccer, so I do have some satisfaction with this season. I think at times boys also enjoyed what we were doing and many of them grew a lot during this year, both as players and as young men! I will write more on the season later but for sure this game will stick in my memory for long time!
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