Drama, intrigue, and soccer? Everything you missed on this week’s episode of USL League One.
If USL League one was a TV drama, episode one was the crazy pilot with too much going on to fully understand the cast, the plot, and why in the world there’s a hot air balloon at a soccer game. However, episode two (Week Two) provided us with more character development, a better look at the plot, and still plenty of drama. Here’s your S1 E2 review of USL League One. (SPOILER ALERT!!!)
Richmond: Last week, the Richmond Kickers received the first plot twist of the series when Lansing attacked them relentlessly from the start. Richmond wants to play out the back and showed signs of being able to do it in the 2nd half against Lansing. So, were they better this week? Yes. How you ask?
Against Tormenta FC, Richmond had possession for almost 58% of the game and did what Greenville and FC Tucson couldn’t do: find success in the middle of the field. Charles Boateng made his USL League One debut, and he made sure it was an attention-grabbing one. While the Ghanaian U-20 player did not end up with a “chance created”, he was easily the missing piece to help string along Richmond’s possession from last week. Drawing five fouls and sending in multiple crosses, Charles was everywhere on the field and exploited the space that Tormenta left open in the middle.
Eli Lockaby was a standout on defense with three tackles, two clearances, and two interceptions, which is vital for Richmond to stop Tormenta’s counters. Add Ackwei with a team-high four interceptions, and it’s easy to see how Richmond went from allowing three goals the week before to a clean sheet this week. However, while Richmond possessed the ball well and added an offensive flair, why did they end up drawing 0-0 with Tormenta?
Tormenta: I think the heat map above says it all (Richmond Left to Right). While Tormenta did allow Richmond to possess in the middle of the field, they have now prevented over a quarter of the league from passing in their own box. When you look at Richmond’s passing in their opponent’s half, only Matthew Bolduc and Daniel Jackson had an 80% or higher accuracy rate. This only accounted for 38 of the teams 526 passes. Meanwhile, Tormenta’s 3-man backline had 12 clearances and 8 interceptions in their half. Add Marco Micaletto, who tracked back for six tackles and won TWELVE duels, Tormenta was never really in danger with Richmond only having 1 shot on goal. Winning 55% of both aerial and on the ground duels, setting up more corners, and completely shutting down the box. Don’t believe me, check out their average position map. Richmond’s Boateng is the only one even remotely close. A 0-0 draw for Tormenta on the road for their 3rd game in 8 days, will definitely feel more like a win.
Orlando B: I think Orlando B has a lot of talented players and are actually pretty good with the ball. But the whole red card and leaving your team down a man for a whole half of the game is probably not a tactic I would continue doing.
Again, Orlando did not play horribly and actually won more duels than Toronto, both in the air and on the ground. They even managed offensively to shoot the same number of shots in the box as Toronto, but ultimately none of that matters if you are shooting yourself in the foot with bad decision making. Once Orlando went down a man, Toronto spread the field and attacked the sides hard. They especially took advantage on set pieces where guys went completely unmarked…like Casper, not being seen levels. Which leads us to our next category…
Toronto: Making their USL League One debut, Toronto is the character in this series that I can’t quite get a read on. Defensively, Toronto did not tackle well with a 64% success rate but had standout players like Terique Mohammed, who had three clearances, two interceptions, four crosses, two chances created and an assist. The man was everywhere and easily my Player of the Match. Dante Campbell also stood out on defense, registering 36% of the team’s total tackles, leading in interceptions, and winning nine duels while only losing three. However, it may have been in the middle of the field where Toronto lost me. As good as a game as Mohammed had, he lost eight duels compared to the six he won. Endoh, who was supposed to be a star player for this team, only won one duel and lost six. And Shaffelburg, who may have covered more ground than any other player and was EVERYWHERE, bulldozed his way into 17 duels but winning only eight. When you take away Mohammed’s effort, Toronto only had four chances created while playing up a man for 45 minutes. Simply not enough but understandable for their League One debut.
Forward Madison: If this league was Game of Thrones, Forward Madison would be the dragons. Not in comparison to their style of play or something about Connor Tobin being Daenerys Targaryen, but in the sense that everyone is excited to see them and being a crowd favorite. Facing off against Chattanooga RedWolves in their home opener would be a tough battle and would serve even tougher once they were delivered the news that Pato would be unavailable for the game due to paperwork and Brian Sylvestre due to a minor injury. However, Forward was up for the task and with a few rotational changes, showed that their branding is not the only thing strong attribute to this team.
In front of an incredible 20-30 Forward fans who traveled all the way to Chattanooga to see their team’s first game, the preseason debutante, Jiro, made his debut on the left wing and loaned Loons Manley, Ormsberg, and Toye all got the start. The Mingos came out possessing the ball extremely well and possessed the ball for most of the game. Forward continued their switching of the ball, which they found tons of success in preseason doing, and Jiro found a ton of space which he took well. Forward also attacked the left side a lot, which was trouble for Chattanooga for the 2nd week in a row. Forward also did a great job at stopping Red Wolves counters before they could really start as JC Banks stopped about four counters alone, Jeff Michaud had three or four great interceptions, and Josiel Nunez stood out as a great midfielder on both sides of the ball, with great passing and also leading the team in tackles. Ormsberg and Tobin showed they have the potential to be the best CB duo in the league, with a combined 18 clearances and even creating changes on long balls. So, when you look at the scoreboard and see the 0-1 defeat, you may question what happened to the team that possessed the ball 67% of the game and outshot Chattanooga 11 to 6?
