I have to say, I haven’t seen my team this confident since we were the two-time league champions. Our second game was against the other new team in the league, and although they’d lost 4-2 to our arch-rivals, last year’s second-place team, the word was that it was only because they’d played all 19 players and the weaker substitutes let them down in the second half.
Somewhat to my surprise, I started at attacker, although I came out after 20 minutes with us up 1-0. At halftime, we were up 3-0 and in control of the game, so much so that after losing two of their players to injury, they asked if they could borrow a player. Since I’d already played, our captain offered me, and they put me in at left midfield, where I promptly intercepted a pass and very nearly scored against my own team.
To illustrate the gap in talent between the two teams, I am the worst starter on my team, but I was the second-best player on their team. Their only attack was me combining with their center mid, and if I hadn’t been defending on the left side, we would have had at least three more goals. I have no idea what happened to their left defender, but at several points I found myself defending our right defender, our right mid, and a striker by myself. We won 7-1, but it could have easily been 14-1.
The third game was against our neighbors, who are always overmatched but nevertheless play us surprisingly tough. They even beat us at their place 2-1 last year thanks to some poor substitutions on our part combined with a pair of late corner kicks. They are old, fat, and slow, but highly skilled, and their slow pace has tended to disrupt our game the last two years. We had all three of the younger strikers present and our captain elected to start at striker, so I figured I’d play in the second half, but instead I found myself starting at right mid.
(This is why it is important to show that you can play different positions, as you’ll always get plenty of playing time if you are willing and able to play wherever the team needs you. The only four positions I can’t play at this level are the two center mids and the two central defenders; I can play goalie and once even stopped a penalty shot in a game.)
The first 15 minutes were much the same as in previous years. We controlled the ball but couldn’t do anything with it. The right defender was the guy who is usually the substitute and he put us in danger once by charging forward at the wrong time without telling me; a quick reversal would have given their left midfielder a very good chance if the cross hadn’t been too long. But not long after that our captain got a through ball, and for once I remembered to chase after him, knowing that he’s lately shown a tendency to drill the ball directly at the keeper. He did, and the ball rebounded right where I anticipated, but too high to volley. It was also too low to head, so I hit it with my knee just inside the box and somehow managed to put it in the upper right corner. 1-0 and the dam was broken.
I took myself out about five minutes later, as we had plenty of substitutes and I was winded from controlling the left side. By the time I went back in at striker around the middle of the second half, it was already 5-1. We blew about 10 more opportunities, two of them my fault, as my shots beat the goalie twice but curved wide left of the post. Even so, we ended up winning 7-1, giving us nine points to start the season and a three-game goal difference of 19. We haven’t faced any real tests yet, but our confidence is sky-high and I’m quite looking forward to our game against last year’s champions. We beat them and tied them in our two games last year, so I’ll be very disappointed if we can’t beat them twice this year.
The secret of our success this year appears to be a combination of our strikers being able to capitalize on their chances and our midfielders’ ability to control the wings. I don’t think there has been a single chance created from either the left side or the right so far this season; the biggest change is that we now have four outside midfielders who are capable of attacking, then getting back on defense.