Red Wolves SC: Even though Chattanooga wasn’t a “character debut,” their compact defense was. When you look at the heat map below (right to left), you’ll see that Forward dominated possession down the sides but could not find the finished product in the middle. Between Dixon, Kedall-Moulin, and Leo Folla, Chattanooga had 16 clearances in their half and won 16 duels. Add Zguro who had a team-high four tackles, and it was obvious that Red Wolves were going to win or die by the counter in this game. When Chattanooga started to gain more possession in the 2nd half, they gained more chances as well. 10 crosses between Dixon, Zguro, and Steven Beattie alone and four good chances created. However, Chattanooga still struggled to finish the counters because of Forwards dynamic duo center backs and their players relentlessly tracking back. So, what changed? Juan Ignacio Mare.
He won’t show up on the score sheet, but Mare showed up where it matters. Immediately after subbing on the 67th minute, Mare was able to become the pivot of the Chattanooga offense/counter and draw defenders in. Within seconds of entering the game, Mare brought down a long ball with his chest and his back turned to goal. Drawing in defenders, Mare then flicked the ball to Beattie who now has FOUR defenders drawn in between the two. This leaves Zayed able to receive a pass 1 v1 and finish the way that Zayed does. Minutes later, Mare does the same thing holding the ball up and drawing in defenders, before being able to outlet and eventually leave Zayed with another 1v1 opportunity and a close 2nd goal. A game plan that may have not been the prettiest, but ones the fans didn’t seem to mind as they left with 3 points.
And what’s a good series without drama? With the league’s highest-powered offense coming into town against the league’s most organized defense, no one knew if sparks would fly or if defense would triumph, but outside of these horrible puns, the one thing I don’t think anyone could have expected was a 9 v 10 game with 12 cards!
Greenville: If you go back to the first 5 minutes and give Clowes a yellow for his (what I believe) are worthy two bad fouls, this game would be a lot different. When Greenville surprisingly came out pressing early and successfully, it set the tone for what would make Orlando/FC Tucson’s game last week, look like amateur hour when it came to fouls. Perez was late and hard tackling early on Lansing’s side to stop the press that Greenville created great chances with, especially in the 12th minute. Showing dominance in the first 20 minutes of the game, Greenville were able to work the sides very well with Clowes and Keegan leading the way.
However, once Lansing started to get into their groove, a change had to happen. Especially after the counter-attacking goal that Lansing scored, which I’ll discuss in a bit. This is when Bermudez, who was played as a winger, switched sides and immediately made an impact. Starting left, Bermudez on the right caused problems for Lansing, as he sent in multiple crosses to go along with Clowes’ five and Keegan’s three. But, how did Greenville score to bring their home fans a 2-1 home opener win and the sweet melodies of Sponge Bob’s “Sweet Victory” song blasting through the speakers (which I loved), let’s look at Lansing’s side first before we get to the spicy.
Lansing: While Lansing isn’t the most possessive team to begin with, they had a lot of difficulties dealing with Greenville’s press and were only able to obtain 38% of the ball. Playing on the backfoot, Lansing depended on their team 14 interceptions and 11 clearances from Fricke and Stoneman alone. Kyle Carr did well in the midfield to intercept a lot of balls but struggled with the 50/50s, being out-dueled three wins to ten losses. Offensively, Lansing shined on what they do well, getting the ball downfield in 4 passes or less. For their goal, you can see how much space Moshobane has to work within the counter. However, it’s Steeve Saint-Duke who comes from being wide to bring in Tyler Polak to the center of the box, that allows striker Lopez-Espin the space to then drift wide for an uncontested shot on the back post. A decision that made Nate Miller look like a smart man for starting Espin this game.
In the 2nd half though, Lansing did most of the defending, which set up for a wild finish. I’m not going to put all the gifs of the drama, but let’s just say it got out of hand. Dumb decisions for late tackles while on yellows, a controversial quick restart that Greenville scored on but did so legally, and all leading to an own goal from a Lansing defender who played well for most of the game and just had bad luck. Lansing went down to 9 men in the 62nd minute and the heatmap shows everything that happened after. Greenville put their floor on the pedal with a goal from Keegan and eventually the game winner. This game was honestly too wild for me to really take key points from, but I will confidently say:
- Lansing is lucky to have only lost this 1-2, as Goalkeeper Michael Kirk played out of his mind! 8 saves, demanding the ball in the air on corners, and handling the ball well with Greenville’s press. Easily my GK team of the Week choice.
- Bermudez needs to be on the right side of the field, and I’ll fight anyone who disagrees. Greenville might have dominated possession, but the real chances didn’t happen until he switched back to the right side.
- Players on a pro level have to be better decision makers when they know they are on a yellow. While some players got luckier than others, this game could have easily been 8 v 9 or even 8 v 8. I agree with all the cards given and even if you think the game could have been officiated differently, players have to do better. Simple as that.
Lansing touches on opponent’s side- Left
Greenville touches on opponent’s side – Right